Holy cow, you guys, weddings are awesome!
This past week I had the immense privilege of serving as a groomsman in the wedding of a college roommate. The four days of preparation and celebration came at a crucial juncture of events as I continued to process through the meeting with the counselors and the feelings of frustration that it brought about while preparing to leave home and travel abroad. Honestly, I was losing it a little. Destructive whispers of doubt and rebellion were creeping into my routine thought patterns, and some jerk kept throwing salty water into my eyes on a regular basis for no reason at all (I hate that guy!).
Thus, somehow, Philadelphia became a city of healing for me. A blessed joy snuck into my soul somewhere between dressing the groom up like Batman and forcing him to crash a calisthenics class in front of the Rocky statue, meeting new and wonderful people and becoming instant friends, receiving hug after glorious hug from old friends who know me better than anyone, sightseeing, watching two people I love embark on a thrilling new adventure to display the passionate glory of God to the world through their marriage, and being welcomed into the homes of numerous strangers as if I were a regular and cherished guest.
I can’t describe it. The sheer enormity of my feelings confounds my feeble attempts to capture them with mere syllables. All I know is that the awesome reality of this thing we call the Church, this thing we call the fellowship of saints, was so apparent to me in this time that I could hardly contain myself (you can ask some of my friends – I was, shall we say, overly appreciative at times). My time in Philly didn’t magically erase the pain – there have been a few moments of seeming insanity these past few days – but it went a long way in revealing how desirable, how refreshing, how Christlike a community of hospitality truly is.
Maybe it was the stark and stunning contrast between how rejected I felt at the counselors’ house and how welcomed I felt in Philly, but the goodness of the Church body struck me with all the force and urgency of an arrow to the heart (a happy arrow, mind you). And I am convinced, now more than ever, that hospitality is one of the most powerful ways to preach the Gospel to a weary and cynical world. I have grown up in the Church, and yet the way these people opened up their lives to us still startled me. They gave with an easy generosity that betrayed a history of practicing daily, radical hospitality. It was simply how they lived and, having experienced the fruit of such faithfulness, I am compelled to imitation. In my lifelong quest to declare Christ with every aspect of my existence, I have just received a behavioral model par excellence. When they told me I always had a place to stay in Philly, I could do nothing but believe them without a hint of doubt, their clear sincerity creating an atmosphere in which cynicism and suspicion couldn’t survive.
It could be so easy to expend all my energy trying to carve out a place in the Church, trying to prove I deserve to belong. And yet I was reminded that I am called to so much more than that. This whole process must be forming me into the kind of person who, like Jesus, is more concerned with welcoming others than being welcomed himself. What a daunting task; what a glorious calling. My words cannot do justice to the gift I received from interacting with these men and women for this short time, but I hope to some day live a life that succeeds where my words have failed.
Thanks for all the prayers; they are so appreciated and so undeserved.
A quick observation about the bride and groom: they have served as an example of how single people (specifically those who are gay) can be woven into the fabric of a married couple’s life together. After I came out to the groom, he sent me a letter explaining how, even should I never have a family of my own, I had to know that I would always be a part of theirs – that I was someone they wanted their kids to know and learn from. They have demonstrated that their love for each other somehow includes me. I can’t quite exlpain it, but I know it to be true, and as I rejoiced over them with friends new, old, and unintroduced, I caught the slightest glimpse of a future spent never too far from a warm living room full of people who will gladly call me brother and friend.