Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Visual Cents No. 8

"Light in the Darkness"

Wedding Words of Wisdom

Sunday evening we had the pleasure and honor of attending the wedding of one of my students.  Like most weddings, if was beautiful and joyful.  The thing that made it different for us was that we were the only Caucasians in attendance.  The bride and groom are both Korean as was everyone else.. Except us.  I signed the guest book on the way in with the only signature in English.  As we took our place in the back of the chapel, I must admit I felt a bit out of place, not because anyone  was rude or even looked us weirdly, just because we were a definite minority.  
We had not been seated long when another of my students, the maid of honor came and gave me a big hug.  At least then people knew that we had not just wandered in off the street.  One of my colleagues from school, who is also Korean, was the pianist for the ceremony.  Before she began her prelude she too came and spoke to us.  I was then able to relax.
Though the groom has grown up in the United States, the bride is relatively new to this country, having been here only a few years.  Her parents and brother stepped foot on American soil for the first time only three days before the wedding.   The marriage of a child is stressful under the best of conditions.  I can’t imagine traveling around the world to a country to which you have never been, where everyone speaks a language that you don’t, and then to give your only daughter in marriage, a marriage that will be lived in that unfamiliar country and culture.  
The ceremony itself was a typical Christian marriage.  However, it was done half in English and half in Korean.  The hymn verses alternated between the two languages, the prayers were offered in both languages, and when it came time for the couple to exchange their vows, the groom said his in his English and the bride said hers in Korean.  This way her family would understand her.  It was a wonderful melding of two very different languages and cultures.
The reception was a lot of fun!  Everyone was so friendly and the food was awesome.  The groom’s family owns a restaurant so his father prepared all the food - traditional Korean food.  It was awesome - korean barbecue, kimchi, japchae, and, of course, rice.  I could have gone back for seconds and thirds but I didn’t want to look any more American than I already did.
During the reception we sat at a table with some of the groom’s friends.  They were all friendly and welcoming.  Jisun, my colleague from school also sat with us because, like me, she knew no one but the bride.  It was nice to have the opportunity to talk with her away from school.  Generally we just pass in the hall or negotiate with one another for the use of a particular practice room.  Since she had grown up in Korea, Jisun was able to share with us about some of the Korean traditions as well as translatef the toasts that were spoken in Korean.   
In his short homily during the marriage ceremony, the pastor offered the couple some words of wisdom as they begin their married life together.  To help them remember his message, he used the letters of their last  name, K-O-N-G, as an acronym reminding them to always be KIND to one another, to remember that they are ONE, to be willing to NEGOTIATE, and to have a GIVING heart.  He elaborated more than I have done here, using Scripture to further illustrate his words.  At the reception, the best man asked if any one else had other advice to share using this same idea.  A few people had some good advice but none got through all four letters.  (It’s a good thing that this was a Korean wedding and not a Greek one.  Most Korean names are quite short!)  The emcee was not willing to quit until he found someone to get through KONG.  He headed our direction.  Not only did we stick out as the only white folks there, we also looked to be the oldest. ( I don’t know that we really were, but like Jisun said, Asian people age well; they never look as old as they really are.)  I suspect  that he was probably thinking that surely some old married folks would have some valuable words of wisdom for these “kids.”  Unlike in America, Koreans have respect for their elders.
The best man handed Weber the microphone and he spoke to the couple and the crowd.
K - Keep in mind the image of the one standing across from you when you made your vows to one another.
O - Open yourselves completely to one another.
N - Notice everything.
G - With every breathe you take, give thanks to God for all that He has given to you.
His remarks drew a round of applause from the crowd and a few tears from me.  I love him with all my heart and,  equally as important, I respect him for being a man who practices what he preaches.  And, I will never forget the image of the one standing across from me when I made those vows.