When Ryan followed the pastor to stand before the rows of white chairs, facing the friends who’d flown in from New York and Philadelphia and Baltimore, he caught some eyes and smiled. We smiled back. My husband and one of the bridesmaids were the first to walk down the aisle together. Chris took his place on the steps, overlooking our faces, his eyes on Ryan’s back. He couldn’t see what we could see. With each set of Ryan’s and Dana’s friends and family that walked the grassy aisle to the steps of the mansion where the wedding was set, Ryan’s eyes filled. Then came his sister and his lip quivered a little. That’s when my lips started quivering as well.
But the drama of Dana’s arrival was what broke us all into little weepers. First, silence. Then, the clop clop clop of horse feet coming down the gravel road that surrounded the wedding site. And the bride sitting in the back of a carriage. I felt a pull to watch Ryan as that carriage slowly clopped down the road, to watch Ryan as the horse stopped behind the crowd of guests. To watch Ryan as Dana made her way out of the carriage and took her brother’s arm to walk the center aisle.
He was not “a mess.” He was perfect. Ryan! This man we have always loved for his humor and skeptical nature, for his sarcasm and Northeastern ability to think of the perfect reply of snark for any situation. This man, a bachelor through and through, who we all hoped would find someone to soften him, to give his sarcasm a little shock of endearment. Such a “Yankee” this man is (my fellow non-Yankees will understand what I mean, even if my Yankee friends don’t), we all laughed when the woman he met was from the Deep South. Mississippi! Talk about the least likely man to marry a Southerner! Such is the sweetness of God at work.
And so we watched a man transformed, not because he had no softness in him prior to her arrival in his life, but because Dana has brought it to the surface. She has manifested for him an inner vulnerability that is coming forth.
And do you know what I thought of, watching that ceremony, both of them overcome, but Dana holding it together for Ryan’s red-eyes’ sake? I thought of David Whyte’s words I posted last week:
“We try to construct a life in which we will be perfect, in which we will eliminate awkwardness, pass by vulnerability, ignore ineptness, only to pass through the gate of our lives and find, strangely, that the gateway is vulnerability itself. The very place we are opening to the world whether we like it or not” (Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, page 129).
Why was it beautiful seeing Ryan’s most vulnerable side on Saturday evening? Because were allowed to discover what was true. There was no posing, no attempting coolness. The beautiful thing about the sacredness of the present moment is that such a moment is unlike any that ever has existed or ever will exist again. Ryan embraced it. And we were made better for it. See, that’s the great thing that vulnerability does. It allows us to know each other, to understand each other. It allows us to leave our posing. It forgoes our impressive pedigrees. It eliminates our attempts at being valuable enough to each other.
As we drove home from the wedding on Sunday, my husband said, “Don’t you feel like you suddenly know something entirely new about Ryan? Doesn’t it feel like there’s a new depth to our friendship with him?
Yes, it does. And we love him more because of it.