It was late August of our senior year, and Mitch and I were sitting in his partially moved-in apartment.
He suddenly stood up with a glint in his eye. I had grown accustomed to the glint; Mitch had it every time he had some plan or secret that he was dying to tell someone. He walked me to a dresser and opened a sock drawer, pulling a small, navy box out of a lone sock and thrusting it within a foot of my face.
He opened the box with breath baited, like there was an invisible string attaching his lungs and the lid.
“Abbey has no idea.”
Staring back at me was a diamond, sparkling in the light and glinting almost as brightly as Mitch’s eyes.
Neither of us knew exactly what to say. His hopes and future were encapsulated in such a small object.
I think both of us began to feel the weight of mirth. I’ve heard it said by G.K. Chesterton that the world is sometimes silent because it cannot hear the levity of the heavens laughing. That somehow the world stands quiet, leaning close to heaven, trying to catch the faintest hint of laughter, the glorious secret of existence too great for us to fathom.
I don’t know how else to describe that moment with Mitch and the sock drawer and the ring but one of silent, sovereign levity. Both of us stood with the box between us, breath baited, and heard the faintest laughter. It was as if there were a third Person standing next to us grinning and saying, “Well done.”
Like God was looking at Mitch and saying, “Mitch I knew you could do it and I can’t wait to watch your relationship bloom and heal broken hearts and I just can’t wait for Abbey to look at you on one knee and tear up and say a broken ‘Yes!’ that bends to the will of eternity and kiss you as the heavens erupt in laughter!”
I think that God sometimes forgets about grammar when he is in love.
The Wedding Day
Abbey stood in the foyer, wedding dress on and hair done, staring out onto the rain soaked grass where the wedding was supposed to be held in two hours.
On a sunny day, her white, Victorian home sat on a plot of land in Indiana that resembled those Hidden Valley commercials. There were rows upon rows of corn interrupted by one small pond with well-watered treetops over it to provide shade. In the winter her family would ice skate on the pond. The rows of corn created the perfect horizon for a sunset when the weather was nice. We had all been praying that the weather would be perfect for a sunset, but the rains had come anyway.
She was laughing and talking, not showing signs of distress or anxiety. She has a wonderful way of taking life in stride; allowing it to throw curveballs and dip where she expected it to dodge.
Her grace and confidence extended to the rest of the bridal party and family members in the house as if to remind us that life is much larger and quirkier and funnier than a little rain. She kept the day upright.
I was standing in the foyer staring at the boxes of cupcakes when the rain stopped. There was a collective gasp followed by squealing and scrambling feet. Shouts of “Hurry!” and “Come on!” as the front door flew open. Mitch and Abbey ran in their suit and dress across the yard to the road overlooking the Hidden Valley.
I followed and saw it as I emerged from the other side of the reception tent. It was a rainbow, low and brilliant, draped over the horizon and perfectly framing the countryside.
Mitch, Abbey, and the photographer bounded across the street to take pictures. They turned their backs to the camera and faced the rainbow. Her head rested on his shoulder, a picture of warmth and comfort and love. She was crying as they held on to each other.
It was then that I caught a glimpse. A glimpse of exactly what, I cannot say. But a glimpse, nonetheless. It looked almost like pristine balance, of a color wheel spinning slowly and displaying combinations that matched the mood of the moment. It made us all feel like laughing.
As Mitch and Abbey laughed and cried and held onto each other the world was a crib: safe, secure, and inviting.
It was all just so beautiful.
The Love Chapter
Earlier that morning I had been sitting on the front porch with the Hidden Valley view reading 1 Corinthians 13. The morning was calm and most people were inside eating breakfast amidst spools of twine and hot glue guns. I snuck outside, mug in hand, and slowly rocked on a porch swing with my Bible in my lap.
I sat and looked at the view, sipped my coffee, thought about love and how good it feels to have friends in it, and looked at the view some more. Then I began to read.
1 Corinthians 13 is the famous chapter in the Bible that talks about love and how its better than anything in the world and how it’s kind when she is a jerk and patient when waiting for him to get ready. It’s one of those chapters a lot of us grow up hearing.
Then, sitting in the middle of the chapter like a hidden pot of gold was this little verse, “…but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”
As I read it I had to stop, look once more at the horizon, and read it again. “But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”
I finished the chapter with that phrase in the back of my head.
I was living in the partial. We were all living in the partial. In a place where rain slowly erodes our insides and cold stone replaces hearts of flesh. Where there is sadness and hunger and pain and broken families and bruised egos and knees and emotions. That perhaps we couldn’t hear laughter because we could not reach that frequency. Our ears could not hear heaven’s great dog whistle amidst the clamor and pain of the partial.
But then I thought of Mitch and Abbey and had another glimpse.
This one was the raw feeling of completion and love and acceptance. Something, everything, just made sense. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could almost taste it. It was what the “perfect” felt like, what the world would be like when the partial would finally pass away.
It looked and felt much like a buffet table in a brightly colored kitchen. With light yellow walls and aprons resting over chairs and food-upon-comforting-food sitting sprawled across the surface. Food to be enjoyed together, food to fill us up.
I suddenly felt God telling me their love was not theirs. That they did not create it by themselves because the only love humans can create is partial. No, God said, this love, this love that made me glimpse perfection, was not partial at all but was heavenly. Perhaps Mitch and Abbey were willing participants rather than creators. Perhaps they were willing participants in the perfect and we all had the privilege of watching the partial begin to pass away.
And because of their willingness, I was invited to sit at the table with creation around me and throw my head back and laugh at the great wonders of Perfection. I was a different person because of Mitch and Abbey and the willingness of God.
The heavens were laughing and eating bites of eternity, and I was joining in.
The wedding was beautiful.
Guests filed in under a canopy of clouds illuminating the previous raindrops on lilting blades of grass. Each of us groomsmen and bridesmaids entered, smiling and making small talk as the entire audience stared at us.
We reached the front and the music changed. It lifted our bodies and our heads to the back of the aisle as Abbey began walking down escorted by her father. I began to tear up when I saw her look at Mitch and Mitch look back, eyes filling up with joyful, unabashed, fearless tears. It was happening. It was finally happening.
They reached the front and began to go through their vows when it happened. God played conductor and the skies began to ever-so-slightly shed a chorus of rain. It was almost unnoticeable, like slipping into a warm afternoon nap. The rain remained gentle and kind, like God’s eyes were welling with tears just as Mitch’s were.
Abbey stood there, wrapped in white, and laughed. The same bride that remained calm in the rainstorm and cried in the rainbow laughed in the rain. She was looking into Mitch’s face, breath baited and eyes full, and laughed along with heaven.