November 15th, 2011

Kelly and Patrick, I usually begin a wedding meditation by thanking the couple for letting me be a part of their lives and a part of their wedding.  It’s always sincere, but the words of gratitude take on special meaning this weekend.

Linda and I are very thankful that you brought us down here to this “happy island” to be with your family and friends.  I speak for a lot of people here when I say in spite of all the obstacles you and your families have faced in the last few weeks, “What a great destination!”

We all have stories about the adventure.  One of mine happened in the Charlotte airport when the security screener saw my boarding pass for Aruba, and I said, “Yup, we’re going down for a wedding on 11-11-11.”

He looked at me with a straight face and said, “You know they’re all out of alcohol down there right now.”

I answered, “Well, actually, I’m the preacher and I’d probably be OK with that.”

As I walked away, I heard his buddy say, “You picked the wrong guy for that joke!”

It’s not that I’m against alcohol at a wedding.  After all, the only wedding we know of that Jesus attended he turned water into wine because he wanted them to have enough. 

Speaking of Jesus, this service today beside this beautiful chapel is all about your desire to make him the center of your shared life.  A lot of people here may not know that in the eyes of North Carolina you’re already married.  We took care of the legal part of the ceremony up at Corinth a couple of weeks ago with your immediate family present so we wouldn’t have to worry about the additional requirements in Aruba.  I said at that time that if you broke up, you would have to get a divorce.

This ceremony today is not about what the state of North Carolina thinks is your legal status.  You are promising your commitment with a broader group of friends and family, and declaring before the highest Power of all that this is for keeps.

You chose as your Scripture reading one verse from Ephesians 4 that offers four words that are key to a lasting marriage – humility, gentleness, patience, and love.  I found parallels to all four of those words on the Island of Aruba.  Aruba’s national flag has four colors, and I couldn’t resist the comparison.

Humility.  The official web site for Aruba says the white in the flag “symbolizes the snow white beaches.”  Another page on the web site describes “Ribbons of sparkling beach ring around our shores like brilliant diamonds.”

Think of the white you wear today, Kelly, as a symbol for humility.  Humility is essential for marriage.  Humility lets you look into each other’s eyes and exclaim, “I can’t believe you chose me.”  Humility wants to please more than it wants to be pleased.  Humility is quick to say, “I’m sorry.”  Humility is always aware of God’s grace in Christ and willing to extend the grace in the daily forgiveness required when two imperfect people live together.

May humility be a ring around your marriage that sparkles and protects.

Gentleness.   The name Aruba is an Anglicized form of two Spanish words, “oro hubo,” that mean, “It had gold.”  The gold on the Aruban flag represents the island’s abundant natural resources and its industries of gold, aloe, and oil.

Today you will exchange rings of gold. As you wear them, remember that gold is durable and valuable, but also pliable and moldable.  Like gentleness.  Gentleness is strength under control.  It is tough, but flexible.  Gentleness is willing to tell the truth, but does so with grace and tenderness.  Gentleness is the gold of a strong marriage.

Patience.  Did you know that early European explorers considered Aruba uninhabitable?  Too barren, too isolated in the great big sea to be of any good.  The native Americans who had lived here for 4,000 years before the Spanish arrived probably would have disagreed.  One of the sad stories of Aruba’s history is that the colonists didn’t think they could make any money off the island, so they enslaved the native people and took them to Hispaniola to work in the copper mines.

Today 100,000 people live on the island the Spanish said nobody wanted.  Blue is on Aruba’s flag to represent the sea, perhaps their greatest asset.  Put this same crop of land in the middle of North Carolina – would anyone come to visit?  They come for the Caribbean.  Lying south of the path of tropical storms, Aruba boasts almost perfect weather all year long.  Patience has turned island isolation into Paradise. 

When you have a tough day or a tough year in marriage, let the blue in your wedding pictures remind you of the Caribbean waters, and of those who were wrong when they said, “It can’t be done.”  The vastness and depth of the sea will represent the patience you’ll need with each other as you allow the other to change and grow.

Love.  The red in the Aruban flag represents the love of Arubans for their country.  This truly is a remarkable culture.  Not only the bloodlines but the language of Papiamento and the culture of the island draw on Dutch, Spanish, Amerindian, African, and modern American sources.  Today’s Arubans learn to speak four languages in school.  They celebrate diversity, and the red in their flag is the love that unites them in their difference.

That’s what love is.  Love isn’t about trying to make another person like me. 

You will always be different.  Patrick is a a “wealth manager,” and Kelly is a “textbook seller.”  A ‘manager’ and a ‘seller’ are two very different people.  Your families of origin are different.  Patrick moved around a lot growing up.  Kelly was in Hickory all her life until she went to college.

God created the gift of marriage between a man and a woman, knowing full well how different we are.  Patrick, I’ve got news for you.  You’ll never fully “get” Kelly.  She’s a woman!  Kelly, a certain amount of how Patrick thinks and acts will always puzzle you, no matter how many years God gives you together.  He’s a man!

Love is a lifetime of listening, of caring, of submitting, and of sharing not in spite of your differences but because of them.

Your destination wedding on 11-11-11 will be something you always remember.  You’ll remember what happened here, but you’ll also remember the joys and struggles of what it took to your destination.

What I pray for is a destination marriage.  Your destination is a life together marked by humility, gentleness, patience, and love.  The journey there will also include joys and struggles.  But don’t give up.

Linda and I share something with you two.  We got married in Paradise as well – Paradise, Pennsylvania.  People used to say to us, “When you get married in Paradise, it just goes downhill from there.”

Trust me.  It doesn’t have to.  Amen.

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