Runaway grooms and crawling off the altar


I heard an expression the other day. A fellow was talking about his most recent “date” he had with his wife of 53 years. They were going to see a movie at the local movie house. As they approached the theater, it was raining – it does that a lot here in Florida! – so he was looking for a parking place close to the entrance.

They were in their golf cart, which is normally easier to park, but all the parking places were filled. So this fellow got as close as he could to the entrance of the theater, then encouraged his wife to get out and purchase the movie tickets while he found a place to park their cart.

As she headed for the ticket booth, he said to her, “Now don’t you go and ‘runaway bride’ me, you hear!”

I had never heard the expression “runaway bride” used as a verb in a sentence before. What that fellow was telling his wife was, in essence, “Look, we’ve agreed to go see the latest ‘Terminator’ movie, so don’t you go and buy tickets to some ‘chick flick’ when I’m not there with you to object!”

“Runaway Bride” was a 1995 film starring Richard Gere as a reporter who was assigned by his editor to write a story about a woman (Julia Roberts) who had left a number of fiancés at the altar, getting cold feet on the day of the wedding a number of times.

That film, though purely fiction, reflected exactly that situation for a young lady named Jennifer Wilbanks, who left her fiancé John Mason in 2005 just a week before they were to tie the knot.

It seems that Jennifer got cold feet and hopped on a Greyhound bus in her home town of Duluth, Ga., and did not get off until she had reached Albuquerque, NM. Her disappearance made national headlines and the ultimate resolution of her story caused much heartache for both her and her erstwhile fiancé.

Runaway brides are one thing, but have you ever heard of a “runaway groom?” As with anything that is new and different, marriage contains a lot of unknowns and built-in fears. One young man was so nervous and filled with second thoughts about the life-long commitment of marriage that he realized on the day of his wedding that he could not go through with it.

But rather than tell her, he determined to do something else to make it clear. On the day of the wedding, a couple of hours before the actual wedding ceremony, the young man got in his car, drove to a nearby town and scoped out the local mini-mart.

He “cased the joint.” Then, very deliberately, when the place was empty of customers and very quiet – I mean, he didn’t want anyone to feel the need to do something desperate and hurt him – he drove up right in front of the glass doors, so that the clerk could get a good look at his car, and license plate.

He slowly walked into the store, started a casual conversation with the clerk about his getting married before too long, even told her the name of the church, and then he demanded all the cash in the register. He even smiled for the security cameras that were filming his every move. Once the clerk had given him what he demanded, he slowly walked back to his car.

He then drove around for a little while, and when he finally arrived at the church, the police were there, waiting for him. His bride-NOT-to-be then watched him being handcuffed and carried off to the police station, only minutes before she was to say, “I do.”

Now, I’ve got to tell you – that man was desperate. He was willing to do almost anything not to follow through on the promise he had made.

You know, when I heard that story, I was amazed to discover the lengths that some people will go through to not be committed. But then, why should I be surprised? We see it all around us all the time, don’t we? People making commitments and then not following through. Not only in marriage, but in anything!

Whether in finances, or work situations or other relationships, even in our relationship with God and His church, we act like it really doesn’t matter what we say, we just want to do as the moment demands. We live in a time and culture when the term “Commitment” has lost its meaning.

The Apostle Paul had something to say about commitment. He said, “Therefore, I urge you… to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Check out Romans 12:1-2. His point in these verses was to encourage Christians to be committed! And to be committed whole-heartedly to the Lord!

That’s good advice, isn’t it? Whether in our marriages, our studies at school, our work, our relationships, or our involvement in our church, it pleases Him when we commit ourselves to whole-hearted devotion to Him. He honors that and is honored by that!

Some years ago, a friend handed me a cartoon where a fellow was pictured walking away from a stone altar. The caption under the picture said, “The only trouble with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar!”

And we tend to do that – make a commitment to the Lord, then continually try to figure out how we can get out of it.

Let’s face it. Life is filled with bumps and bruises, and some of them, even many of them, are pretty difficult to face.

The encouragement we all need to hear and understand today is that life with the Lord, even with all the rough spots, is so very much more fulfilling than life without Him. So quit crawling off the altar!

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former local minister.

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