“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously.”
I did not want God to be at my wedding. I wasn’t even comfortable saying the “G-word.” My best childhood friend was raped by her step-father, a self-proclaimed “Man of God” who was active in her community church. For three years, he suffocated her with chloroform and took pictures of her naked body. When I visited her each summer, he would lead us in prayer after dinner each night. He used the “G-word” a lot.
When I was planning my wedding, I associated God with religious, self-righteous and judgmental hypocrisy. I had a serious chip on my shoulder about random comments and claims that seemed, in my mind, to come from “those people who believe in God.” I lumped all of “those people” into a single category of people who believe the entire population of the planet, (with the exception of those who share their exact faith), will spend eternity in Hell. Even if someone lives in a faraway jungle and has simply never heard about God, too bad, they will still be punished with eternal suffering for not being a believer. “They” also preach about being tolerant and loving, saying that God loves all, unless of course you’re gay, then “they” believe God may have invented AIDS to punish and kill you.
They might also take pictures of themselves molesting a 16-year-old girl and cut the pages from their bible so they can store the Polaroids there.
What I understood about God then and the people who used that name seemed ridiculously offensive. God—as an ego-driven deity who plays favorites, has temper tantrums, demands restitution, and punishes all those who do not behave as he commands—repulsed me. I didn’t like to hear his name, to say his name, to believe that he existed, or to connect with others who believed in him. So why on earth would I invite him to my wedding?
On the other hand, when we have to make a choice between getting the approval of someone and honoring our own deepest desire, we sometimes choose the approval. How many brides have never compromised on their guest list anyway?
Lyn is a minister of the psychic church. I didn’t really know what that meant on the day we asked her to marry us, but because of my association to the word and the meaning of God, I assumed it meant she would not be speaking about him. She is not religious in the way I understood religion. So when the word first came out of her mouth and I discovered that this was not the case, I asked if I could write the ceremony myself. Not just our vows, but the entire ceremony from beginning to end.
“It would make it feel more personal,” I said. I didn’t want to offend her. She was my soon-to-be mother-in-law’s friend since high school. We first met five years earlier when I attended the baptism of her grandchild. I went with Josh as his date. We were in her living room, and Josh’s ex-girlfriend was there, too. I couldn’t remember her saying anything about God then.
In any case, if I had to write every word of my wedding ceremony to keep him away, I would.
The day before the wedding, we were sitting in white metal folding chairs outside a vacation rental house on the Big Island of Hawaii. Lyn was holding the manila folder with the script I had written for the ceremony inside. She read it. Everything seemed fine. Lyn was looking directly at me when she said, “I’d like your permission to say a few words before I begin to read from the script.” I was smiling, of course. “I think it is important and appropriate that we ask for God’s blessing on this occasion.”
I was still smiling. It was the most sincere looking smile I could construct, though it was not sincere at all. It was entirely meant to form the persona of someone that Lyn would approve of. My heart beat loudly and I felt hollow inside. I wondered if she could hear it. Disappointment filled my body and squeezed at the base of my neck. I was torn. I didn’t want to offend her. I wanted her to like me, and yet, in this moment, I didn’t like her at all anymore. I didn’t want God’s damn blessing. And this was my wedding.
I shifted and switched the cross of my legs, laced my fingers together, and a long nervous breath passed through me. I was still smiling when I responded, “I guess that would be fine.” She smiled with approval, which I was grateful for. I thought, maybe no one will notice. I was oblivious to the possibility that not every one of my friends and family felt the same way I did about God. I completely forgot that my dad is a “Born Again.”
Later, as we stand in front of family and friends, I wonder if anyone can see the stiffness in my face and neck when she asks for God’s blessing. Despite all of my efforts to keep him away, all of my judgments, discomforts and absolute refusal to send him an invitation, he came anyway—as a “plus one.”
Upon his arrival, I endured his presence with indignation, without connection or gratitude. Then, quickly, I forgot about him as I kissed my new husband every time the glasses clinked. The sun set behind us and filled the sky with blazing color and we made new memories with our family and friends, shared wine, listened to the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean and I never even noticed if God was still around.
Months before our wedding day, I cried as we signed the agreement to get married at this hotel, real tears of sadness, because I thought it was stuffy and staged and snobby. We were planning to get married at a bed-and-breakfast up the hill, but the owner double-booked us with another couple.
That day was September 11th 2001, when we visited the six places that were still available. We saw the news that morning—the images of the Twin Towers collapsing—but we didn’t have all the details yet and...we had everything scheduled. So even though it felt a little strange, we continued on with our plans.
Of the places we visited, this hotel was the only option remotely acceptable, and it was right on the beach. We sat on a bench with the ocean behind us, near the lawn where the ceremony would take place. We signed the contract, I smiled brightly and thanked the woman who worked at the hotel. We said goodbye, and when she walked away...I started to cry. While buildings crumbled and thousands of people were dying in New York City, others screaming, lost, burning, and some even jumping to their deaths for fear of being burned alive–while thousands more were losing people they loved–I sat and cried because I was going to get married at a place that made me feel like a snob. On a beach. In Hawaii. And my soon to be husband comforted me.
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