Photo credit: Love Your Life Photography
When I cry, it’s usually for one of two reasons:
- I’ve lost complete control of a situation.
- I’ve encountered grace.
On Sunday morning, I cried harder for the first reason than I’ve cried in almost my entire adult life. Nasty, ugly, snotty bawling that probably scared passing drivers.
After months of planning, weeks of coordinating, days of errands, and hours and hours of DIY projects and spreadsheets, I (Charity J Edwards, blithe wedding coordinator) found myself driving in the pouring rain to the bride’s house to tell her that we had to move the ceremony location. After all, no one wants to go to a wedding in a mud puddle instead of a grassy knoll.
I’d lost all control over the wedding I was supposed to be in charge of. And I was big-time disappointed in God for taking away all my control.
Having been told by several people to expect a rainy-day wedding – and not being able to process the idea of losing all my work – I had staunchly ignored the forecasts and prayed for sunshine, dramatic clouds, and a rainbow.
Hey, my God is big. I know He does big things and answers big requests. I had absolute faith in the fact that He would give us sunshine that day – after all, I’m His daughter, and He loves me.
I had gone to sleep on Saturday night, kind of grinning to myself as I listened to the rain outside my door; I was hoping against hope that God would pleasantly “surprise” me with sunshine the next morning, and I knew he would come through.
I woke up to rain. Not just drizzle. Not just a few leftover clouds dumping their final buckets on San Diego. RAIN. Dig-the-umbrella-out-of-the-closet rain.
I tried to shake it off. I wryly cranked a rainy wedding tune, updated my Facebook status to be snarky and cute, and went to take the rollers out of my hair.
The rollers defeated me. What was the point of curling my hair if it was going to be flat by the time I got to the car? I felt my soul begin to deflate.
So I left the rollers in, pulled my rainboots on, and trudged out to my car. Wipers and other cars slashed through the water on the freeway. The thought that I’d been trying to avoid for the past hour hit me: I’m going to have to set up a wedding, keep the volunteers cheerful, attend a wedding, and tear down a wedding – all while getting annoyingly wet.
“I can’t do this,” I told God. “I trusted You.” And I started crying.
I talked and cried and shouted at God for a long time, “I TRUSTed You!” <sniffle> “I KNOW You could have given me sunshine.” <snort> “I’m so disappointed, God. My expectations are crushed.” <tears>
I sobbed all the way to her house. At one point, I told God, “I know that You have a plan or whatever, and I know that I’m going to look back at the end of the day and see that You’ve come through for me. But that’s not enough right now. I CAN’T be happy.”
I threw myself on His mercy, calling out and telling Him how much I needed Him to get me through the day.
“I need something to cling to beside the fact that You have a plan today, God. I’m not liking Your plan very much,” I told Him.
(To make things worse, I’d had a cold for two weeks, and I had only one unused tissue left in my car. By the time I got to the bride’s house, I was pulling out previously-used tissues, looking for unused corners to blow my nose in.)
I pulled into the bride’s driveway, and I had this thought that only could have been from God. I realized that the most important thing to focus on for the day was God’s glory. His plan/His glory was more important than my comfort, more important than the guests’ feet staying dry, more important than our plans – and I’d just have to trust that if He could work in my heart to be joyful in the rain, He could work on everyone’s.
I parked my car and texted the bride’s roommate, “Meet me in visitor parking. Bring tissues.” When she got in my car, I sobbed to her, “What kind of wedding coordinator am I, <sob> if I couldn’t even remember <hiccup> tisuuuuuuuesssss?”
The answer, of course, was that I was a wedding coordinator with rollers in my hair and snot on my face who was completely out of control and completely out of strength – and that, it turned out, was exactly how God wanted me to start my day.
I’d had the whole day planned – down to what I was going to feel like when I got up. I was going to be pumped and energetic. I was going to get everyone going on time. I was going to kick off the day with a little speech to the volunteers. I was armed with my beautiful spreadsheets (which I’d even taken to work on Friday to show off), and I was going to make this wedding happen spectacularly. I had contingencies and back-up plans and contingencies for my back-up plans. I even knew the words I was going to pray to thank God for the sunshine.
Then God gave me the one contingency I wasn’t prepared for, the one thing that He knew I couldn’t handle: a rained-out venue. He gave me the opportunity to stop relying on myself and rely fully and utterly on Him. Honestly, it felt awful. It was hard and awful and terrible to admit that I wasn’t strong enough to coordinate the wedding I’d been working on for months.
But I got out of the car, dried my eyes, and walked into the house – and everything else from that moment on went just fine.
