Sunday, June 6, 2010

Unexpected Events--The Fish Fry

The same weekend we went to church with my dad we also had a fish fry at my cousin’s house. My cousin, Marce (pronounced Mar-sss), opened his home and thirty or more people gathered.

Some mingled on the front porch chattering. I had a hard time following any one conversation because they all crossed over the other. Several people played corn hole, and you could hear the thump of the corn bags on the boards. There was a rhythmic thwack of a baseball hitting someone’s glove and the swoosh of a basketball in the hoop.

It was one of the leisurely, lazy days of the beginning of summer. The colors of the grass and sky were brilliant. The air was muggy; you could see the heat waves rising. The dogs lay sprawled on their sides on the cool dirt. The little boys chased the crawdads through the creek and finally caught one. Their little green net would swirl around in the bottom of the five gallon bucket trying to find him. They would lift him out of the murky water for all of us to see, and we would oohh and ahhh.

My cousins were inside frying fish: one at the stove with two very hot iron skillets and one with a deep-fryer. As we helped with other tasks and chores in the kitchen we sampled the fish. Fresh perch and catfish. I liked the Cajun perch the best and ate far more than I should have—stealing very hot pieces as they came out of the skillet. My tongue was scorched, but like a child I didn’t care.

There was food and fellowship in abundance.

When everything was prepared Marce gathered everyone. He began to talk. He is such a friendly, jolly guy. He has a deep raspy voice and laughs easily and often. He loves to pull pranks and tell jokes. And he has a heart the size of Texas.

He thanked everyone and then he paused. He explained that before we started eating there was something that needed to be done. The entire group was silent.

Hushed. This was an extraordinary task for such a rambunctious group.

His raspy voice grew shaky. I noticed his girlfriend was fidgety. Nervous. We love her. She is such a beautiful woman. If Marce’s heart is the size of Texas then Tammy’s is the size of Alaska.

Marce took advantage of the silence.

“Today Tammy and I are getting married. This is something we have been wanting and needing to do for a long time. Tammy has put up with me for a lot of years, and I guess she’s going to put up with me some more. This is not for a year, but for forever.”

Charles, the Harley-riding, horse-riding, preacher was present.

Very few were aware that a wedding had been planned. The group’s silence became a buzz of whispering.

The couple descended the stairs of the porch and stood side by side in the yard. The small wedding party gathered around them—a brother and sister-in-law to stand up with them and Tammy’s son, and Marce’s son and daughter. Some of us poured into the yard too.

I wanted to be where I could hear and see their faces.

Cameras began to snap and people were shifting in the yard to get the best view to record the event. Some people remained on the porch leaning over the rails and standing on the steps—arms crossed and hats removed.

Marce and Tammy were surrounded—encircled by people they loved and who loved them.

The Hebrews writer would have been pleased with this great cloud of witnesses.

This was a surreal moment.

Charles began to talk. And Marce and Tammy began to cry.

This wedding moved me.

Its simplicity, its sincerity, its intensity pierced my heart.

We witnessed a union borne out of love and the desire to do good and right.

This moment became a thin place. The veil between the spiritual and the natural was so thin you could feel God’s presence.

And it was beautiful. Utterly beautiful.

Not because of the bride’s dress—she wore short jeans and a sleeveless shirt.

Not because of the flowers—the only flowers were the ones growing wild on the edge of the creek and the flower beds.

Not because of the elaborate reception decorations—the outdoors and the family were the only decorations.

Not because of the music or the typical traditions—there was no bridal bouquet, no garter, no wedding march.

I don’t remember exactly what time the wedding began. I don’t even remember everything that was said.

I do remember the reading of Scripture. I do remember my Dad crying on the porch. I remember the strength and passion in Marce’s voice when he looked Tammy in the eye and spoke his vows. I remember the tenderness and sweetness in Tammy’s when she looked at him.

Standing there that day in the hot sun, the sweat rolling down the middle of my back, in that thin place I recognized that I was participating in something incredibly pleasing to our Father.

Unexpected events.

I have a responsibility to Marce and Tammy. I witnessed their covenant. As Samuel said in I Samuel 12:23: As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.

Far be it from me if I fail to pray for Marce and Tammy.

God created us to want community and to desire intimacy. There is a void when we do not.

We were meant to do life together.

My path won’t cross Marce and Tammy’s on a daily basis, but I will do life with them, because I will pray for them—often.

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