“Wow,” Ralph said, as he and Caleb, boxes in hand, walked together over to Robert’s house. “That was some story.”
“Yeah,” Caleb said. Two people with the same dream?”
“Three,” Ralph reminded him. “Grace’s sister, too, remember. But I guess you really couldn’t exactly call it the ‘same’ dream. There were a lot of bits where Grace and Bobbi weren’t together. You Ok with it?”
“I guess I have to be. She’s my wife now.”
“I still can’t get that part. Nobody has said the whole ‘I now pronounce you,’ bit, how can you really be married? Hi, Mrs. Jones,” Ralph added, to Caleb’s mom, as they came in the kitchen door and went off toward the stairs.
“Why, hello. It’s Ralph, isn’t it? Jenny’s boy?”
Ralph blushed a bit at that, but nodded, “Yes, Ma’am.”
“It’s very nice of you to help, Dear. You will stay for the party? And bring your family?”
“I… if we’re invited, Ma’am.”
“Of course you’re invited, Dear. It isn’t like we will have time for formal invitations, but everyone’s invited.”
“Oh, well, I’ll call them. When is it?”
“Well, they can come anytime over the next week, but we’ll be having the formal part tonight, around eight o’clock.”
“Thanks Mrs. Smith.”
The took the boxes up and Caleb sat on the bed while Ralph pulled out his phone. “No, Mom, I think they were serious, they want you all to come.” Caleb nodded at him, grinning. “Really Mom, Caleb said so. I think they’ll be upset if we don’t come, if you don’t come. Yes, with the kids. I’m sure they’ve thought of that, Mom. OK, great.”
“Sigh,” he said. “Love my mom, but she can always think of reasons not to do things.”
“Guys!” Jenny said, flouncing into the room with another box. “Are you coming?”
“Sorry, Jenny,” Ralph said. “I had to call my mom and invite them to the party.” He looked nervous as he said that, and Caleb said,
“And I had to sit here and encourage him.”
“Oh, Ralph, your family is going to come? That’s great.”
Ralph brightened off and disappeared with Jenny. Caleb, grinning, followed him.
I was carrying a box full of underwear and bra’s, of all things, when the first ‘guest’ arrived, Caleb’s pastor person. And I hadn’t close the lid, either. “Roberta,” he said, coming up and kissing me from where he stood in the kitchen talking to my mother in law. “Can I help?”
“No, sir, but thank you. This actually the last box.”
“So, you’re moving your stuff over here?” he asked, following me up the stairs.
“Yes, sir. I don’t think they’ll be room for all of it, though. We’ll have to store some of it until we do some remodeling.”
“Well, Caleb certainly should be able to handle that. Caleb! Ralph! Jenny!” he added, as we came to the door and everyone jumped up from off of the bed, where they had been sorting my clothes and books (Jenny the clothes and Caleb and Ralph the books, of course) into piles and things. He kissed Jenny, and looked around. “This might be a bit tight, but I’ve seen a lot worse. Young couples are born for cramped spaces, in my opinion. Congratulations all round, by the way. Can I see the rings?”
He admired those for a minute and then waved us to the bed. Ralph and Jenny, looking a bit out of place, joined us. “We need to go over some details of the events tonight, just to get them clear. Everyone feel free to speak up and not be embarrassed.”
“Keep in mind this is the first time any of us have done this. Now, Roberta, the girls will be coming over at six, and we figured they would meet at your house…”
I stood in my empty room, empty except for my bed, bookcases and all. Six girls stood with me, my ‘virgins’. “Ok, girls, here is what is going to happen,” I explained. You all will go downstairs and then, when Caleb comes, you will get to shout ‘the bridegroom is coming! The bridegroom is coming!” and follow him upstairs. He’ll come in here and take my arm, and then you will lead us over to his house, after we go all along the block.”
“What about the lamps?” my smallest ‘virgin’ asked.
“My mom and dad will have those for you, outside,” I said. “You two will get flashlights in this thing that the boys made, and the older girls will be carrying lanterns.”
“Can’t we have lanterns?” she asked.
“No,” I said, “we don’t have enough.” And besides, I thought to myself, they are made of glass and have real fire in them.
“I guess you can go now,” I said, glancing at my phone, and they dashed off downstairs, leaving me to my thoughts.
