When My Tears Break Through: Reflections on Our Wedding
Say yes like you know the clouds have left too many people cold and broken.
– Andrea Gibson (“Say Yes”)
I don’t cry when the dam breaks down
River wash away this whole damn town
But you offer me a hand that I can hold on to
And that’s when my tears break through
– Greg Trooper (“When My Tears Break Through”)
Today, on the first anniversary of our marriage, I remember how I wept at my wedding. I’m not talking about tearing up or choking up. I’m talking about a guttural sob that started in my Adam’s apple, shook my body, and rang out through the church sanctuary. I ugly cried, and it started with the words above from Andrea Gibson.
Foolishly, I had thought that I could maintain composure during our wedding. After all, it’s my job. As a hospital chaplain, I have maintained my composure and compassion when standing with a grandmother in the morgue as she said goodbye to the second adult grandchild she had had to bury in a month. As a crisis counselor, I have remained calm while stalling an intoxicated suicidal individual who was holding a gun and wanting to end her life. Surely, I could hold it together long enough to break down crying after the ceremony. Like I was saying, I was naïve.
I teared up at the gathered community of friends and family who chose to stand with John and me in bearing witness to and supporting us in our relationship. I teared up knowing the journey that my parents had taken in coming to stand at our side with the love, pride, support, and radical hospitality that has shaped their lives.
I held back tears of fury as I considered those whose faith prevented them from standing with us at our wedding. Both my husband and I had dear friends whose faith commitments kept them from attending our wedding. My husband, in particular, was wounded as his closest friends from college rejected not only his request to stand with him in his wedding party but also refused to even bear witness to this event for fear that supporting him as an individual would somehow compromise their values (because a wedding is clearly about the guests’ beliefs).
My heart swelled with gratitude for the gathered community who chose to stand with us as we took the crazy risk of committing to live and love for each other that is marriage. The joy and commitment of our extended community of family and friends who were willing to share in this journey with us, even when their theology might question the wisdom of our commitment to each other, continues to move me. Knowing that the “moral purity” of my husband’s friends and immediate family had led them to avoid him and allow him to live on the streets rather than risk stretching their faith in support of a fellow human being, our chosen family’s hospitality and support gives us strength and hope.
It was thinking about my husband’s story that brought me to the point of uncontrollable sobbing. As my friend read the above words from Andrea Gibson, I remembered the story of my husband sleeping in the bitter cold of a Portland winter and waking up with his moustache frozen solid against his face. I wept that I had not found him sooner. I wept for a community that cherishes its beliefs above the lives of its people. I wept and prayed for the strength to stand with my husband through whatever life might bring as I committed myself to the promise that through better and worse I will offer everything I have for him in the trust that he would do the same.
As we shared communion together, I found hope, strength, commitment, and purpose in the promise that whatever life brings, from this point forth neither of us will face it alone.