Wow. I learned a lot about love this weekend.
First off, Julie got married. This in and of itself it a miracle. Like myself, having been through a plethora of failed relationships, one can get to the point where one wonders... what if...
But Julie is in love. And not like I've ever seen her before. Her and Michael's first dance was amazing. Amazing. Hands down, out of all the weddings I've ever been in, sung at, officiated or attended, this couple wins for best first dance. With his hands on her back in a tender embrace, Julie kept clutching his neck and resting her head in his chest. "I'm so happy," I saw her whisper at one point. It was beautiful. Then when Julie and her dad danced, their song was the father daughter song from the musical Beauty and the Beast and it was so awesome watching her and her father singing the words to each other as they danced. Julie and Merlin always had a very silly but loving relationship.
And was she ever a beautiful bride. Holy cow.
It was a great wedding because so many of my (and Julie's) worlds came together all at once. Julie and I shared much of our adult life attending the same college, the same seminary, being in Baptist circles and churches. So there were friends there from Jewell, Truett, and the CBF all there. 12 years of friendships. It was especially fun to be back together with Lisa, Stacey and Laura for most of the weekend.
And this is where I learned my second lesson about love.
Lisa moved to Kenya some time after we graduated from college to work for the International Justice Mission. While there, she met a Liberian man. ALthough they share her native language (his being a tribal Liberian dialect), communication is still trying at times, but despite their differences, they fell in love. The true test for Lisa though, came a year or so later when Eddie was offered his dream job... in Liberia. He would probably be placed in a village, probably without internet, with cell reception only from the top of a hill in the town. Lisa was happy about this amazing opportunity for him, but after he told her about the job offering she cried and cried. This would the turning point in their relationship - would she move to a country devastated (but recovering) from war, a place with limited resources, poor health care, and bad food? Would she move to a place like that where she had no job? Further away from family and even friends she had made in Kenya. Would she trust God through this? And that's when she realized it was, as she said, "true love." When they talked on the phone later about the situation, Eddie began by saying, "I'm not taking the job. It's too risky for us. We wouldn't be able to communicate very often and I can't do that to us." And that's when Lisa learned that both of them had come to the same conclusion - that they were willing to give it all up for the other person. True love.
Normally I hate that sappy shit. But listening to Lisa talk about life in Liberia and watching Julie who has experienced so many hardships in love come to a place of complete commitment was informative at the least and inspiring at the best.
Maybe it really happens. Maybe. It's hard to write about love, but to see it being told and experienced by your friends, friends who you know and trust and love... well, it becomes a little more real, tangible. Not a romantic date or a sexual encounter or a fairy tale idealism or a rite of passage, but a journey, deliberately, carefully chosen, embraced with someone that your love. You love. Love enough to sacrifice for. A relationship both people are so invested in, they would give it all up for the well-being of that unity.
Maybe that's why even our relationship with God is characterized in the expressions of faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.