Lean in and listen my friends, I’m going to tell you a story remembered, a story told to me in a sermon by the Reverend Al Turnell.
Everyone gathered for the big weekend. Relatives and friends came from everywhere to celebrate their friends’ marriage. Barely before the festivities began, murmurings could be heard about the bride and groom. Everyone knew it. No one would say it above a whisper. Heads and cupped hands leaned toward listening ears to keep the comments private. To be direct, a sense of disbelief made its way among the guests. The bride was…well…there is no better way to say it—ugly.
Civility is sometimes the better part of honor. No one dared to say what everyone was thinking. The bride and groom remained oblivious to the undertones. The rehearsal and the party after went as normal while the conversations continued. Friday passed.
On Saturday, the sun greeted a sharp, crisp, silvery morning. The big day had arrived. The bride and groom went about their activities while the sun arced toward the six o’clock hour. There was hair and makeup and pictures to be made. Guests and relatives stopped by to say hello. The day celebrated reunion. All the while, the whispers continued. Everyone wondered how the groom fell in love with her. Everyone wondered how she could attract such a handsome man.
Six o’clock came. The guests were seated. The groom entered the church with the best man and minister. The groomsmen, bridesmaids and ring bearers walked down the aisle. Then, a hush and the organist began. All stood while the bride walked down the aisle. No whispers now, but everyone stood with a thought of disbelief and wonderment in mind. How?
Arriving at the altar, the bride and groom faced each other, their eyes locked together as two young people in love. The minister began. Then, everyone saw a glow radiating from the bride. Strange now, all the guests noticed, and each would admit the bride appeared as radiant as any bride ever seen. Somehow in the moment, she was beautiful.
And now you have heard the story of the ugly bride. Oh, how God transforms us and allows us to see not His earthly creation but His Heavenly one. And despite our feelings of self-loveliness, our sense of superiority in knowledge and virtue, aren’t we all the ugly bride? Aren’t we but God’s poor creatures, set on a path possessing only what God gives today, not the illusions of tomorrow?
When the story’s surface meaning subsided, I must admit its truth made me laugh when I realized I, too, was but an ugly bride. In God’s presence, all are the ugly bride. None are uglier than another.
The story’s deeper meaning opened me to a relationship with God and neighbor as He wished me to share. After all, what is man’s measure against God’s revelation? Are not all we meet immortal?
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).