Like most brides, my friend had planned her lovely Charleston wedding for months. But who could have predicted that the city would be evacuating seventy-two hours before her big day? As Hurricane Matthew drew near to Charleston and the evacuation of the city began, we got the call late Tuesday afternoon – the wedding had been relocated to Greenville, 200 or so miles inland, and everything had to be changed on a moment’s notice – every single thing.
New reception venue.
New rehearsal dinner venue.
New hotel rooms.
My friend’s wedding was now in a new city. Everything about her Charleston wedding had to be changed to Greenville, and this was Tuesday. The wedding was to be on Friday.
Unimaginable. Maybe even impossible.
So we made arrangements and all traveled to Greenville. In a city already being flooded by evacuees, many guests had to stay as much as an hour out of town. Some (like us) stayed in their first Airbnb.
One thing we all know for sure is that storms come, don’t they? Some storms are small, manageable, welcome even – they can clear the air a bit, refresh the garden, and rinse tired ideas away like leaves racing down drains.
But sometimes the storm is a hurricane – a force so large that it changes everything, every single thing. What about that? What happens when the hurricane comes, when your hurricane comes?
In the case of Hurricane Matthew, two women stepped up, strangers, in fact. Two Greenville women who “knew people” – one was a lady who owned a venue called The Upper Room that just happened to be free that weekend. The other was a woman from the Methodist church nearby. The woman from The Upper Room arranged the reception – new band, new caterer, new venue, new everything. The woman from the Methodist church opened the doors of her church for not one, not two, but three weddings that weekend, all evacuees from hurricane-evacuated cities.
Did I mention that the lady from The Upper Room had previous plans for that hurricane weekend, and that she cancelled her plans to help out a poor bride-in-distress and help with her transplant-reception?
Did I mention that the lady from the Methodist church gently set aside the normal (and good) wedding regulations of her church to house and hostess three displaced hurricane-brides? And, she too, had weekend plans with her family that she cancelled to tend to brides grieving their wedding losses?
I am quite sure you know the end of this story.
The wedding at the Methodist church was cozy and lovely. My friend’s sister-in-law arranged the simple flowers, and the children snuggled close to the bride at the small altar. Not everyone who was invited could make it – hurricanes make it difficult to travel. But those who were there were profoundly touched by the effort and by the valiance of the young bride who stood tall beside her groom. Their musician-friend drove in through the storm – he made it just in time.
The reception in the Upper Room was laden with white flowers and the best Low-Country cooking I’ve ever tasted (eat your heart out, Charleston!). The Greenville band was terrific and the couple danced their first dance under twinkle lights in a softer, quieter venue than they expected. They were very calm, and very happy.
It was not the wedding they expected. It was so much better.
This is what I have learned from storms, my storms. When the clouds start to gather and it’s your turn to get wet, look out for helpers. They exist, I promise. There are two kinds of folk in storms – those who step up and help you, and those who don’t. Focus on those who step up. Try to forget the rest.
All along, two nameless women stood in the back of the church and oversaw it all – they made it happen and saved the wedding day for this displaced bride. We’ve never seen them before and will probably never see them again.
Two women stood up when the going got rough, rather than running away and saying, “It’s not my problem.”
Two women set their own agendas and weekend plans aside in the face of someone else’s disaster and helped another in need.
Two women became the hands and feet of grace. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
I sat with the mother of the bride at an old wooden table in the Upper Room and cried with her. Not tears of sadness because of a dream lost. No, no – tears of joy at the beauty of the Body coming together in the midst of a great storm.
So is it in with Kingdom of God.