Santa Barbara is a small town and it’s not uncommon to run into someone you know nearly everywhere you go. Last year I was sitting by myself in one of my favorite coffee shops with big windows and oversized chairs. I was quite content with my book, journal and large latte when one of my students. Sulleyma, a friendly, bright-eyed latina girl who looked like she was 14-going-on-24, walked by and waved to me through the window. She and her 3 other friends strolled inside, in a single file line, one girl behind the other.
And I’ll never forget what Sulleyma asked me:
“Ms. Acker, why do always roll solo?
I laughed to myself at her creative slang (to roll solo means to go out or be by yourself) and then I tried to explain to four teenage girls that this introvert at heart actually enjoys sitting in coffee shops all by herself. Regardless if they got it or not, I realized there are a number of things that I do enjoy doing by myself. I like rollin’ solo to a coffee shop for hours and strolling through the farmers market by myself. And I’ll roll solo for an afternoon at the beach or a run to the park. I’ve even become quite accustomed to rollin’ solo while traveling in other countries, but there is one place that I do not like (in fact, probably hate) rollin’ solo to…
I don’t think anyone really likes going to weddings alone. It’s one thing if you know lots of people and have a group of friends who will be there- those situations can be fun for sure. But if you’ve ever been to one of those weddings where you know all of three people, and one person is the usher who you escorted you to your seat, and the other two are the bride and groom, well, then that’s just recipe for a rollin’ solo disaster.
I went to a beautiful wedding for a friend from high school last weekend. It was the kind of wedding that had the perfect balance between simplicity and eloquence and yet just enough creative personal touches to make it feel like you were a part of the wedding, not merely distant observers. I walked in and gave my best effort at making awkward small talk with friends I haven’t seen since high school graduation. I was introduced to everyone’s boyfriends and husbands and…yes, KIDS. My friends from high school have children! Feeling more out of place then ever, I squeezed passed two couples and sat on the end with an open seat next to me. (fyi: I have come to realize that wedding industry likes even numbers. Have you ever noticed that most rows have an EVEN number of chairs and most tables seat 8 or 10…also even numbers. I have nothing against even numbers in general, but when you’re at a wedding alone it makes you feel like you’re the odd one out.)
Already feeling like I was the odd one out, I intentionally dug through my purse, checked my cell phone and scanned through old pictures on my camera trying hard not to also look like the odd one out. Thankfully, the music started and with it began one of the most beautiful weddings I have been to in a long time. The whole ceremony was sweet and personable and just different. And I tend to like things that are a little different. Ya know, not always abiding by the status quo just because it’s the way it’s supposed to be done.
The gentleman who officiated their wedding had a grandfather voice and a tall, lean body the hunched over, ever so slightly. With his words and presence came a wave of emotions: encouragement. hope. freedom.
He began describing how our society often talks and jokes about marriage being restrictive. We speak of “tying the knot”, settling down and the tender trap of making this permanent and binding commitment. But he went on to explain that we can actually find marriage to be a source of tremendous freedom:
“Within marriage, you are free to fail without being rejected. You are free to succeed without causing jealousy. You are free to journey through one stage of growth to another, while drawing strength and support from your partner. You are free to face huge problems knowing that each problem will be less intimidating and more manageable because you will face it together. Marriage also allows the freedom to exchange hopes and fears and the whole gamut of feelings with one another. Such intimacy requires hard work and courage, but it is a kind of hallowed journey and, ultimately, a source of fulfillment and freedom
This isn’t to say that all of this is impossible outside of marriage. This is to say that the marriage commitment especially lends itself to such freedom because it provides a secure framework within which such risk and creativity are possible.”
I just love this.
He named something that is so true and so beautiful and sometimes I fear, so forgotten. His heartfelt words brought encouragement to the rollin’ solo feelings that had crept into my heart and mind that cloudy afternoon. I was reminded why marriage is worth waiting for. And regardless of the wedding or the dress or the rings or the flowers or the countless other things that consume a young bride’s mind, this lifelong commitment is the essence. The day-to-day freedom to grow and serve and learn how to do life together-that is what marriage is about.
And that truth left me with a renewed ability to hope. and trust. and pray. and wait.
This is a season of weddings. And any single person in their twenties or thirties or forties can probably agree that weddings have this uncanny way of bringing a truth and hope that reminds you what love can look like, but they can just as quickly bring a lonely, heart-ache that makes you doubt and question, Why am I still here by myself?
My advice: 1) Don’t roll solo to weddings. And 2) Take time to ask the hard questions, but don’t lose the ability to hope and trust and pray and wait.