By now, many of you know the story of Jennifer Wilbanks. She’s the real-life runaway bride from Duluth, Ga., who sobbed into an Albuquerque, N.M., 7-Eleven pay phone earlier this month attempting to convince friends and family that she’d been abducted — hence the reason she’d be late for the wedding rehearsal, I suppose.
Weddings sometimes can bring frost to the extremities, especially the feet. But, cold or not, I know if I’d have pulled anything like that before our wedding, my wife would have arranged for me to be abducted by aliens.
Fortunately, she didn’t have to make those arrangements.
I suppose it’s because she realized I wasn’t much different than a lot of other grooms who were afraid of commitment. I’d never lived in one place longer than three years, and the idea of living together until death parted us was an idea that made me postal.
And perhaps that’s why one day, several weeks before the wedding, she decided to send me to the post office. Her thought was since I hadn’t done much in the way of wedding preparations I could possibly handle the mailing of our invitations.
However, this mail run involved more than a walk to the mailbox. In my mind it was built up to much more: I knew mailing these envelopes would have all the permanence of saying, “I do!”
Yet despite my worries, I somehow made the walk. And standing in front of the mailbox, I fingered each invitation and thought about the commitment. Once they were mailed, there was no way I would ever back out. With that in mind, I pulled back the handle, took one last gulp of bachelor air, and sent those invitations.
It was a gulp I’d recognize in a question asked years later by a young Air Force captain who approached me about performing his wedding. He explained his fiancée didn’t want to commit to promising “until death do us part,” so he wondered if we could leave that part out. “Is that going to be a deal-breaker?”
Uh, yeah, it was. It was a deal-breaker because there was no way I’d participate in any ceremony I thought was being initiated with a commitment less than 100 percent.
And while I’m not sure what Jennifer was thinking, I sometimes think there’d be far fewer divorces in this country if a few of the doubtful brides and grooms donned their gym shoes and took a run. Because commitment isn’t about being sure or certain; it’s about deciding with all your being that this thing is as sure as you know how to make it.
Marriage begins with a commitment, but it doesn’t end there. You grow, you change, you regress, you repent, you rededicate, you renew. You put someone else’s needs in front of your own.
Commitment’s a funny thing. Even if you have commitment, you can’t be sure you’re doing the right thing, but without commitment you do nothing — and usually nothing is a lot worse.
But the best thing about commitment is it creates opportunities for grace. There is always room for change and growth.
Witness Jennifer’s fiancé. He’s responded in a very unexpected way. He assured Jennifer he meant what he said when he asked her to marry him. He’s said he’s still sure. Wow, what a moment of grace for Jennifer.