They say that life moves really fast the older you get. "Don't blink...you might miss it." I don't know if I am that old yet, but I can say with certainty that when life shakes you and tells you to wake up because you're about to experience one of the biggest moments, you better pay attention.
That moment for me happened just a few days ago, on August 5th, 2017. I was honored to preside over the wedding ceremony between my oldest son, Joel Ormord, and his beautiful bride, my daughter-in-law, Sheigh Carpenter Ormord.
It was an amazing weekend! From soup to nuts, we couldn't have asked for a better wedding celebration! (I can't believe I just used that saying, "from soup to nuts" - I guess I really am getting old.) Although it rained all morning on the day of the wedding, the rain miraculously slowed down and came to a halt just a couple hours before Go-Time. The reception was at a nearby lake, under a large open-air shelter area, which was decorated the night before by Sheigh's family and friends. The level of love and care that went into making that space the perfect environment for a celebration was off the charts! It was awesome!
The night was a joyful culmination of many plans, prayers, conversations and collaborations. For me, it was all I could do to not lose it every time I saw Joel and Sheigh staring at each other with such deep love and commitment. Amazingly, I held it together during the wedding. Although, at the previous night's rehearsal, I was not so sure I would succeed. I had to tell Sheigh not to look at me during the ceremony because I knew that would be the trigger. There was just something in my heart I couldn't contain. It was as if her eyes were revealing a love for my son that he has so desperately longed for his entire life. A love that says "I'm with you no matter what." I knew she could give that degree of love because she had received it, not only from her parents, or from Joel, but she has truly come to know the unrelenting love of God and has claimed her identity as God's beloved.
Now that, my friends, is worth raising your glass! A toast to the bride and groom!
Leading up to the wedding, I spend several days relaxing and processing the big moment, all the while trying to think of how I could authentically speak into Joel and Sheigh's wedding ceremony. This moment had to be special. I asked God to take me back to some other big moments - times in my life when everything changed - times when God helped me make more room for love.
So I put some thoughts on paper and shared them in the wedding. Here's what I wrote:
"It's hard to believe I’m standing here right now, looking at the two of you - witnessing your love and speaking into this holy moment. It’s hard not to be emotional, especially as I remember two other holy moments – times when I felt my whole world shift. The first was when you were born, Joel. You had to make as dramatic an entrance as possible. Of course, you don’t remember, but I remember your mom on the surgeon’s table, with Grandma Frost standing next to her. It was all happening so fast. I felt scared and helpless as I watched the doctors and nurses perform an emergency C-section in order to save your life. Your mom was struggling to breathe through all the anesthetics. I was trying to say something, anything, to help her. But again, I was completely helpless. The calmest person in the room was your Grandmother, who stoically and prophetically stated, and I quote, “Rebekah, nobody said this would be easy.”
Truer words were never spoken. The nurses handed you to me, and as I held you in my arms the struggle of your birth immediately gave way to a love I never dreamed possible. Nobody said this would be easy, but from that day forward, I have loved every minute of being your dad.
The other time I remember feeling a seismic shift was when I took you to your first day of Kindergarten. You were a very particular child. Everything had to be just right. Your belt was cinched so tight around your waist I thought you would lose all feeling in your legs. But that’s the way it had to be. As I stood at the door of the school that morning, watching you sit so innocently and cautiously at your desk, I felt as if I could see your whole life flash before my eyes, including this moment. Your grandmother’s words were still resonating in my soul, “Nobody said this would be easy.” It was hard for me to let you go, to entrust you to the influence of others, but I knew it was the right thing to do. So I did.
And now I get to do it again.
Life hasn’t been easy - not for you, Joel, not for Sheigh, not for any of us. No doubt about it, Grandma Frost took her lead from Jesus, who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I’m thankful for so much right now, but at the top of the list, I’m so glad that before you decided to commit your lives to each other, you decided to follow Jesus. He is the one who overcame this present darkness, and through him you will also overcome!
Are you still reading this?
I don't share these words with you light-heartedly. They were part a "sacred"moment shared between me, my son, my daughter-in-law, and approximately one-hundred people who all know and love them. Make of these words what you will. But what I hope you pick up from our short time together is a recognition of your very own "belovedness."
Talk about life's biggest moments! Times are crazy right now. I've never seen our nation divided quite to this extent before. We are dealing with threats of nuclear war, trying to make sense of white supremacists rallying in our nation's cities, and struggling to find the good in one another. Many feel isolated, alone, and confused, not sure who we can truly be ourselves around. So I'm making the plea - Come out of hiding; Learn how to be yourself; Receive God's love.
Nobody said this would be easy, but take heart, you are not alone. You don't have to go through it alone. You don't have to fear the unknown all by yourself. Even if you are dealing with some of the harshest and most painful realities of life's biggest moments, please know that God is with you. God hasn't abandoned you to your suffering. Even if God feels distant, look around you and notice those who are standing ready to come alongside and help you carry your burden.
Life's biggest moments come and go. Somehow we have to welcome these moments - good and bad - and let them have their way in us. Let them draw more love out of you even as you are allowing more love in. Let them bring you to a greater awareness of your true self, the one who God calls "beloved" simply because it is the real you!
Try this on for size:
"The true self is who, in reality, you are and who you are becoming...it is your total self as you were created by God and as you are being redeemed in Christ. It is the image of God that you are - the unique face of God that has been set aside from eternity for you." (David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself)
Do you see it? The image of God uniquely expressed in and through YOU. It's not anything you've earned. It's simply who you already are, and it's who you are increasing becoming as you learn to partner more and more with God in your everyday life. So step into this moment, right now, let some love in, and let it become one of life's biggest moments!
Grace and peace...