Yesterday we were honored to attend the wedding of one of B’s best friends from high school. (I’m not old, you are!). I was so excited to witness one of my favorite of B’s friends walk down the aisle glowing with happiness and possibility the way a bride does on her wedding day.
As we waited for the ceremony to begin, I couldn’t help but remember her as a high schooler, silly and sweet as teenage girls are. I remember how she and B wanted to marry Justin Bieber. I remember their inside jokes and goofy nicknames for each other as well as the traveling sweatshirt (their version of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). I remember the giggles echoing through our house as they discussed boys and music and fashion. And now, all grown up, she’s met a wonderful young man and was about to take her vows and enter into marriage. Wow, time flies.
Weddings are so beautiful, full of hope and dreams and possibilities. The love in the atmosphere is palpable. The tearful with pride and joy parents, the adorable flower girls, the groom waiting for the first glimpse of his bride in her gown…it’s all so wonderful and emotional.
And yet what do you find yourself thinking about at weddings? I found myself reflecting on my own. I was transported back to December 2004 and remembered like it was yesterday how I was feeling before I walked down the aisle. I remembered the enormous joy I felt walking towards the man I was marrying. I thought of how it felt to be surrounded by family and friends and the gratitude I felt for this answered prayer. Recalling the joy of our day made this present-day wedding experience a two-Kleenex event for me.
I held an abundance of joy and happiness for B’s friend and the future that lies before her. I revisited my own joys, which led to a deep sorrow inside of me for the future I’ve lost. It’s strange to hold joy and sorrow at the same time, but grief has a special ability to do that. I believe it’s what we call bittersweet.
I wasn’t trying to take away from this young couple’s special day and I wasn’t trying to internally make it about myself. But I’ve realized weddings are a definite trigger. It summons sweet memories. Memory-triggers are loaded with powerful emotional ammunition. It’s like joyful moments drill down deep and cause sorrow to bubble to the surface. It’s not a sadness that ruins the day, but it demands that I carry both happiness and heartache at the same time. It’s called emotional duality I think, and it’s such a strange and unwelcomed thing. How can I be so excited and happy while I’m also really sad and profoundly grateful? Grief is crazy and powerful…and bipolar…heck…maybe tripolar? or more? There’s no predicting it, no preventing it and no shoving it back down once it’s found a crack to break through. It gets to just enter the day or the moment any old time it pleases. It’s bossy like that.
I held myself together fairly well for the wedding (well, minus the “til death parts us” part). Hopefully no one realized the tears I patted away were partly sorrow induced. I also shed tears of joy and hope-filled prayers for the new couple. I prayed God would grant them the kind of love I was so blessed to have. I prayed they’d have a long, happy, healthy life together filled with more blessings than trials. I prayed they’d keep God right in the center of it all to help them through the inevitable hard times. I prayed they’d laugh together often through all of life’s ups and downs and that they’d always lift each other up when the world tries to defeat them.
I loved the Scripture reading they chose.
1 John 4:19 (NIV)
19 We love because he first loved us.
None of this – none of the love on a wedding day, none of the love that’s part of our grief stories – NONE OF IT would be if God hadn’t loved us first. He created love, He IS love, and it’s what He wants from us in return. It’s one of those verses that is almost too deep and too profound to wrap my head around, as most of the shortest verses are. God is love. We love because he first loved us. And you know what? He still loves us – that’s constant. Whether we are crying tears of joy, tears of sorrow, or both at the same time. He loves us, even and especially when we’re bipolar with grief.
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