Last weekend I attended my best friend's wedding (great movie by the way) - her name is Sammie and she is also the co-storyteller on this blog, though she doesn't know I'm writing this. Her and Mitch's love story is a testament of God's faithfulness, and their wedding was like a grand display of His affection not just for them, but for all of us as well. Something struck me deeply through the whole experience, and it was God's voice I knew I heard during the ceremony:
"I don't want to teach lessons, I want to heal hearts".
Let's go back 5 years. Sammie and Mitch met in the missions organization YWAM where they started dating, though their actual story of getting together is pretty entertaining. I'll let her tell you that story when she gets back from her honeymoon. They dated five years. FIVE years people. In Christian years that's like a million, and in Christian mission years, thats basically an eternity. You probably wonder why they waited 5 years to get married, and if you were at this wedding you would've seen, God led them through those 5 years, healing hearts, making dreams come true, and preparing them for their future together.
They are the couple who we all go to for advice because their relationship screams "Hi we're healthy". They wanted to wait this long because it was a personal process they had both submitted to. This didn't come without navigating hardship, weakness, challenges, and failures... but they never avoided those things and because of that, everything worked together for good, with God right there in the middle of it all.
During the reception, I met Mitch's grandparents whose story cracked me up. His grandpa was telling me how pretty I am, which made my cheeks blush, and then he began telling me that many years ago, if it wasn't for God, him and his bride would have never gotten together. He said there was no reason for her to take notice of him, and how when he had gotten her attention, he didn't know how to keep it. He was enamored by her, and through intense pursuit, eventually won her over. He also said that it was only by God's grace and laughter. As he was saying this, she walked over with a big smile and said "that's not the full story. I fancied him from the moment I saw him". Que happy tears. He then looked me straight in the eye and said, "if it wasn't for God, all this wouldn't be happening, your friend wouldn't have married my grandson".
Ok hold on for a second. He was RIGHT. Had he not married his wife, his son wouldn't have had Mitch and badaboom - Sammie wouldn't be marrying Mitch. I mean, this may not seem like a big deal but I wonder what it's like for a grandpa to be sitting at a wedding where people are including God in their story, and he's like "yup, so I was a part of all this happening". That's how legacies are started and continue for generations. Obviously, this whole 'who you marry thing' can't be by accident. He looked at me again and said without hesitation, "Don't ever doubt God's part in the process".
Point taken, thanks grandpa. Next up, Sammie's dad gave a speech. He began with this statement, "More than anything else, I have always tried to love my children with extravagant love." He continued with how this was always his priority and nothing else mattered to him more. I later went up to him and asked if he could continue loving Sammie extravagantly so we could still use his cable account. I was being serious.
Anyways, what he was saying in his speech reminded me of the verse in the bible, "If you then, being sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matt 7:11 NLT). We all have imperfect fathers - some are really good at showing love, and some not so much. Some are completely absent and some people don't even know their earthly fathers. The amazing truth is that we have a God who is, above ALL things, more concerned with showing us extravagant love in a way we can receive it. I have witnessed Richard, Sammie's dad, choose to do so in a different way for each child, because each child receives differently. If a man can do this, how much more does God want to?
If you're like me, you may be afraid to ask for extravagant things because you aren't fully convinced God even wants to show love to you in this way. You feel weird even asking. I often think God wants to teach me a lesson first. Like, if I mess up, my blessing or what I want is going to take longer as a result of my mess-up - a kind of discipline. While God does teach us things, he does so with generous mercy and kindness, but this is also not his priority. His priority is healing the wounds in our heart so we can live in our fullness, with righteousness, peace, and joy.
As a couple, Sammie and Mitch are the most compassionate, loyal friends anyone could have. Mitch is as humble as they come, and during my speech I talked about how he has gone over and above to show Sammie just how much he loves her - a different but just as extravagant of a love as her father showed her. Sammie, is the most thoughtful and considerate person I have ever met, and would sacrifice anything to be there for Mitch. The two of them together are a very real example of how God purposed two people to have strengths and weaknesses that are like iron sharpening iron, complete through the power of grace.
I am so thankful to witness a love like theirs, and I'm going to start challenging myself to believe in God's desire to display his love in ways I can only imagine.
Ill let you know what happens ;).