The rain lessened, even though it never really went away until it was time to clean up. Everything was on time. All the volunteers (plus some!) showed up. My post-roller hair turned out fabulous. The bride and groom got married in a non-grassy area under an EZ-up tent (that we had borrowed for free). The guests wore boots and brought umbrellas and were generally troopers. Pictures happened with umbrellas. Dancing happened in a gazebo. Clean-up took barely any time at all. And the bride and groom loved all the changes that we made to give them a special day.
Because I was unable to control things on my own, I experienced God that day, in deep and new ways:
- I was humbled without being humiliated. At some point doing my drive-time breakdown, I remembered the following C.S. Lewis quote:
[God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. [God] wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents–or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. –“Screwtape Letters”
If I’d not had the rain that day, I would have been prideful about planning and pulling off a good wedding. Because of the rain, I was humbly able to realize it wasn’t me who had pulled off a great wedding.
- I saw love beyond the first kiss. One of the volunteers told me that he’d been reading Job 37:11-13 that morning. It says that God brings the rain for three reasons: for correction, for the land, or for love (the KJV says “mercy”). God brings the rain for love/mercy. How perfect is that on a wedding day? I didn’t see it at first, but I clung to that truth and let God show me how that was true all day long. From people randomly bringing EZ-up tents for the guests to sit under, to the fact that it wasn’t windy, to my roommate walking up to me with hot chocolate and a granola bar, I saw God’s love for me and for the happy couple all day long, in hundreds of little ways.
He LOVED the bride and groom. He REJOICED in their union. He WANTED them to have a beautiful, whimsical, drizzly wedding. And He allowed me to be one piece of the giant puzzle that made up the picture of their perfect day.
- I experienced joy beyond my circumstances. Not gonna lie, some parts of the day were hard. Being pulled in three directions at once. Wearing shoes that were considerably less comfortable as the day went on. Pictures running behind schedule. Family members disappearing at inopportune times. But there wasn’t a single moment in which I thought, “I wish I were somewhere else” or “if only we’d had the wedding in the grass, I’d be happy.” A sense of joy pervaded the set-up and celebration that defied logic and certainly defied the rain.
In the book “A Praying Life” author Paul Miller says, “If we pursue joy directly, it slips from our grasp. But if we begin with Jesus and learn to love, we end up with joy” (pg. 215). I can’t think of a better sentence to describe the day.
- I found grace in the face of my own sin. I’d like to report here that I was perfectly composed and gracious to everyone. Mostly, I was. But even as I was in the middle of one of the best wedding coordinating experiences I’d ever had, being awed every few minutes by what God was pulling off almost without my trying, I found myself being judge-y of people, snapping at the maid of honor (sorry, Stephanie!), getting frustrated at the vendors.
At one point, I looked to make sure the bride’s family was sitting in the front row, and I noticed that her sister was not there. She wasn’t anywhere. Immediately, my thoughts went to, “OMG, I can’t believe that she would miss her own sister’s wedding. What’s her excuse, huh?” And I went to all of the lame excuses I could think of for her to not be there. Then about 10 seconds later, the sister showed up with the family members she’d given a ride to. I immediately repented and remembered yet again how much I need God.
Basically, what I experienced was a little version of the Gospel story. The Gospel (the one story that Christians tell over and over and never get tired of) is a beautiful story of humanity’s failure and God’s success through the suffering of His only Son. It’s a story of the ultimate unconditional love, in which God’s Son (Jesus) dies in the place of the people who deserve no love at all. It’s a story of grace in the face of helplessness; what we couldn’t do for ourselves, Jesus did for us, simply because He was the only one Who could.
In “A Praying Life,” Miller says, “Whenever you love, you reenact Jesus’ death. Consequently, Gospel stories always have suffering in them. […] So we pray to escape a Gospel story when that is the best gift the Father can give us” (pg. 214).
I think of how I tried to escape the rain by praying it away; how I tried to tell God His plan wasn’t working for me; how I begged Him for the miracle of sunshine – when all along, He’d planned to use my dread of getting wet all day to play out a mini Gospel scenario.
Because it was raining,
- I did nothing on my own; God did everything.
- I was able to unconditionally love the bride and groom and show it through uncomfortable circumstances.
- God used my suffering to do His work better than if I’d been comfortable all day.
- My idols (control, comfort, praise of people) were uncovered and then obliterated.
At the end of the day, the bride and groom drove off in a MINI Cooper, the clean-up crew got everything done in exactly an hour, and I was home over an hour earlier than I had planned to be.
When I cry, it’s usually for one of two reasons:
- I’ve lost complete control of a situation.
- I’ve encountered grace (undeserved/unearned favor and kindness).
On Sunday night, I sat on the couch with some tea, in my fuzzy jammies, and started crying – this time, for the second reason. I looked back at the day and had only tears to thank God with because I’d encountered the Gospel, I’d encountered grace, and…
I’d found love/mercy in the rain.