Comfort is a word that stirs up all kinds of feelings and word pictures. A cozy blanket. A hug. Coffee in the morning. Maybe a sweet hand-written note at just the right time. These things are good for a moment, but they don’t really address any underlying reasons someone might need to be comforted, like unrest or anxiety, for example. As I look back on my life at times when I needed comfort, one balm has worked every time: Truth.
The biggest emotional crescendos of my life have all been quelled by truth. I’m not prone to anxiety attacks, but there have been a few outstanding circumstances in my life when I have found that all the pats on the back and well-meaning words pale in comparison to truth spoken over my situation. Take my wedding day for example….
It was a beautiful summer day nearly 20 years ago. Everything was perfect. Our friends and family gathered from all over the country to witness our pending nuptials. As we got ready for the hour to chime, there were no surprises or hiccups – not even the slightest damper on the day as I prepared to marry Brody J. Hildebrand. Every friend I knew had some story from their wedding where something happened to threaten the Big Day, but I guessed we would be the exception. Everything was going according to plan and I think I even heard angels singing.
I was wearing a beautiful white dress, had a bouquet of white roses, hair in an up-do and make-up professionally applied. I had something old and something new, something borrowed, and something blue. As I waited with my bridesmaids in a room outside of the chapel, my photographer joked that he just received a call that Brody had arrived at the church and I need not worry about my groom not showing up. I gave him a side-eye as if to say, “I was never worried. Of course he showed up.” We ate little sandwiches, cheered the day, prayed, and then my lady-posse and I headed to the chapel to count down the minutes until this Miss became a Mrs.
We waited outside the closed chapel doors and my bridesmaids lined up in the order I’d put them in months before. My dad was by my side ready to walk me to my new last name. The only other person with us was a woman from the bridal boutique I’d hired to help me get dressed and make sure everything ran smoothly. Everything was as it should be. The groom’s parents, my mother and grandparents had been seated. We heard the first notes of the song my bridesmaids would walk to, but that’s when the tempo changed.
The doors opened, and I looked at the backs of several hundred heads that would all turn to watch me walk down the aisle. As if realizing for the first time, I understood that I would be the singular focus in a matter of seconds. And I would be walking down the aisle toward the rest of my life. That’s when it happened. I totally lost it – not in an I’m-so-happy-this-day-is-finally-here way. No, this was a what-am-I-doing freak out. My breathing was accelerated and tears began to jump from my eyes. It was go time and I wasn’t going.
All of my bridesmaids looked at me with wide eyes. Only one of them said anything, which was, “Do you want me to go down the aisle?” She wasn’t sure I was going, so I guess she was wondering if she should save herself the trip. Good thinking. I was already arm-in-arm with my dad and he looked at me with the same wide eyes. I didn’t know what to do, and the people who had been closest to me my whole life didn’t know what to do with me either. The music was cuing them to walk, but they were stuck at the back of the church with a bride who was losing it. All of a sudden, things weren’t so perfect.
It was then that the woman from the bridal boutique, a near stranger, walked directly up to me. I hired her to make sure everything ran smoothly, and she could see that absolutely nothing was smooth at that moment. To be fair to my fabulous bridesmaids and my awesome dad, none of these near-and-dears had ever seen me like this. They were used to seeing confident, decisive Julie. They didn’t know what to do with this mess of a person I’d become in a matter of seconds. Conversely, the woman from the bridal boutique had probably seen hundreds of brides freak out.
So, the person who knew me the least, walked right up to me and said, “Stop crying, you’re going to ruin your makeup.” Shallow as it may sound, that usually does the trick with me, because few things are worth streaking your makeup for. But it didn’t work that day. That’s when I knew it was serious. Then, this woman, again – the person I knew the least out of those watching me panic – looked me straight in the eye, pointed to the alter where my groom was waiting and asked resolutely, “Is that the man you want to marry?”
I knew my answer would decide the direction of my feet and my future. In a split second I knew if the answer was “No” to her question, I would have to turn around and high tail it out of there. So, I reached deep down for the answer — for the truth. “Yes. He is more than I could have ever wanted. He is God’s best for me.” All of a sudden, I knew I was standing in a holy promise. With that, my breathing evened and the tears stopped. This angel-acquaintance delicately dabbed my tears and sent the first bridesmaid down the aisle.
To be clear, my hesitation had nothing to do with Brody, his love and commitment to me, or my love and commitment to him. No, instead, I have a life-long tendency to largely underestimate the wonderful, big events in my life. I tend to think if I want something (in this case, to marry Brody), then I can move ahead gleefully without taking full inventory of the big change that is coming. My inner monologue is saying “Everything is GREAT. Everything is FANTASTIC. What a BLESSING.” Therefore, I don’t realize the enormity of the situation until it’s staring me in the face. The typical outcome (it’s only happened a handful of times, I wrote about one of them here) is that my emotions catch up with the largeness of the event in the form of an emotional tidal wave. Which is what happened just before I walked down the aisle.
But I have also noticed in each of these emotional tidal waves in my life – I’m comforted only by truth. Not by fluffy words or “there-there’s,” heck, not even the threat of ruining my makeup on my wedding day. It’s only God’s truth (the only ever-lasting truth there is), that affects the situation and calms my heart. I know my feelings can be deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9) and therefore truth is my ally. It was truth that helped me distinguish between jitters, the need to bolt, or walking toward the one my soul loved (and still loves, Song of Solomon 3:4).
The funny thing is that I don’t look back on that freak out with any regret or embarrassment. Quite the opposite. I look back and I’m on-my-knees grateful for the way God understands me and deals with me. I look back at that moment with peace when I think of the tenderness God showed me right at that crucial moment.
Oh, and I finally got around to telling Brody about this ordeal on our honeymoon. Let’s just say, he wasn’t exactly comforted by the details of my trip to the alter.
Dear Lord, thank You for writing my story. I know I say it over and over because it is the truth of my life, I just love the way You deal with me. You turn my freak outs all the way around for Your glory and my good. Who does that? Lord, You are gentle with me as You move me toward holiness. And of course, thank You for giving me exactly what I’d prayed for – God’s Best – when You gave me Brody. May we honor You with our generations for every generation to come. Amen.
Taken just minutes after we were married, the photo above is my favorite from our wedding because we didn’t know we were being photographed (and because it makes the above story so hard to believe). Thank You, Lord.