The notice, slid under our hotel room door, warned of “gale-like winds” and imminent danger. We were to “stay tuned to the National Weather Advisory for updates.” I didn’t need the NWA. Opening my hotel balcony door was proof that 40-mph gusts were nothing to compete against. Palm trees curved instead of standing upright, and no one braved an early morning walk. In four hours, our son Andy would marry Kristen at a beach ceremony, the same beach that now fought to hold back a rising tide destined for surfers, not a bride and groom.
Months ago, Kristen and her mother traveled to Florida to choose the perfect spot on Marco Island for this destination wedding. December “never had” weather issues, so with no climate worries, the date was chosen and preparations began.
The morning of the wedding, the bride, her five bridesmaids, her mother and I met with the professional hair stylists and make-up artists. John, the wedding planner, periodically knocked on the door to plead with Kristen to move the event inside, fearing dishes and glasses at the reception would become projectiles if not anchored properly. Kristen’s dream always had been to have a beach wedding. Why should a baby hurricane mess up her plans?
Only when the rain came did John get his way. I’m sure there was no small, behind-the-scenes panic as flowery, altar backdrops and musical equipment was moved inside, chairs set up and hotel personnel assigned to redirect the guests. Still, Kristen insisted the “first-viewing” would be outside. At least she would have that part of her dream come true.
First-viewings are a relatively new concept. To prevent guests at the reception from waiting over an hour while post-ceremony photographs are taken, pictures now occur before the wedding. This, of course, prevents the groom from being dazzled when his lovely bride appears for the first time at the back of the church. To give the couple a semblance of that suspense, the groom’s back is turned until the bride walks up, taps him on the shoulder, and he pivots to see her for the first time. The moment is staged in precise detail by the photographer, but it is one that, in Andy and Kristen’s case, perfect strangers stopped to admire from the safety of the windowed corridor. The moment is tender and unforgettable.
As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of the “first viewing” we Christians will have when we one day meet Jesus face-to-face. Granted, details throughout Scripture are fuzzy, but I encourage you to read Acts 7 to get an idea of what it will be like. In this chapter, the Jewish leaders are stoning the apostle Stephen who has just blamed them for Jesus’ death. And he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”…And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
I don’t know if our “first viewing” with Jesus will be anything similar to Stephen’s, but if the tears I shed watching Andy being stunned by his bride’s radiance are any indication, Heaven better prepare for a gale-life storm when I see my Savior for the first time! Can you imagine seeing his nail-scarred wrists as he opens his arms to greet his bride? Now, that’s a wedding we don’t want to miss.