On Thursday, October 4, my number finally came up. I raced to the Arlington courthouse after work on a blustery afternoon, and sprinted my way up to the sixth floor, where unlimited power awaited its rightful owner. This power, forged ages ago by the trinity in the Garden of Eden, had seen many wield it, some for good and some for ill, but never had it been passed to the likes of someone so inappropriate, bless my heart. I raised my right hand and said, “I do,” after a middle-aged Latin woman finishing stumbling through a paragraph from a piece of paper she had just printed out. And immediately I was different. I could feel the power inside of me hum. My eyes and my nostrils flared; my shirt’s buttons clung to fabric for dear life. I was filled to the brim with it. I was full, of myself.
That following weekend I uncannily assumed the role of the meek and mild brother of the bride, humbly filling his familial duty he had been asked to fill. But inside the power vested through my veins like a secret tickling my throat. The state of Virginia had only bestowed this on me for a single binding act, and I wasn’t going to waste it.
I stood there that Sunday afternoon, the rain-soaked windows at the Cypress Point Golf Club protecting us from the storm outside. Everyone at the ceremony bemoaned the arrival of the dark clouds, the wind that blew at the speed of a moped, and the sprinkling rain, calling it “unlucky” or “ironic”, but I knew why it was there. It had followed me all the way from DC.
2:15. As my young sister methodically stepped down the aisle toward me, I smiled in good humor and joy, waiting for my moment to deliver my homily. Here is what I did with it:
“If there’s anyone less qualified to do what I’m doing up here, I’d love to meet him. I can’t imagine that he exists. I’m neither a husband nor a pastor. I’m a mere layman, an amateur. I’m barely even an adult. As a middle school teacher, I spend the majority of my time with 13 year olds, and the jury is still out on who’s being more influenced: them or me. Most teachers like to say something humble like: I’d like to think they teach me. Well, for me I think it’s actually true, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. I find myself acting more and more like 13 year old Jon every day I work at that school. So, after a year of essentially being taught by middle school students, I’d like to pass on some of the romance pointers I’ve gleaned. These will be mostly for Shannon, in particular, but hopefully, they can help both of you, Shannon and Jessica, in your upcoming marriage.
The first is this: Actions speak louder than words. When you are in love with a girl, don’t be an idiot and tell her how you feel; instead, just stay the heck away from her. When she looks in your direction, focus all of your blood flow into your cheeks and look away. This will drive her crazy. This works even better for girls because the red cheeks replace the need for make up. It’s a money saver. I once had six 13 year old girls explain to me all the crushes and romances going on in their class. Every single one of them was a complete and utter surprise to me, which tells me they were employing this first rule to perfection. Use this on the honeymoon, Shannon, and Jessica will be putty in your hands. And when I say putty in your hands, I mean she will be yelling at you about how you always ignore her. But as well all know, this is how Jessica expresses love.
The second is this: Be enraptured and surprised at how good girls smell. Think on how they didn’t used to smell like this. Either that, or you just didn’t notice before. Either way, as a man, you can’t let this scent they are constantly emitting run amok; you must emit your own to counteract it. To do so, never wear deodorant, especially after PE and recess. This ever-present cloud of scent, this collision of smells that you leave in your wake, Shannon and Jessica, will be a continual reminder to those around you of the commitment we all witnessed today. It will be the unity candle you never had.
Here are my final pieces of advice I have gleaned from 13 year olds, and these I actually recommend:
Have fun. Laugh as much as you can. Be creative in finding ways to play together.
Share. Forsake all others in the name of loyalty to each other, as the vows say, but do not jealously horde your playmate and best friend.
Invite others to sit at your table. How can Jessica and Shannon’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner table not be the cool table? Have an open door policy in your marriage and your home.
Do not fall for peer pressure. We live in a world where everything around us is supposed to make us happy 100% of the time, and when whatever that thing is, or whoever that person is ceases to make you happy, drop them, and move on to someone or something that does. Jessica and Shannon, you will, if you haven’t already, go through times when you don’t like each other, a lot. Act out of love anyway. If you want to know how to love in the face of someone who is hard to love, follow this last piece of advice.
Say your prayers. God crowned all of his creation with a relationship. It was and always will be an invention of God’s, meant to demonstrate how He feels about us. Marriage is a mirror image of Christ’s love and sacrifice to an undeserving spouse. It is a picture of His pursuit of His bride, which is us, His church, and his presenting her as holy and without sin to God. Follow this example and you will be successful. Continually be in conversation with God about how to do this, asking him to be present in your relationship and your home, and He will be faithful.
Finally, I am about to address everyone else here. At the end of what I’m about to say, im going to ask a question and I want everyone to respond with: WE DO. Alright, let’s practice:
*Do you believe Robert Griffin III is the savior of the Washington Redskins? WE DO.
Good. You and I are here to witness this promise between Shannon and Jessica. This is not some cute ceremony engineered by the geniuses at Disney to make us feel butterflies. You and I are witnesses today and our purpose is to remind Shannon and Jessica of this day. I like that this wedding is fairly small because we can be sure that everyone here is a big part of Shannon and Jessica’s lives. When things are good, and especially when things are bad, our job is to tell them, “I don’t know if you remember your promise and commitment on October 7, 2012, but I do. I was there. Honor it.” In times of sickness and in health, we will be lighthouses and beacons, beckoning them back to their commitment. Do you promise to do this? WE DO.
* 3:15. As I drove away from the golf club, I turned on the radio to see what was happening to my beloved Redskins.
“Kirk Cousins drops back to pass…”
Confusion and dread covered me like a dark cloak. I veered off the road like a madman and pulled into the parking lot at the nearest Applebee’s. As I sat down at the bar in my suit and panned the hundreds of television screens, the bartender asked what I wanted. “Nothing for me,” I returned. And there it was: the replay of RGIII getting his block knocked off by a hellion with no regard for human life on the Atlanta defense. “Second quarter,” the commentator revealed. “Not coming back in the game,” he continued.
Second quarter!! It dawned on me. At just about 2:32pm Robert Griffin III received the brunt of my power. My cheap attempt at humor as a mock pastor leading a ceremony God invented at the beginning of time, had had the reverse effect. God may have gotten the joke, but that didn’t keep him from dishing it right back. Touché, Yahweh.
PS. My Uncle Steve gleefully alerted me after the ceremony how my voice rose in volume and timber as I said, “By the power vested in me by the state of Virginia” when I officially announced their marriage. And I couldn’t help but end the ceremony with, “you may now kiss my sister.”