She started off bravely enough, concentrating on the instructions she‘d been given: step, reach into the basket, drop the petals. Step…basket…petals. But the stares of the crowd on either side of the aisle began to weigh on her, and as she looked nervously around, her steps slowed, then faltered. Suddenly she dropped her basket, turned and fled back from whence she’d come.
Quickly those in the back gathered her together, retrieved the abandoned basket and set her on her way once more. A little less sure of herself this time she yet resolutely gave it another try. Forgetting the petals this go-around, she concentrated on heading for the group smiling at her from the front and made it a few pews farther than the first time before again turning tail.
The guests laughed in sympathy at the little girl’s plight and thought surely the ceremony would simply proceed without her. But the bride remained out of sight, the wedding party up front stayed frozen in position, and so the guests sat silently, waiting expectantly for what would happen next.
With an incredible show of patience, her father knelt behind the little girl, whispering words of encouragement to her as he gently but firmly propelled her down the aisle once more. “Walk down to the front, Sis,” he urged. “Walk all the way down.”
A third time she started down the aisle. But in much the same spot as the first two attempts she finally stopped, threw her head back and slammed her hands down at her sides. “Daddy, I just can’t do this!” she cried, and ran weeping back into his open arms. He swept her up and held her close before carrying her around behind the seated guests to a spot where the family sat up front, even as the bridal march sounded and the doors were thrown open to admit the radiant bride.
I’ve heard the words of that father come out of the mouths of many a minister through the years, as time and again they’ve urged the lost to walk down an aisle to receive the gift of salvation at the end of a service. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to leave the safety of one’s seat and travel down that impossibly long aisle while strangers stare. A drawing in their hearts pulls them forward even as fear holds them back. Some march down as effortlessly as the little boys in the bridal party. But others struggle through repeated attempts to respond to the love that calls them forward.
It’s this latter group that have captured the Father’s heart and likewise have held the march of endtime events captive until the list of all of those to be involved in the ceremony is complete. Surely all Heaven is standing at attention, the Bridegroom poised and eagerly awaiting His Bride, the trumpet even at the angel’s lips to call her forth…only to find that the Father holds up His hand and puts the show on hold while He gently works with the fearful and afraid. With endless patience He gently but purposefully urges them on until at last He hears the sound of surrender He’s been waiting for…”Daddy, I just can’t do this!” It’s when we realize that we can’t get to where we need to be on our own best intentions that we are swept up and carried in by a love that made a way for us Himself. We ride in on the arms of His sacrifice, His loss, His eternal solution to our sin problem.
Looking at my friend’s wedding pictures online recently I smiled to see that the little flower girl was very much a part of the party at the reception hall, smiling in the arms of other guests, dancing with the bride, and (at last!) standing in her spot in the bridal party photo at the start of the celebration. Her struggle didn’t disqualify her, even though some of us were ready to move on without her. Likewise God makes a way for us to be included when our own failures would have otherwise locked us out. In arms spread open on the cross He carries us from the hopelessness of our tearful inabilities to a spot right up front where all the action is, where our loved ones await us and the biggest party of all is just about to start.
“The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people‘s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.”
(2 Peter 3:9 AMP)
(2 Peter 3:9 AMP)