What had I done? This was all going by in a whirlwind. Of course, I had wanted it for years, but then it had all happned so fast. He had asked Dad, and I had… I still blushed at what I had done. That dream had really affected me. I had just known that coming to breakfast like that, and forcing him to read my journal, would work. That he would be turned on and not upset. That he would drool over me instead of laughing at me.
“He is coming! He is coming!” I heard, and looked at my watch in a panic. He was five minutes early! Then I laughed. Of course he was, he wanted to suprise me and five minutes was about all the surprise he could manage on a day like today.
It seemed forever before the door opened and he stood there.
“Behold, thou art fair, my love;” he said, and I stared at him, wide eyed. We hadn’t discussed this, either. And he wasn’t reading! He must have memorized this. He walked closer and closer as he continued, and his voice got quieter and quieter, “behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, where on there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.
Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.
How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!”
He had said that last almost in a whisper, and directly in my ear, and I was blushing furiously and almost missed it when he held out his arm to me. But I took it and, together, we turned toward the door, where all of my ‘virgins’ were lined up, grinning, and waiting to escort us out, down the stairs, out the door, and into the rest of my life…
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Today we are gathered together to celebrate the marriage of Caleb Jones and Roberta Smith. To celebrate, and not to ‘perform’. We are not here to ‘join’ them. Only God can join a couple in marriage, and it was Roberta’s father, and not any person from the church or the government, which authorized the joining. The young couple has joined, physically, but they will spend the rest of their lives joining socially and spiritually.
Today we celebrate a marriage, but what is a marriage? Our society has built up, and torn down, entire definitions around the idea of marriage: glorifying the Greko-Roman concept of ‘romance’, glorifying the supposed union of ‘Sodomites’ and pushing quick and easy divorces after difficult and delayed marriages.
But what does Scripture define as ‘marriage’? Well, at the risk of offending many in the audience, I would propose that marriage, in Scripture, is essentially defined as, “A permanent, committed, sexual union with a goal of producing children.” Yes, marriage may be, and often is, much more than that. Unfortunately, as well, many people call themselves married when they have far less than that. But that is, I believe, the root and core of what marriage is. Let us look at some passages…
“Hey, Ralph,” Caleb said. “What’s up?”
Ralph jumped up from Caleb’s bed, where he had been sitting, holding a book. The sounds of the party came faintly from downstairs, and the sounds of children playing some rather loud board game came through the wall from the next room, which was ordinarily his father’s study but was, tonight, dedicated for a variety of younger relatives to play and then to sleep. “Oh, hey, I’m sorry,” Ralph said.
“I don’t mind if you read my books,” Caleb said. “ Feel free anytime. Tired of the party?”
“I’m not that great at parties,” Ralph said, but Caleb heard something else.
“Jealous?” he asked, and Ralph looked startled. “For Bobbi?” he asked, “No! I mean…”
“No, I mean jealous of me, getting to marry and all.”
“Oh. Well, I guess, yeah. You seem to have it all together. Job, money, wife. Although you are going to bring her back here? I mean, for a while?”
“As long as it works, I guess. Why?”
“Well, when I’ve thought of marrying… You must think that kind of silly, at my age.”
“No, not at all, Caleb said, coming in, closing the door, and sitting down in the beanbag chair. “You look old enough.”
Ralph blushed. “Not old enough to get married!”
“Why not? Physically?”
Ralph blushed again, “No, I didn’t mean that. I mean, like, a job and all. How could I support a family? I spend all day in school.”
“Get a job after school.”
“You make money flipping burgers.”
“Not much. Not enough to support a family on.”
“How much do you need? You already have a bed, no?”
“You mean, at my folks?”
“That’s where you live, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, yeah, I mean. You’ve got to understand how different this is, what you’re doing. How much is this party costing you?”
“Oh, not much. Most of it is pot luck from the church.”
“Oh, should I have had my mom bring something?”
“No, no. Maybe another day.”
“Oh, that’s right, the party will be all week.”
They sat in silence and then Caleb said, “Say, do you want a job?”
“I need an assistant, to do billing and all. Nights and weekends. Billing, come help on the job sites when you have time.”
“I, ummm, that would be great. But you don’t have to…”
“I need the help, and who better than my future brother in law?” As Ralph stared he continued, “I think I could guaragneed you ten thousand a year, if you work hard.”
