Late one afternoon, I got a call from a helicopter pilot who wanted to know if I perform weddings. “Certainly,” I said.
“Do you do all weddings?”
“Yes.” I replied.
“All denominations?” he pressed. “Yes, I am a Protestant chaplain and I do all Protestant weddings.” I said definitively.
“Good, “ he said. “Can my fiancée and I come talk to you?”
Now you have to understand, military chaplains cannot charge for weddings, so I often get a lot of bargain hunters in my office. Many have never sat foot in a church, but they’ve seen people play church on TV. When describing what kind of wedding vows they want, they ask for “the kind on TV.” Ok, I can do that. I watch Seventh Heaven.
But, in further discussion, we get into the spiritual language of the ceremony, and some folks get tripped up. This is where I lose the ones who only came because the price is right. I tell them that a church wedding is a worship service and therefore a sacrament.
It was at this point in my wedding briefing that a light was starting to turn on for the pilot’s fiancée, (The pilot’s light wasn’t even burning.) She realized the chaplain might mention the “G” word – God.
“Could you,” she said, “not talk about God and stuff?”
“Well, no. I kinda get paid to talk about the God stuff. Maybe you need to consider a Justice of the Peace?” I suggested.
Now, the pilot’s lights were igniting, but they were flickering like a lighter in a stiff wind. What? No free wedding?
“You see”, she countered “we want to do this wedding in a forest because my friends won’t go to a church wedding. Most of them are offended by religious language. They won’t like it if you mention God and the Bible.”
I’m doing my best to be helpful, so I offer to do a interfaith wedding and use Old Testament passages.
“No, that is not the problem,” she said, I guess I should have told you – I’m WICCAN.
The thing you should know is that Wiccans sometimes do their worship outside in the woods – even naked outside in the woods. I’m thinking, “This could be interesting. It was summer. Perhaps I could step outside my comfort zone.
“Dear, where are you going?” my wife would ask.
“To a wedding,” I would say blushing.
“Undressed like that?”
“No, I thought I would wear a hat.”
My wife is pretty quick. Not sure that one would get past her.
So, I told the couple that I could not do the wedding without using Christian vows because (glancing down at the cross over my left shirt pocket to be sure) I was, well, a Christian.
This puzzled the pilot. “I thought you said you would do all weddings – no matter what denomination.”
I had to explain that Wicca was not just another break in the Baptist church. It was powerfully something other than Protestantism..
The Pilot was still not convinced this was fair until his fiancée interceded to say something very profound – so profound that I have quoted it to nearly every engaged couple who has come to my office.
“Dear don’t you understand? We would be hypocrites if we promised something we don’t believe and the chaplain would be a hypocrite for leading us to promise something he knew that we did not believe.”
Wow, I was under her spell.
It seems to me that this girl had a handle on her price. She knew who and what she was and the pilot was trying to sell her short to avoid the Justice of the Peace stipend.
When marrying a Wiccan was going to cost money, the Pilot was willing to conceal the identity of the one he loved. He was hedging his bets by bargaining that a “Christian wedding would work some kind of God-magic which could make their marriage divorce-proof. The truth was that if he wanted God in his marriage he would have to invite Him and He only comes when he’s put at the top of the guest list.
The incident reminded of a story that begins somewhat like the movie – Indecent Proposal. A woman is offered a million dollars for illicit relations with a rich playboy. When the woman agrees so quickly, he tries to better his price.
“How about $500?”
The woman recoils at the offer. “Absolutely not! What kind of woman do you think I am?”
“We’ve already established that,” said the man” we’re just haggling over the price.”
We so often try to haggle the price of our integrity. We try to hide who we are because showing who we really are might cost us something, but in the end, if we have to conceal who we are, if we sell out who we are, it has cost us everything.
For a while, it can be fun to live life incognito, but when we surface, we not only find ourselves unrecognizable, but we often find our family, our friends, our world unrecognizable too. Finding truth in one’s existence is never easy, but it only comes as we admit the truth about ourselves.