I inserted the final bobby pin into Sarah’s hair and began fastening the white rose bud as the finishing touch to my first bridal hairstyle. I smiled big, oohed over how beautiful she was (I really had done a lovely job with her black hair), and kept up the smiling and oohing for the rest of the evening.
I was 19 years old; the bride, 18.
As a pastor’s kid, I’d been to literally dozens of weddings by that time, but Sarah’s still stands out to me for three firsts:
- First bridal hair I’d styled
- First time I was friends with the bride AND the groom
- First wedding where I was older than the bride
I flitted around, producing bobby pins and hair spray as needed, serving cake, and celebrating with our entire church family as Sarah and Alex were joined in holy matrimony. On the outside, I was joyful and almost giddily happy for the couple. I was near giddiness on the inside, too; but I was also noticing certain new emotions I’d never felt at a wedding before.
I was trying desperately not to think, “What have I done wrong, that Sarah did right?” and “How can I fix what’s wrong with me, preferably before I’m 20?” I went to bed that night, satisfied in an event well-planned and a hairstyle well-executed; but for the first time, unsatisfied that I was sleeping alone.
In the 12 years since Sarah and Alex’s wedding, I’ve done enough wedding hair to justify an online portfolio; been in enough weddings to dedicate a third of my closet to bridesmaid dresses; manned so many guest books that I ran out of fingers to count them on.
I’ve facilitated proposals, lived with brides, planned bachelorette parties and bridal showers, worked at a bridal salon, subscribed to wedding blogs, and bought wedding magazines just for the fun of it. This year, I even got ordained online to do weddings. (I’ve never been a flower girl, though, so if you know of anyone who needs one…)
And of course, both – BOTH – of my younger sisters are married. At the first one’s wedding, I came prepared with snarky replies to the question, “How do you feel about your younger sister getting married first?” (No one asked, though.)
More than once, I’ve had someone tell me, “Well, I got married in my 30’s” or “My friend got married in her 40’s” and my initial response is always, “Good Lord, I hope I don’t have to wait that long. That’s terrrrrrible.”
I love celebrating marriage and new love with a wedding and a party; I love it probably more than I love English grammar (which is really saying something). But in the moments where I don’t rein in my emotions, my love of that is countered almost equally with envy.
When I stop and think about it, and really allow myself to be honest with myself and God, I can physically taste the envy. My gut hurts with the desire for a wedding and a honeymoon and a wifely life. “It’s not fair!” has been my cry to God throughout the years. “Why am I missing out on all of this?”
I want a bachelorette party. I want gifts from a registry. I want a reason for all of my family and friends to stop their lives, drop their preferences, and show up to celebrate a big event in my life – holding my dress out of the mud, loading me up with Target gift cards, and decorating the car that will take me to my new life.
I. Am. Missing. Out. I’ve had to stock my own kitchen, buy my own pretty lingerie (to show off to NO one), and earn my Target gift cards by being employee of the month. The only reason people come see me is because I live by the beach, and the only thing that decorates my car is a layer of sand.
I’m making myself sad just writing this.
I wrote all that last night. I gave it a once-over for typos, closed my laptop, and went to bed sad.
I rarely wallow in those thoughts. I know life isn’t fair, and complaining about it doesn’t make it so. I know that I’ll miss out on things in marriage: independence with my budget, freedom to travel, my awesome roommate, etc. Most of the time, I hear my mom’s voice in my head, telling me to tone down the drama and accept the practical reality of life.
Those thoughts weren’t helping last night, though, and I woke up this morning and prayed, “God, help me see the Gospel in this situation. How does the life and work of Jesus change the fact that I’m always the bridesmaid and never the bride?”
A few hours into my day, I ran across the notes (okay, note – singular. Probably the only note I’ve taken at church in years) that I took during one of my pastor’s recent sermons. This is what I wrote down:
“The only thing I’m missing out on is Hell.”
Dude. What? Dang.
What I forgot last night as I was writing myself into a funk was that God doesn’t promise me a boyfriend/fiancé/wedding/husband/children. God the Father does promise me something, though: death, if I sin (Romans 6:23).
Jesus promises me life if I trust in His death to replace mine (John 3:16).
The Holy Spirit promises that He intercedes to the Father for me, so that God’s perfect will will be done in my life (Romans 8:26).
The one thing I do know is that God keeps His promises (2 Cor. 1:20),
- not so that I can experience temporary happiness on this earth, but so that I can experience eternal bliss in the next (Rev. 21).
- not so that I can miss out on good things in this lifetime, but so that I can miss out on Hell in the next (Rev. 20:15).
THAT is what I was forgetting last night, and THAT is what I forget every time I let envy encroach upon the joy of celebrating with my friends and family on their special days.
So if I ever do get that chance to be a flower girl, I’ll rejoice in the new dress, prance down the aisle, and remember that joy comes in trusting Jesus to save me from what I deserve in eternity – not in my marital status, or in the age of the bride and groom, or even in the wedding cake (which we all know is the best part).