“If you work hard,” Caleb said.
Just then the door opened, “Ralph!” Jenny said. “Hiding away… Oh, hi Caleb. Sorry. I guess I should have knocked, but someone told me they had seen Ralph in here, hiding away.”
“We were talking,” Caleb said. “Guy talk.”
“Oh,” said Jenny, throwing her hair over her shoulder. “That’s all right then.”
“Come on, Ralph, I think we need to return to the horde.”
“Ok,” Ralph said.
“River!” I said, seeing her come in. I ran over and kissed her, “You came!”
“Of course, darling, how could I miss it? And where is this lucky boy who gets to bed you?”
“River!” I protested, noting that several of the people nearby had heard her comment. Sevaral of the younger girls had blushed, but one of teh older, nicer, ladies in Caleb’s church had actually given me a knowing grin.
“Caleb is… I’m not sure where Caleb is.”
‘Not a good star, Darling, not a good start. Even I know that boys need a tight eye kept on them.”
“I’m sure he’s around somewhere,” I protested.
“I think that is he,” River said, and I turned. “Who is the younger boy with him. He looks cute. You didn’t tell me there would be good fishing.”
“That’s Ralph, Jenny’s boyfriend. He’s taken. Eye’s off!”
“I can look, can’t I?!”
“No!’ I said, and she laughed.
“So, here is the lucky man who caught our Bobbi!” River said, kissing Caleb… and not on the cheek, either. Caleb took it in stride, grinned, and said,
“Hello, River. I’ve heard so much about you?”
“And who is this? The brother of the groom?” River asked, and blew Ralph away with another, even more dramatic, kiss.
“No! I’m just… I’m just a friend of the family…” he husked out, bright red.
“That’s not what I hear!” River said, adding a hug to her kiss. “Congratulations, congratulations everyone!”
We had attracted considerable attentions, and Caleb was about the only person in the area without a reddish tinge to his cheek. Luckily Jenny showed up just then, “River!” she said, and the two kissed in a very socially correct way. “It’s so good you could come!”
Jenny had spent plenty of nights sleeping over with me at college, and loved River, despite all of her politically incorrect oddities… and her dress code. She had spent the whole first day at college totally pink, but had adjusted after that and nowadays, when she came, hardly even noticed. She struggled more with Tess and Stan, but even that didn’t stop her from coming to spend the night whenever she could.
“Tess and Stan will come tomorrow, if it please you,” River said to me and Jenny, “and spend the night, if you can find a space.”
“Sure, they’re welcome,” Jenny said, but I wondered how Dad would react to that.
“Say, River, do you mind if I ask you a question,” Caleb said.
“Ask away, beautiful man,” River said.
“Did you have any particularly dramatic dreams in the last few days?”
“Ah, I am sorry to disappoint you, gorgeous boy, but no, I have not been dreaming of you. Perhaps now that I have met you my dreams will improve.”
“Oh,” said Caleb, sounding almost disappointed. “Well, do you know of a Grace Trenton?”
River thought about this for a moment and then said, “Yes, yes I do. Nice enough, if you like that sort of thing. Studies in the student lounge. Very proper. Has a boyfriend… what is his name? They recently began sleeping together, or so I am reliably informed.”
“So she really exists,” Caleb said, looking at me, but I wasn’t paying attention any more.
Caleb turned to follow my eyes. “Who is that?” he asked.
“Jervis,” I whispered.
“Oh, yes, I remember him now that I see him. A genius in physics. Does track. You want me to go talk to him?”
“No!” I said, clinging to him.
“What is the matter with my Bobbi?” River asked, imperiously, and coming over and holding me and glaring at Caleb.
“It’s not me!” said Caleb.
“It’s not Caleb!” I protested, accepting the hug as I stared at Jervis. “It’s this dream I had,” I said.
“Again with the dream,” River said. “You will have to tell me about it. But why are we shuddering now?” she asked.
“That boy, there, he was in the dream,” I said.
River stiffened, “Did he do something to my Bobbi?” she asked, almost lapsing into normal speech, the way she did when the subject was, truly, serious.
“No, no, I don’t really know him.”
But River kept staring at Jervis who, eventually, noticed and, looking almost guilty, wandered away to the buffet.