Pastoral Ponderings . . .
I didn’t use to enjoy weddings as much as I do nowadays.
I used to say I’d rather do a wedding than a funeral. It sounds cynical, but it reflected that fact that the wedding day seemed to be more about the party than anything else, and I didn’t think I was making a difference in people’s lives. I’ve always felt people endured the ceremony so they could get to what’s really important: talking, dancing, drinking, eating…and more talking, dancing, and (usually) drinking.
Funerals, on the other hand, are entirely different. In funerals people come with their lives temporarily shattered. They are hungry for something that can help them put their emotions, hearts, and souls…and oftentimes, their faith…back in order. They are more likely to search for and cling to your presence as they struggle to find the new order of their life after loss.
However, over the years I’ve come to change my mind on weddings. I realized that change in my thinking when my friend and I were sitting in my office over a cup of coffee. So I asked myself what it was that caused the change. It’s not that the wedding day has changed: people still focus on the talk, dance, drink, and eat…and then talk, dance, and drink more. It’s not that I feel that people are suddenly coming to the wedding service dying for me to start talking so they can be moved by the sermon. No, nothing in the formula of the wedding day has changed…it was my perception that changed.
I changed my ideas on what you can accomplish through me. My goal has become clear: I want to reflect your grace and love to everyone I meet…from the bride and groom through the kitchen staff who are serving dinner. I’ve decided to look at every interaction as full of the potential that people might deepen, challenge, build, or dust-off their understanding of you! Oh, they’ll still talk, dance, drink, and eat and then talk, dance, and (usually) drink more…but maybe they will see you more through the way I conduct the service or my interactions with them.
You know the pre-marriage inventory I use with every couple. There are 160 statements which the couples answer individually on a scale from 1-5 with “Strongly Disagree” or “Strongly Agree”. I get the results of how they compare to one another in areas including; marital expectations, spirituality, communication, conflict resolution, finances, intimacy, and more. The next time the couple and I get together it’s to go over the results and talk about major parts of their marriage.
I try to approach every interaction with them as an opportunity for how they could improve their relationship and faith lives. I try to help them not to be afraid of talking about or addressing difficult situations and topics, and how they communicate with one another. In everything I work hard to help them become aware that a pastor and church stand for something which they desperately need but perhaps haven’t thought about….or thought about and discarded because of past experiences.
I decided that I should push that hope beyond just the couple to every person I meet through the wedding and everyone in attendance…from the wedding party through the kitchen staff. I often stay afterwords for an hour and simply talk with people…hoping to let them feel comfortable with a pastor and religious figure. Who knows, maybe they will look to the church and a local pastor as something and someone they need to check out!
Some might think it sounds a bit pretentious, I know, but it’s just a matter of sort of “being present” with everyone: always aware that you can work through me. But isn’t that what you want from all of us. Don’t you want us all to live with the humble realization that in any given moment people may see you through us and how we conduct ourselves? I think you call us to live with the awareness that every interaction we have, no matter how simple or informal, can be an opportunity through which you are revealed. That changes everything!
So, thanks for giving me the new perspective. Actually, I’m glad you helped me for a couple of reasons: I’m having a lot more fun at weddings than I used to!
As always, thanks for listening. I love you. Dan