I just posted this on RelevantMagazine.com but here it is for your viewing enjoyment!
Currently Enjoying: NeedtoBreathe, Between the Trees, JJ Heller
Nothing really prepares you for your best friend getting married. This past weekend I learned that. My best friend Jeremy got hitched to his lovely bride Caitlin and it was beautiful. It was strange. It was everything I expected and wasn't prepared for. You see, when the kid you grow up with talking about girls goes and marries one, you know that life is a train hurtling down a track towards the unknown. It settles in that there is no going back to the days of neighborhood backyard football when the biggest care in the world was whether Mom was going to be able to get the grass stain out of your favorite jeans. Or let you wear them again if she couldn't.
As the best man in the wedding, it was my responsibility to try to plan a bachelor party, give a toast and... well most best men probably have other important responsibilities but J knew me well enough to leave it at those two and tell me to show up for the wedding on time. I was still there 10 minutes later than I was supposed to be (but still an 1:20 before the wedding). The bachelor party was the first step in me saying goodbye to the old days. As a bunch of us piled into cars and drove out to a farm with no electricity, to play capture the flag, drink and eat and tell stories, I thought about how many times we had done this in the past. How many freezing cold nights were simply amazing because I was with my best friends, doing manly things like running around in all black and tackling each other as we stumbled our way toward the flag or getting people out of jail. The only difference this time was when we got stuck in jail, we got to enjoy a cool brew while we sat and waited to be rescued.
I think it was towards the end of that night, at 2:00 am when my toes were frozen and we sat around the campfire singing worship songs that I realized how special my childhood really was. And how it is gone. I won't buy into the lie that "those were the best days" because I trust God has more adventures in store for me. But a time of innocence is gone, replaced by lessons learned, new friends made, and 15 extra pounds. And so we toasted J and his step in learning what it means to be more like Christ in loving a wife. We toasted what God had given us and where he had taken us. I thought that was going to be my emotional point, that that was my lesson that I wasn't prepared for, a goodbye to childhood.
Then came the wedding day. Caitlin was beautiful, J's eyes "leaked" as we prayed for him and then when she walked down the aisle as we all stood there grinning. And I realized that not all my little kid-ness had left, as I shifted from foot to foot, not being able stand still as I stood beside him and the preacher spoke. It was a surreal experience, yes, but beautiful. Things progressed well; pictures were quick, the food was excellent, there was plenty of fun yet to be had. But then it came time for the toast. I can't remember the last time I cried profusely... probably back in senior year of college, two years ago. But as I stood up there, honoring my best friend, what he had learned, what we have gone through together and the beautiful woman that he married, I was a wreck. My eyes started "leaking" in a quite unemotional part of the toast. By the time I was to the end, the "leaking" was out of control and I was reading my toast without looking at him, trying to hold it together.
It was a goodbye to something beautiful. It is a welcoming to something even better, something holy and right and good and true. What I had with J, as a best friend, is forever gone, part of what God had in store to mold us both and teach us what it means to follow him. He now has a best friend in his life that needs to take my place, probably already had taken my place. I will always be there for him and he will for me, but it is different now. And I praise God for that. For the ways we grow and change and learn. I once heard someone say that "God loves you too much to let you remain who you are." I am thankful that this whole growing up thing is a part of that, of God's plan.