We stood at the altar, hands tied together, prying rings onto shaking fingers. We smiled so big I thought we’d break, and with trembling lips we spilled out vows repeated by couples just like us for centuries. We promised ourselves, each to the other, and I hoped to give you the world. And you became something new, now my husband, but you had those same, kind, blue eyes and I knew we’d be okay.
We turned then, vows spoken and chords tied, now one before God and man, and we faced the crowd, all dear, all treasures, who had come to from every corner to smile and wish us well. They smiled their knowing smiles, some with only surface knowledge who chose to love us anyway, others whose arms were still tired from pushing us to the altar. Acquaintances and confidants, mixed in the row. They sang and they cheered, took pictures and gave hugs, and celebrated this tradition of marriage. They circled around us, a wall of protection, fierce with love and happiness. Later we ate cake and gave speeches and I tossed my bouquet, but none of it mattered as much as those there. In their heels and dresses, suits and dance moves, they made our hearts flood with thanks.
These are the people who have walked through our first year of marriage with us. With their shining souls and smiling faces, they have called and visited, shared meals and spoken kind words. With this little community, we have laughed late into the summer night on the porch and cried in anguish as we’ve faced tragedy we can’t understand. From North Carolina to New York, our little community has rejoiced with us and prayed for us, written us letters and called us up.
And for all life’s questions and wondering what it’s really actually about, I wonder if maybe, in part, it is this.
Those people in the pews, friends, cousins, grandparents, and new in-laws, all smiling, all glowing, all unselfishly joyful. Participating in an ancient tradition, connecting themselves with the two becoming one. That little community, old and young, healthy and sick, quiet and exuberant, throwing confetti and spinning on the dance floor.
That little community, baking food for showers and filling the rows at graduation. Singing carols around the piano at Christmas and holding hands at funerals. Sharing stories on the porch and collecting canned foods. That community of eclectic, unusual, and beautiful people, all acting that day as one.
I guess there’s a vulnerability, in admitting you need each other, in receiving the love and care we secretly crave. It’s that fragility, perhaps, that makes it more precious. Could we really love, I wonder, if there were no fear of hurt?
That little community, sat in rows, outfitted with the strength of a small army in love and support.
And there, amid faces happy and drooping, talkative and shy, the well traveled and homebodies, sit the people we’d fall on our sword for. We see you. We see the way you have loved us and cared for us, and you are beautiful. You, dear ones, are the church.