I’m kidding, of course. It never was. I’ve said previously that God may not have been invited to our wedding 15 years ago, but that He crashed the party anyway, and has been part of the new creation called KarenRobPetkau from the getgo, blessing us abundantly throughout our lives together so far.
Despite what dogmatists might tell you, I’ve come to believe that the Creator of the Universe is not limited by the procedural administrivia of whether a wedding took place in a church or a theatre (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference – right, Centre Street?), or was performed by a civil servant or a clergyman. I don’t think God is bothered in the least by the often arbitrary, sometimes ridiculous boundaries erected by human hands – even (or is that especially) the ones that are erected ostensibly in His name.
But in spite of all that, it felt great on Saturday for Karen and me to renew our wedding vows in our church, where God was most definitely invited; you could say He was the guest of honour! To have the ceremony performed by our pastor and friend (Stephen Hambidge) and to have so many of our friends and family there, cheering us on. It was extremely humbling that so many people found time in their schedule for little, old us. Some people travelled considerable distance to be there for what could have been viewed as a glorified 15th anniversary party.
Some friends helped with the service itself – Alastair ran the projector, Greg handled sound, Jeff and Jim joined me in the band for some worship music and Ken took photos during and after the ceremony.
We had the senior representatives of each of our families do a Scripture reading – my dad read the Gospel passage (I was really proud of the old man!), while Karen’s oldest sister Dorothy tackled a reading from Colossians. Mandy Hambidge (no relation to the pastor, thank God, because they’re married) delivered the Prayers of the People, carrying the flag for our Church Family – which has come to mean almost as much to us as the Petkaus and Kings do.
Stephen’s sermon was touching, inspiring and uplifting. It was all the more meaningful because he knows us personally, and his words were genuine and from the heart.
Many of the ‘guests’ brought great food for the potluck supper that followed (perhaps most notably the beautiful and delicious cake [featuring EIGHT LITRES of icing] supplied by our good friend Shauna), and plenty of those folks pitched in to set up and/or clean up. Huge thanks go out to all who helped with both the service and the meal – but especially to Stephen and Mandy for being the masterminds behind the service and meal respectively!
Our children Ian (9) and Katie (12) served as Best Man and Maid of Honour respectively, and both carried out their duties expertly. We were really glad to have them stand up with us as we renewed our vows.
Karen looked even more fantastic than usual in her shimmering emerald green gown – complemented beautifully by my late stepmother’s string of distinctively unspherical pearls. Katie looked like a show-stopping 16-year-old (yikes!), and Ian was quite dashing in his new pin-striped suit. And as for me, I occupied my usual, comfortable spot at the bottom of the Petkau Attractiveness Totem Pole, but I probably haven’t looked this good since I donned that famous home-made kilt with a fun-fur sporran on July 6, 1996.
Not to sound presumptuous, but none of that came as a surprise. We spent a lot of time and money making sure we looked our best for the day. We know what kind of friends and family we have, so it really wasn’t shocking that so many of them came to support us. Moving, touching, humbling, inspiring and wowing, yes. But not surprising.
There was one surprise that day, though. My parents – divorced in the early 1990s – presented Karen and me with the Petkau Family Bible. This old but untattered King James Version was given to Henry and Marian on their wedding day by my dad’s parents. It sat on their bookshelves as they bounced from one end of Alberta to the other and raised three kids together. It was with them during the rough patches of the late ‘80s and went with my dad when they separated. After the divorce, It was there through Dad’s second marriage to Elvina, their adventurous five years in Turkey and then through her illness, decline and death two years ago. And just shy of 47 years after Henry and Marian first received it on the day of their by-the-book church wedding, they gave it to Karen and me on the day when we formally acknowledged God’s central role in our marriage.
My dad is known for his ability to exaggerate (I come by it honestly, you see), but on Saturday he showed he knows how to use understatement, too: ‘This is as good a time as any for us to pass this Bible onto the next generation…’ It was the perfect time – no other occasion could be as fitting. I was deeply moved.
Receiving this great gift of overwhelming sentimental value felt great in its own right, but it taught me a little something about God and Family, too.
God surely blessed Henry and Marian Petkau when they tied the knot in Rockyford United Church on Aug. 15, 1964. But I’ve always been a little fuzzy on how that blessing related to the life and death of their marriage. Did it ebb and flow, rise and fall, flash in and fade out?
I still don’t know about their marriage, but in addition to the gift from my father on Saturday, I got a gift from my Father as well … a reminder that, while the marriage that began in 1964 may be no more, the Family that was born simultaneously is still fully intact and God’s blessing of it has never wavered. Despite all of the ups and downs, Henry and Marian’s Family has weathered all those storms and, with God’s help, it has the capacity to weather a few more.
In the same way that God didn’t let the secularity of the KarenRob wedding ceremony stop Him from blessing our lives, He also hasn’t let the absence of an earthly marriage stop Him from being there with the HenryMarian family.
I want to be clear that this isn’t some thinly-veiled nudge to get my parents to give it another try. I’d never even dream of suggesting they should! But they don’t mind being in the same room anymore; we all get together at holidays and other family occasions without any noticeable awkwardness. They talk on the phone now and then, and get along as well as any two straightforward-to-a-fault, set-in-their-ways, 70-ish-year-olds can. They’re certainly not spouses; they’re not exactly friends.
But they’re still Family.
Not again. Still.
And thank God for that.
Peace be with you.