Josh & Emma's Wedding Day
Josh & Emma's Story
Everyone knows that all really fantastical happily-ever-after stories begin with “Once upon a time in a far away land,” and they end with a fair maiden getting swept away by a handsome prince (don’t forget the kiss), but, y’all, sometimes the story begins in a coffee shop.
My second-favorite novel by Jane Austen is Emma, and while no movie attempting to modernize and bring it into a generation that has little familiarity with its context and intent and will never read it can do it justice, many of you might at least be familiar with its basic concept through a recent movie by the same name. Let me tell you that that Emma is nothing like the Emma of this story except maybe in their similarities of age. The Emma this story is a hard-working college student employed at Restoration 49 in Tallassee, Alabama, while living in a modest one-room apartment above it. She isn’t opposed to marriage or its constraints like Austen’s Emma but finds herself surprised by love when she gets to know another occupant of the restored coffee shop building who is always around. This Emma isn’t silly or frivolous or interfering, but like Austen’s Emma, when she makes up her mind she acts upon it.
Austen’s Emma doesn’t need to marry for money (unlike all of her other novel’s female protagonists); instead, she contents herself with being a busybody and interfering in people’s love lives, thinking she knows best and always creating problems for everyone she is trying to “help.” The Emma of this story keeps herself busy by serving others, whether it’s coffee or sweetly cleaning up after someone else who got sick at her own wedding reception . . . but I’m getting ahead of the story.
About seven months ago, Josh moved his business above the coffee shop and moved into a one-room apartment located in the corner of his business. HIs path began naturally intersecting with Emma’s as he traversed through the coffee shop and lived life in the same proximity where she also worked and lived. Something surprising to many people happened; not only did Josh fall in love with Emma, he fell into a deep love for Jesus because of the people he began interacting with daily. A customer of his recently told me of the change in his life, but even if they had not, I still would’ve known. He is not the same wild boy I taught in high school—still unfailing polite, yes; still enthusiastically joyful, yes—but the same, no! And that’s okay. He’s the improved version of the likable boy I remember.
See, it isn’t so much that these two moved into the same building and just happened to fall headlong into love with each other as much as they fell in love with Jesus. When that happens, it is easy for the joy that radiates to spill over onto others. Time spent together in worship and praise of Jesus and reading and studying the truth of His word does change people in fantastic ways. Don’t be surprised that the author and finisher of life, Jesus, called these two to serve Him in reverent worship. Don’t be surprised that He did so before the foundations of the world. Don’t be surprised when their love for their God and their worship of Him spills over into your life, too. It probably will if you go into a little coffee shop in Tallassee or exercise in the gym above it or walk into Emma’s classroom wherever the Lord chooses to put her in the future or if you go to church with them or meet them in the store in our small little town. You can’t help but notice their radiance, and I am so grateful I got to be one small part of their day affirming their love for each other. I have no doubt it will grow and thrive as they continue to seek Him.
Emma and Josh’s ceremony took place on Upper River Road overlooking the Middle Pond. They faced a beautiful, huge wooden cross draped in a swath of cream gauzy fabric blowing in the gentle breeze. Most of the ceremony, their backs were turned to the small group of family and friends gathered to support their declarations of their intent to live in covenant marriage before their God, but their faces were to the cross that represents the one they intend to pick up each day. Marriage requires that to succeed and thrive, a laying down of self and ambition and pride and a picking up of the willingness to serve.
Emma’s favorite verse is Luke 9:23 where Jesus tells His disciples that if whoever wants to follow Him they must first deny him or herself and take up his cross daily. Marriage is self-denial when done right but it also is a following, a commitment to believe and dwell in everything Jesus teaches. It is a building that begins at the foot of the cross. One stone upon another is laid, one act of service upon another, one service, one giving up of self, one giving to another, until many years later the strength of that marriage is found in the Rock upon which it is built. It is a foundation that if built upon will not wash away.
The brief ceremony was followed by pictures with family and friends and a relocation to the nearby Banquet Hall of Eclectic Warehouse, a small but fantastically beautiful little room hidden around the corner from the big warehouse. The room is strung with fairy lights hung on a white ceiling with exposed beams. One long wall is painted black and hung with whimsical frames and ornate mirrors that make the room feel huge in comparison to its size and lend a warmth to the venue. Soft music played in the background but the music of the room swelled as people began to fill it with their warmth and laughter and joy shared with the newly married couple.
The other side of the room was a well-worn, whitewashed, exposed red brick wall draped with curtains midway down where the delicious, three-tier cake waited for the bride and groom to cut into it and share it with each other. A table for grazing waited at the back in front of gauzy white sheer curtains that reflected light back into the deep room. Tables for visiting were scattered through the room and there were plenty of places to perch including a fabulous vintage mauve couch.
After much visiting and picture-taking with loved ones, the couple exited out the back to a path strewn with floating bubbles by well-wishers. They stopped for a long kiss and then drove off into the setting sun in their official pace car (how cool is that?) for a night at the lake before life resumed far too quickly Monday morning for a young woman finishing her internship and a young man with a business to run.
No story told by another can envelop the completeness or beauty or even the trials of a couple in love, but a story told in love about a couple who have decided to follow Jesus wherever He leads, who have decided that little is much if God is in it . . . well, that’s a story this old English teacher-turned-photo-taker can tell with love in her heart. Congratulations, you two. (And if I got anything wrong, please feel free to fail me and assign a re-write. ;)
P.S. Josh, a man who finds a wife, well, he has found a good thing and finds the favor of the Lord (Prov. 18:22). On February 26, 2022, you found YOUR good thing. Cherish her and love her like Jesus loves His church and laid down His life for her (Eph. 5:28-33).