Sometimes you have that small moment, that snapshot in time where you see something that would fill hundreds of pages to tell. I saw that moment this weekend, as an elderly woman struggled to get out of her car and made a very labored effort to get to her feet, carefully gathering her weight on failing legs as she was steadied by her husband, standing at her door.
And then I saw it.
A look. A smile.
In an instant, that glance showed trust, respect, and a profound depth of love. The bridegroom saw his bride, and she was beautiful.
She gathered herself and straightened her dress. From the look of it, it was a dress she’d worn many times, which surely the old man had seen for years. But he shook his head and gave her a smirk that said, “Wow. You’re beautiful.”
She looked nothing like what our culture tells us beauty should look like: dowdy, tottering, and labored in her movements. Her figure was that of an old lady and certainly wouldn’t grace the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine.
As I walked into church Sunday morning, I didn’t see the have-it-all-together people that our culture tells us we’re supposed to be, and which much of American pop-christianity peddles.
I saw a bride that looked a lot more like the elderly lady than the swimsuit model. As I entered, I met a man who I re-meet every week. A wonderful brother who never seems to remember that we’ve met, who sits in a row filled with his children and grandchildren, and I’m reminded, though my time on earth is short and often full of pain, that God’s mercy passes from generation to generation.
In front of me were young parents with children occupying themselves with toys on the floor. And as they began to fight over “mine”, I recalled how quickly I do the same, and I glanced up past them to the cross on the altar.
This wasn’t a collection of shiny, perfect people. It’s a collection of failing minds, failing legs, and tired parents. It’s children grabbing for what’s “mine”, but assembled, all, before the cross and gifts of Christ for us.
Later in the service, I watched those same beautiful children and their mother at the communion rail, receiving those very gifts: the children receiving a blessing, and the mother served the supper from her own husband, an Elder.
So this is what it looks like, in all it’s frailty and humanity. And as we attempt to stand on failing legs, the bridegroom sees us not in our weakness, but as the beautiful bride.
I’ll return next week to see the impatient kids, who haven’t learned to hide their impatience as well as I have. And I’ll re-meet my brother, receiving the same warm smile and corny joke that met me last week. And we’ll receive anew our gifts of love from our groom.
I love this bride, and her body is beautiful.