France 2018: August 1 Pride Comes before a Fall

Even before began to enjoy the sound of my own voice, I made the first of several mistakes.

The printed order of service, which we had rehearsed the day before, called for everyone to remain standing after the wedding party were all standing at the altar rail while we sang the first song, “In Christ Alone.”

Then they were to sit down during the introduction, reading of Scripture, and sermon.

For some reason, however, I announced the second hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” even though it was supposed to come later.

As we began the first stanza, Yangyou said to me quietly, “We’re supposed to sing this later.”

I checked the program hurriedly and saw that she was right!

You can’t imagine how awkward I felt as we continued through the remaining stanzas. I had inadvertently made everyone stand for several more minutes when they should have been sitting down and resting.

Despite my pleasure at the way I read the liturgy and delivered the sermon, that initial mistake so rattled me that the rest of the service became a struggle to retain my composure.

Perhaps because I was so nervous, or maybe because the memory of my fiasco caused so much, pain, I can’t recall the details of the next couple of blunders. I am pretty sure that I got their names mixed up at some point, perhaps when I announced that they were now “man and wife.”

I do know that when it came time for the marriage certificate to be signed, I couldn’t find the place for my signature. I looked and looked, and then concluded that I was wrong to think that I was supposed to add my name after those of the newly married couple, the best man and the maid of honor, so I let it go.

I was just glad that my ordeal was over.

After the wedding party had made their exit, and as the guests began to file out of their pews, a little old man dressed in a black suit appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and stood at my side. I hadn’t seen him before, and had no idea why he was there, nor did I understand what he was saying to me in French.

I indicated that I didn’t understand, but he just repeated himself.

Finally, he clasped his hands and moved them up and down in a pulling motion. Now I knew that he wanted my permission for him to ring the church bells.

“Oui! Oui!” I said, and he hurried back into the vestry room to our left.

Soon the bells were pealing in joyful celebration that yet another young couple had launched out on the seas of matrimony.

I sighed in relief as I followed the last guest out the door and stood waiting with the happy crowd for the bride and groom to issue forth.

When they did, we shouted congratulations and threw flower petals into the air.

Though I was glad to join in the festive talk afterwards, I was even more relieved that I had made my last mistake and could now enjoy the wedding banquet.

Which I did, but not before I acknowledged before God that my confidence in my experience and ability to conduct the “perfect wedding,” followed by my self-satisfaction with the fluency and energy of my voice, had set me up for an embarrassing fall.

I was comforted by the many compliments on my performance that I received after the wedding, and by Dori’s assurance that hardly anyone would have noticed the numerous mistakes.

“It was a beautiful wedding,” she said, and several other guests, including the groom’s father, echoed that judgment.

Nevertheless, though I thanked God that he had been glorified, I took no pride in my accomplishment. After all, pride had caused me to stumble. I could only remind myself that I was justified by God’s grace, given to me in Jesus Christ. Once again, I had to receive his forgiveness and find my righteousness in him alone.

Not until several weeks later that I had committed one more faux pas.

After they had returned from their honeymoon and had settled into their new home in the United States, I received an email from Yangyou.

Why, she asked, had I not signed the wedding certificate?

I replied that I couldn’t find the proper place for my signature, but told her to mail the document to me and I would add my name.

Sure enough, when I opened the beautiful book containing the elegant calligraphy formally stating that this couple, in the presence of witnesses, had indeed professed their vows, there was no place below the other signatures for my name. I was right!

Then I looked over to the facing page and blushed with chagrin.

There it was, as plain as day: The officiant’s declaration that he had performed the ceremony, below which was a line for me to sign.

When I mailed the completed book back to them, I wrote a contrite message explaining that, by that time in the ceremony, my nerves were so badly frayed that I didn’t think to glance over to the right side of the open book.

Looking back, I see how the Lord may also have reminded Yangyou, who had been planning the perfect wedding since she was a little girl, may have learned that “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray,” as I had discovered already.

The entire experience reminded me of important truths also.

Though we fail in many ways, God’s purposes cannot fail. The gospel was proclaimed in the ceremony and in my sermon. The whole service did glorify God, as we had prayed all along and especially after the brunch with David’s parents. And Yangyou and David did get married, despite flaws in the ceremony.

On this earth, there can be no real perfection. We must await the return of Christ, when  all those who trust in him will receive an invitation to the “marriage supper of the Lamb,” which will be the perfect wedding celebration. We shall be transformed by Christ into a beautiful bride, without spot or blemish or any flaw, and we shall enjoy unending happiness with him and all his people.

Until then, we must be patient with the mistakes we and others make, and rejoice in God’s mercy to us. “He remembers what we are made of, that we are dust.”