The hotel was bustling with guests in the midst of carrying out their own agendas. Many were there for business meetings and conferences, others to enjoy the famed Orlando theme parks, and some to find reprieve from the intensity of the Florida sun by enjoying the on-site water park. But the group that captured my attention for days in a row was a delegation of refined, well-dressed Africans sporting native silk garments and head wraps. Everything about them spoke of reserve and formality and I was intrigued.
Three days into our stay, I mustered up the courage to ask a hotel employee where the delegation was from and what they were all about. The writer in me calls it curiosity, my husband calls it nosy, but either way, I had to find out the story waiting to be told. Not only did my questions get answered verbally, but just a few short hours later, we watched the unfolding of a beautiful event.
A wedding party gathered around a Nigerian princess who had traveled to America to give herself away in an arranged ceremony. An event orchestrated by two sets of parents both presumably wanting the very best for their children.
The bride was unworldly in her appearance. She had beautiful, smooth black skin clad by a pristine white, unmistakably Vera Wang gown. The bouquet in her hands so stunning one had to stop and ask, “Are they real?” Her guest list for the reception numbered 500 family members and friends, most of whom had made the journey from their homeland to share this glorious occasion.
I reflected that similarly, more than once for many of us, people have watched with wonder and awe the festivities surrounding the British monarchy when a wedding is on the horizon in the United Kingdom. The speculation about the birth family and upbringing of the one who is on the threshold of joining the royal family, the grooming on etiquette and tradition, the scrutiny of the paparazzi and press on even the body language of the newcomer, all makes for an irresistible show for the spectators. But spectators get their fill of the event and return to their own lives. News reporters find other stories to cover. Life moves along.
As I watched the Nigerian Princess step into an elevator and the doors close on her old life, I was stricken with a myriad of thoughts. In just a few short hours following the ceremony, guests would return to their homes or move on to enjoy the rest of their American vacation. Parents would wearily pick up the last few pieces of personal items left behind in dressing rooms. Friends would reflect on the beauty and perfection of the event. Photographers and videographers would begin work on preserving the ceremonial moments. Caterers and contracted workers would begin the cleanup of a day that was years in the making and would very quickly be just another hotel event to be checked off on an office calendar.
Yet, for the Princess, her dream day was complete and her new life just beginning. Her flowers rest beside her on a nightstand. Her engagement ring shimmers brighter, next to the wedding band, than she imagined it would. A band that still feels a bit uncomfortable. It hasn’t had time to become part of her.
She walks away from everyone she knows and has leaned on her entire life. Into a life with a man she barely knows. Into a life she has agreed to but cannot possibly predict.
And as I think of her, I wonder. Who are the Titus 2 women who poured into her?
Did anyone pray with her today? Did she have anyone to help calm her fears of the unknown and share in the anticipation of the future? Did anyone tell her there would be days when she would long for her momma and her old room and that those days are okay and they will pass?
Will she have a network of support when days get tough? When babies are not conceived and labor is found at a job and not in a delivery room. Or when bundles of blessings do appear but they sometimes feel more a burden than blessing. Will she have someone to call who will offer support and not judgment? Someone who will share God’s love and Bible verses of grace and encouragement?
I watched the pride on her parent’s faces and wondered. As her momma looked on, did she remember well the days she trained this beautiful princess? Was there a sense of satisfaction or were there regrets? Did she think of things she wished she had said and lessons she intended to share? Was she pleased with the stunning young lady she just unleashed into society? Did she wonder, “Did I fully equip her with the character and moral compass that will guide her now that she is out of my care?”
After nearly three decades of marriage to the man I first laid eyes on at age 14, I understand that living out the vows that were only words on that August evening when I was just a girl has been both amazing and daunting. One would hope I had endured enough of the “for better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health” to understand that marriage is about far more than the flower and lace themed ceremony most of us envision. Candles that shimmer at the altar become strong light that shines into a home shared by two souls united by One Creator. Flowers become gardens surrounding a home filled with love, laughter, and yes, sometimes pain and tears.
Regardless of our age or stage of life, the need for a mentor remains. There are times for all of us, when we need someone to walk along beside us and be the safe place when we need to be weak. There will always be a longing for a trusted friend who listens without judgment and chooses wisely to give us God’s words and not her own. Let us purpose to BE that mentor for someone else. Be the person you wish you had in your own life or the person you are grateful for who did pour into your life.
And, let us not forget, as mommas we each mentor our children every day. By choice or chance, it is happening. If today were the day that our children walked into the world and away from our homes, would we be satisfied that they were ready for their calling? Oh, I don’t think we ever get in all of the things we mean to impart. But overall, can we say we are satisfied with the trainings they have received up to this point in their lives? Are we on track for fully equipping them for their journey into the world and the role for which they were created?
I still wonder about the Nigerian Princess and pray she has someone walking beside her into her journey of marriage and motherhood. And I pray for you too who are reading this that God has or will bring someone into your life that is further along on the journey and that you will choose to walk along side of someone who is coming behind you.
Such is the cycle of a well-lived life.
Photo Credit: Samantha Lewis