This year is a big year for weddings. I will perform my first wedding as a solo officiate. I will be my twin sister’s Matron of Honor. For a few former students, I will read Scripture, pray prayers, say a few words, and even, by the power vested in me by the Commonwealth of Virginia announce them as husband and wife.
I guess that’s what happens when you do student ministry for over ten years. The teenagers become 20-somethings, and they get married! The 20-something youth pastor becomes a 30-something Reverend and gets to re-enter the lives of beloved students at sacred moments.
My heart is full and eyes brimming with tears in anticipation of the holy moments that await me in coming months.
The first such wedding is four days away. A girl I met May 2001 is getting married. I can’t believe 13 years have passed since that girl, too young for youth group, hung around the edges, begging to be included. She looked like a teenager, she talked like a teenager, but she was still a girl.
Now she’s a bride.
|Belize Mission Trip 2007|
As Saturday’s ceremony approaches, I find myself nostalgic. I barely know the beautiful, confident woman who will become a wife. But I knew that teenager so well. I watched her go through the country girl phase and the girl jock phase, the bad student phase (with its infamous AIPs) and the good student phase, the rebel phase and the pastor’s kid phase. I cradled her as she sobbed; I heard her confessions; I kept her secrets. I watched a steady parade of young men vie for her attention and affection. I watched her make great choices, and I worried and prayed as she made not-so-great ones.
She was my guinea pig as I learned how to be a pastor. She suffered through my learning how to stop talking and start listening.
|Manassas Mission Trip 2006|
I watched her grow up from kid to student to small group leader. She watched me grow up from college student to seminary student, from adamantly single to married, from all about teenagers to all about my kids.
I’ll never forget the day she called and said, “Hey, can we get together for ice cream? But this time—we’re burning my gas in my car, and I’m paying.”
She was at my wedding, encouraging people to sign the guestbook.
In a few days, I’ll be at her wedding, speaking holy words over her life one more time.
And, I’m so proud.
I’m so thankful for God’s protection over her when she was hell-bent on making stupid decisions. I’m so thankful for the gift of watching her wrestle, struggle, and emerge into the woman she is today. I’m so thankful that God intertwined our lives 13 years ago. I’m so thankful that out of the parade of young men who fought for her attention, one emerged victorious—one with whom she seems to be most fully Mary Ashleigh.
I love you, Mashy. I can’t wait to see you as a beautiful bride and a wonderful wife.