On an extremely blizzardy night, Julie and I attended the wedding of Benjamin David Chapman and Brittni Li Gilmore. Benjamin is the youngest son of our good friends, Don and Jan Chapman. We’ve also known Scott and Karen Gilmore and their family for a long time. When I first came to Bella Vista Church, Rockford, MI, Don joined me on staff. We served together for 5 years and have known each other for 26 years.
Last evening, the wedding guests prompted so many good memories of enduring relationships, with the common bonds being our devotion to Jesus Christ, serving in Christian ministry together, and watching our “little ones” grow up and reach the moment when they stand before God and witnesses and say “I do.”
Weddings of children whose parents and wedding guests have shared life’s journey deeply and enduringly are profound markers of life’s wonder. Weddings seem to say: Here’s a new chapter in what life is about–God, promise, relationship, life, laughter, love and, most of all, shared meanings at the major intersections.
One young lady, Betsy Velker, who, when she was little, drew pictures for me during my sermons and gave them to me after the service, asked me to dance with her at the reception. We were dancing and she told me, “I’m going to get married a year from this coming summer and you are going to do my wedding.” Little Betsy, beautiful young lady, imminent wife of some lucky young man. I know and have served in ministry with Betsy’s mother and father.
We saw Dan and Ellen Clark who had four boys who were very close in age to our four girls. Julie and Ellen were pregnant at the same time with their Andy and our Shamar. As parents, we would “arrange” the match-ups. We were not as successful as Jan and Karen were in “arranging” Ben and Brittni’s marriage. In a wedding video, Jan and Karen told their story: When Karen first held baby Ben Chapman on a hot Sunday night at Bella Vista Church, she said to Jan “I want this boy.” Ben is now Karen’s son-in-law. And, of course, Don and Jan have a new daughter as well. By the way, Dan and Ellen’s son, Rob married Marie of the Gilmore clan, and had the first girl in the Clark clan in 52 years!
People prompt memories of eras of our lives. Calendars and Blackberries are poor substitutes for crying, laughing, praying, traveling, learning, protesting, serving and growing up together. We don’t mark time best by numbers, but by relationships. We saw Ralston and Cindy, David and Ruth Ann, the Stoner family, Jonathan, Mary Kay, Dick and Sara, Steve and Jan, Kurt, Gail and gorgeous Maggie, Mike and Colleen (up from Florida), Tony and Amy, Helen and Denise and some of her family. Denise is now related to the Gilmores, Clarks and Chapmans through the marriages of all these kids.
Life is full of pain, too, and amidst the joy of the wedding lurked memories of shared agony, even horror. Yet, weddings say, “No, evil. You are not welcomed here. You often take your best shots, but in the end, you lose. The wine of joy here is a gift from Jesus–the One who is good and sparkling Light. So, dark evil and your devastation, get out.”
Julie and I danced to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” The DJ had a voice like Frank Sinatra’s. A little later, we danced to the song that we first danced in public to: “Unchained Melody.” We’ve seen our daughters grow up, two of them marry and begin their families. We were in a room with people with similar life experiences. The formal attire, the fine cuisine, the music and laughter–all symbols, as Don mentioned in the ceremony to his son and daughter-in-law, that speak profoundly of realities we now barely know.
For a moment last night, we experienced the future…we danced with hope…we drank a wine created by Jesus called “I am making all things new.”