A few years ago, my dear friend Josh, and his beautiful bride got married. I was honored to be included in the ceremony and the events leading up to the big day. My wife and I drove up early to attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and it was a blast. The dinner took place on one of Josh’s family friends’ farm, and, as is the norm with weddings, the place was full of friends and family lavishing love and well wishes on the new couple.
The setting was fantastic. Underneath a huge tent, there were a few long tables set up for us to share a family style meal. As the servers brought out a variety of meats and vegetables, we helped ourselves and passed the plates to share with those around us. Throughout dinner, we could see and smell homemade peanut brittle being made in a huge copper pot just away from the tent.
As the meal started to wind down, people were encouraged to get up and speak. Friends and family shared stories about childhood memories, college stories, and words of encouragement as Josh and his wife prepared to enter into the next phase of their lives, together. Towards the end of the speeches, a man got up to deliver a speech that would prove a bit prophetic. I can’t remember his name, I just remember that he was someone’s uncle. So Uncle got up and gave passionate encouragement for Josh and his new bride, and all of us really, to “Do life together”.
This is one of those phrases, “Do life together”, that I had started to hear alot of leading up to the wedding. You know when you start looking for a new car, say, a Prius, and then suddenly, you start seeing them everywhere you go? It feels like there is some kind of conspiracy taking place, and everyone is in on it. The world knows exactly what you are thinking. There is actually a term for this, it’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. That’s kind of what it was like for me and “Do life together”. It seemed like all of a sudden everyone was using it, and I was hearing it everywhere.
And then Uncle dropped it in his speech. He was good too. At the end of each phrase, he raised both of his rands, spread his fingers, and then joined his fingers together as he said, “together”, to really drive his point home.
“At the end of each day, you’ll return home…together.
You will experience the highs and lows of life…together.
Share your dreams and fears…together.
When your children get a stomach bug, you will all be sick…together.
Now, let’s all go and Do Life…togehter..”
I think everyone was really moved by Uncle’s speech. After we wrapped up dinner, the wedding party, and other friends and family gathered together and made plans to head over to the site of the wedding and “set up a few things” before tomorrow.
It’s important to point out that Josh, because he is Josh, had a barn built specifically for his wedding. It’s a long story. The important fact to note, is that he didn’t just rent a barn (which is a thing that people can do), or have his wedding in the barn of someone he knew (which was also probably an option), he had a barn built, from the ground up. When we got over to the barn, to “set up a few things”, there were just a few things that weren’t quite ready to set up.
They were just minor things, really. For example, there was no electricity to the barn. So, at 8:00 the night before the wedding, there were workers buzzing around running wires and hanging lights. I think that’s normal, right? Also, there were saws running. I’m not sure what they were sawing, but something was being cut. When we got married, in the church, we went by the night before to check things out, and I remember there being a construction crew there just cutting wood, so I think it wasn’t too big a deal. And it had rained a bunch a few days prior, so there was mud all in the barn. In order to clean up the mud, the crew had spread this strange, red powder all over the floor of the barn. When I noticed that I started to worry that maybe we weren’t going to be setting up a few things that night.
The wedding party, and Uncle, and some other people who were really fired up about “Doing life together” were all ready to turn on some music, tell some jokes, move some things around, and post filtered pictures on Instagram, #dolifetogether, while we set up a few things for the wedding. But then reality hit. People shouldn’t be sawing in your wedding venue the night before the wedding. Also, the lights should work. Red sawdust all of the floor, on top of a layer of mud shouldn’t be there either. The dance floor, that was supposed to have been installed by the dance floor company, was stacked up in a corner in pieces. When they showed up to install the floor, they couldn’t, due to the mud, saw dust, forklifts, and angry contruction workers. So they just stacked it in the corner. We suddenly realized that we had a lot to DO if Josh was actually going to have a wedding tomorrow.
The construction workers were peeved that we were there in there way. We were also peeved, that they were in the wedding’s way. It was late, and dirty, and a little tense, and soon, the crowd that showed up to “Do life” dissapated, including Uncle (who, for the record, seems like a fantastic guy), leaving just a small group of people to figure out what to DO. In fairness, it was probably best that the crowd left, and I don’t want to portray that any of us who stayed are in any way better than those that left.
There was no singing, or dancing, or Instagram photos. There may have been some laughter, but that was only due to the delirium of staying up until 4 AM cleaning a barn together. I can’t remember everything that we did. I know we moved construction equipment into side rooms and out of site. We swept and swept and swept until we could get all of the mysterious red dust off of the floor. We put together the dance floor, incorrectly, and then took it apart and put it all back together again. By the time we left, it was morning. We went home and caught a quick nap, and returned a few hours later to set up tables, chairs, and other decorations for the wedding. I “showered” off in the porta potty about 30 minutes before the ceremony began, wiping off dust and clay from my any part of my body that the tuxedo wouldn’t hide, put on some women’s deoderant that smelled like a meadow (it’s all I could find), and then we got Josh started with his new life, together.
Doing life together is the way I think God has intended us to live.
“A new command I give you, love one another”
“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”
Sometimes I think we get too busy to love. Our calendar is filled up with so many activities that we leave no room to linger with those we say we love. In his book, A Resilient Life, Gordon MacDonald talks about the importance and power of “lingering”. When he asked his daughter what she thought the secret behind laid-back, meaningful fellowship was, she said, “lingering”.
“No on is in a hurry. There is no pressure to make something happen. People are not burdened by expectations of dress, correctness of opinion, or repsonsibilities for various programs. They just like (and make time for) being together. They really care about each other. No one is in a hurry to get somewhere else. They just…linger.”
I loved this when I read it, and it made me long for my lingering in my life. If we really want to do life together, we need to be willing to linger with them. Our calendars can’t be so full that we don’t take the time to just be. This busyness, much of it our own creation, is costing us dearly when it comes to doing life alongside those we love.
I think God designed us to linger with each other. I think God also designed us to rely on others, and to allow others to rely on us. Isn’t that what love is?
Part of the challenge with actually doing life together, and not just talking about it while raising your glass at a wedding toast, is that it can be uncomfortable, and awkward, and inconvenient. Our own lives can be messy enough as it is, allowing someone else into the mix can be a little terrifying. It’s much easier to close people off from the real stuff, and let them in for the dinnfer parties and kids’ birthdays, where everyone is smiling and having a good time. Doing life together is easy when you think you are going to set out a few chairs and take some selfie’s for the wedding album. It’s not so easy when you realize that you have what feels like an impossibly rediculous task ahead of you, and one of the most important people in your life is in the fetal position in the corner of a barn.
But it’s how I think we were designed. It’s what I think we need. It’s certainly the type of person that I want to live into, and I know I want people around me who are interested in living into it too.
My encouragement to you, is to take a look at your calendar, and your resources, and see where they are going. Are they going to the things that you say you value? Careful putting off what’s important for what (feels) urgent. Maybe we need to spend a little more time lingering, and less time rushing off, to whatever is next. Secondly, don’t worry too much about being awkward, you are going to do stupid things all by yourself. Might as well do them in the company of people that you love.