July 2, 2011: I was standing in what had previously been my wife's church while growing up, and I had my game face on. You know the face--the one you put on when you're fired up for battle, the one that lets everyone else know that you mean business.
That day had its share of chaos. My future brother-in-law had put the finishing touches on our movie, the one that would play between ceremony and reception for all of our closest friends and family. It was one of those things that was really going to set our special day apart from others we'd been to. He had to remake it because Kayla's laptop had crashed the night before and the original was lost. He also had to get a few decorations for the sanctuary last minute as his sister's body language at the rehearsal told him that it wasn't as she had imagined. He wasn't letting her settle for anything less than perfection.
In retrospect, I'm glad he let her settle for me because I know all about his incredibly high standards. There was other behind-the-scenes drama, too, that added a bit of tension to the enormity of the day, but we rolled with the punches.
Standing there, reviewing the hectic day so far, music started playing. The entrance song for family was "In My Life" by the Beatles. I love the song and thought it captured the sentimentality of the day perfectly. It signaled the beginning. I listened to it intently as I knew what came next was going to be life altering. I could sense there was a problem in the church, though, when it restarted for the fifth time and three of my groomsmen were still ushering in family. During rehearsal we had gotten it in one take. I was behind the scenes with my minister (who was also my dad), and four other groomsmen. I was anxious. I wanted to get this thing done. My dad looked at me reassuringly. His eyes said, "This is going to be okay." I never doubted.
Finally, the song stopped. My wife's two brothers and my best man made their way to us. They were grinning a grin that told me that there was a story awaiting me later. I winked. The story didn't matter now; I was just glad that my team was altogether. I got fist bumps from all of them. The pregame was over and it was officially game time. I stood behind and looked and I knew I had picked the right men to be by my side. In spite of the false starts, everything still felt right.
We walked out front. Next came the bridesmaids. Their song started and they walked to the front. One step closer. As I watched them, I thought that Kayla had done well in picking their Kelly green dresses. They all looked nice. I was pleased. Still, there was angst inside that no one could see or feel but me. I needed their song to finish and the next one to start. I needed everyone to stand. I needed my princess to arrive.
Their song faded out. There was a pause. It was probably just an instant, but it felt longer. I needed to hear the pianist start playing the most beautiful rendition of "Here Comes the Sun," I would ever hear. I was so proud when Kayla let me preview it. She knew I'd love it and she was right. It was the perfect song to mark her entrance. As she walked down, I knew that she was the sun to light up my life. It started. She stepped into the large room alongside her dad, but she was all I could see. She was, is, and will forever be the love of my life. It was finally time!
Loving her was easy. And regardless of the chaos, I never wavered for a moment. And why would I? I was about to sign up to spend this life with my soulmate and friend. I was looking out into a future filled with adventure, laughter, and love. To waver in that moment would have made me an idiot.
All of that was easy! But what about when love isn't that easy?
On the night that Jesus was taken, he went to the garden with his disciples to pray. Why? Jesus had already alerted his disciples that he was going to be killed. He had also alerted them that one from among them was going to betray him. He already knew what was coming next. It was the entire purpose of his birth. He could see it, feel it, and knew it as well as any of us have ever known anything. It was his big day, only he wasn’t marrying the love of his life—he was preparing to be tortured and killed as punishment for our (ALL of our) wrongdoing.
Why did he take his disciples with Him? The same reasons I chose men to stand with me on my most important day; moral support, advice, comfort. We sometimes forget that, while divine, Jesus became human and went through all of the same temptations, emotions, and fears that a human would. So, it only makes sense that he would want to spend the final hours before the approaching worst day(s) of his life with his closest friends.
How do we know that the coming events were weighing heavily on him? In Matthew 26:38-40, the Bible says, “‘My Soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Then he returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’” He returns to pray again later in the chapter asking again if the burden could be lifted from him, and twice more scolds his disciples for sleeping rather than praying and supporting him. In Luke 22:44, we see just how stressful this hideous torture was on him, as it says, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling on the ground.”
I will reiterate this point over and over again in whatever forum I choose to deliver this message. Jesus was sinless. He was never found guilty of any sin. He was prepared as a sacrifice by priests and killed on our behalf. His blood was shed as a payment for our sins. He knew what was coming and he willingly accepted it because it was the Father’s will. Even as his friends let him down, as blood poured from him as he sweat, as one of his own disciples turned him over, he never wavered.
Jesus showed the most incredible love that humanity has ever known. His big day was spent on a whipping post, carrying a cross, being nailed to it, being forsaken by God, being mocked by sinners, and eventually being killed. He carried the literal weight of the world on his shoulders, and unlike Atlas, Jesus never shrugged. He asked for our forgiveness with his dying breaths. He walked boldly to his death. He healed his captors. He forgave his accusers. He never pleaded for his life, never stated his innocence, never bickered about how bitterly unfair the situation was. He never, ever wavered. Because of his unwavering love, we have a chance. It is the only love that will change the world!