This is yet another true story/”epiphany” from my catalog of memories. I was in my late teens or early twenties, attending a wedding where I knew no one. Being what I called a “self-contained” musician (keyboard player/singer). I was often hired play and sing at wedding ceremonies for friends-of-friends-of-friends…because they could get a “twofer” (two-for-one) from me: I could play the Processional AND sing “THE LORD’S PRAYER”!
In any case, aside from getting paid, the other perk was the reception, and there I was drinking green foamy punch and eating a handful of butter mints (and never wavering from my “athletic” 140lbs…ahhh, youth) when I observed a couple of older women walk in. They were carrying wrapped gifts and cards, dressed for a wedding but obviously had missed it, arriving at the beginning of the reception. I saw them apologize for their lateness to one of the family at the door, then sign the guest book, deposit their gifts, and grab some punch. They sat down close enough that I could hear them and speak. They looked over at the table containing the wedding party. It was obvious that they, also, didn’t know the wedding party but were acquainted (related?) to the family. Then I heard one of these sweet, old, ladies say,
“That bride is stunning – but what is she so angry about, I wonder?”
Confused, I turned my head and looked at the Bride and started to chuckle just enough that I had to step out.
OK, there’s more to the story (isn’t there always?) and here it is…and the reason why this comment was both “funny” and an “epiphany.”
Let’s back up to the ceremony, prior to this moment at the reception. First, the Bride WAS stunning, both in herself and personality. In dealing with her prior to the ceremony, when we met to talk about the music, she was fun, charming, warm, kind…and altogether out of the league of the Groom (smile). She also, for the ceremony, wore her mother’s wedding gown, complete with netted veil. During the rehearsal, the Groom was counseled on everything he was to do, including how to hold his arm so she could take, it, where to stand, how to take her hand from her father who had walked her down the aisle.
He was also counseled about lifting her veil and placing it over her head and in back of her; a nice, but not-seen-too-often-any-more tradition. Note here that he, in the course of the ceremony, FORGOT to do that.
We move to the UNITY CANDLE lighting. This is a time (for any of you who have never attended a wedding) when the Bride and Groom each take a candle that has been previously lit by their corresponding parents and together light ONE candle – signifying the creating of one home from two. This is a brief moment, usually combined with communion or prayer, but usually has a “musical underscore” (which I was providing at the piano) so that it’s not done in silence.
They went to the candles, I began to play. I was looking down at my hands and not at them when I heard an almost inaudible “whoosh”, and then a slight gasp from members of the wedding party. I looked up.
Remember, the circa 1940’s veil had not been moved by the Groom. You guessed it, the Bride bent a little too close to the candle and, “whoosh” the veil went up quickly without even a flame. All I saw when I looked over was a stunned Bride, a puff of smoke, no veil…and no eyelashes or eyebrows.
She would’ve looked surprised enough…but without eyebrows (and she was fair and blonde) she looked even more stunned. She began to giggle. The Groom was horrified and checking her hair, face, fingers, to make sure nothing else was scorched.
The entire moment was a millisecond, and most of the congregation was none the wiser except that after the minister introduced them as husband and wife, had them kiss, and blessed them. He announced (wisely and kindly) that they would join him in his office vestibule behind where they were standing for the signing of the documents while the rest of the wedding party recessed down the aisle. The congregation could meet them in the Fellowship Hall. This was a little lie, as they had already signed the documents, but he saw the need for a little “cosmetic” (literally) work needing to be done prior to the reception.
And so the Bride’s loving, ever-so-sorry, groom then tried to draw on eyebrows – which he insisted on doing. His Bride, perceiving they would not look great, didn’t want to hurt HIS feelings any more and allowed it.
Jump to the reception and my elderly companions at the next table. From 20 feet away this sweet, kind, compassionate, new bride had the eyebrows of The Wicked Witch of the West…thus my exit from the reception…
…and my epiphany.
The “back story”, hilarious as it was (and it could’ve been awful) led to an impression of this beautiful Bride that could not have been further from the truth. She appeared to be one thing and was quite another. Yet if these ladies had known the story (which was not MINE to tell them) they would’ve known the Bride more fully and seen beyond the wicked, arched, angry, fake eyebrows…painted lovingly on by her less-than-artistic new husband.
A simple lesson from an elaborate story. How many people do I judge in a moment, based on clothes, behavior, or place? How many of these people are completely the opposite, in character, than how they are first perceived by me?
Most of us are not very good at knowing how WE are perceived – so how much better could we possibly be at making judgements about OTHERS? We are very quick to “judge the book by its cover”.
This is the very reason we breath in the “oxygen” of the Spirit – so that we can see like Jesus sees. Remember, part of what oxygen does for our bodies is help us see, as our corneas actually take in oxygen…so it is with the Spirit and our spiritual bodies. Jesus, again and again, views others with an insight not gained by a quick evaluation based on one glance.
Often that quick evaluation, done by us, plays out in a judgement about the observed person which is difficult to get beyond. Open eyes, open hearts, and open minds are what Jesus asks from all of us – as we look at each other; friends & strangers.
We may never know the “back stories” of everyone we see, but we CAN choose to think the best of all, and let Jesus do the judging – which even HE is loath to do.
I SAMUEL 16:7 – Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.”