Last weekend my husband and I traveled to Connecticut for my nephew’s wedding. We were planning to bring my daughter, Johanna, but she has been struggling with intense headaches and pain in her spine. As I tended to her the night before, I seriously thought of canceling the trip. That’s just what I do when Johanna isn’t feeling well because there are very few people who are comfortable caring for a medically fragile kid. However, an experienced friend and my son offered to care for Johanna so we could go to the wedding.
Once the decision was made, I felt an overwhelming relief. It wasn’t until I boarded the ferry that the situation really hit me. As I was walking up the stairs of the boat, I realized that no one needed my help. I didn’t need to hold anyone’s hand (the older man beside me shuddered when I instinctively grabbed to help him.) Without a walker or wheelchair or a service dog, it was easy to keep up the pace with the rest of the travelers.
When we finally arrived at our hotel, we scrambled to get to dressed and rush to the wedding. It felt a little like a date now; Steve was dressed in a suit jacket and even wore a bow tie. I wore make-up and pretty red heels. Since my daughter went back to college, I started dyeing my own hair. I have gotten pretty good at mixing colors and even got a little creative with a hint of red. But last week, one of Johanna’s doctors called in the middle of my experimenting. A hint of red turned into a wave of red. But at least the grey is gone, for now.
With little excuse for being late, we arrived at the church just as the bride was stepping out of the limo. We quickly ran across the grass, hair and heels flying, as my brother ushered us to the groom side of the church. We settled into the pew with my mom, siblings and spouses, some of whom I hadn’t seen since my Dad’s funeral five years ago.
As my brother and his wife walked down the aisle before the bride and her parents, I was struck at how beautiful they both looked. The years had aged them, but their commitment to one another was obvious in the respect they showed and glances they exchanged between them. Memories of their wedding flooded my mind for that brief moment. I was a child when they met and a teenager when they married. My first views of dating and marriage were formed in watching my brothers and their wives. Thankfully, between all three of them, my brothers have over 75 years of marriage to the same wonderful women whom I call my sisters.
The nervousness and excitement of the bride and groom was palpable. Tear filled glances and shaking hands amplified the reality of this awesome commitment. The Pastor was a lovely woman who proclaimed the Gospel from John chapter two; the wedding feast of Cana. As she read this familiar gospel, I pictured a young couple, much like my nephew and his bride, filled with hope and excitement, tinged with nervous energy about the lifetime to come. In my mind’s eye, I saw Mary and Jesus rejoicing in their Jewish heritage and the celebration of life before them. I felt Mary’s concern as she noticed that the hosts had run out of wine. Mothers are like that. We notice the details that escape most, especially when it comes to serving others. Soon, when the guests were looking to refill their goblets with wine, they too would realize and the embarrassment of the hosts would put a damper on this lovely celebration. So Mary did what all good Moms with an adult son would do; she told her son to fix the problem. And when Jesus responded with a typical son questioning the validity of a Mother’s concern, Mary again did what all good mothers do. She went around Jesus and told the servers to follow her son’s instructions to fix the wine problem, thus forcing him into an awkward position that required a solution.
I love this very human, cultural exchange between a mother and her son. It shows me that God is in the details of everyday life. He is concerned about the little things that seem so big to me. Jesus, cornered by his mom’s firm and loving insistence, has the servants fill very large jars with water. Then he tells them to take a sample of the water to the headwaiter, who by now, must be in a panic over the lack of wine. The scripture says that the headwaiter, not knowing who did this, tasted the water that had become wine. Then he excitedly grabbed the bridegroom to compliment him saying, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely (and a lot), they serve an inferior wine. But you have saved the best for last.” (John 2:11).
As the Pastor read these words, I was awestruck with insights, as if I had never heard the passage before. First, miracles begin in the ordinary details of life. A mother’s concern jumpstarts a miracle; ordinary water turns to wine. Miracles can be defined as God using the ordinary to do something extraordinary.
The final words of this gospel resounded in me. “You have saved the best for last.” Surrounded by the witness of years of fidelity and love, I glanced at my husband, who himself was caught up in the warmth of this celebration. I realized that love, like really good wine, takes a long time to cultivate. All great wine begins with tender shoots that grow into strong vines and bear fruit that matures with special attention and care.
Such is the making of miracles in our lives. They begin with ordinary vessels filled with water. We hold the potential of miracles right in our hands, in a glance, a word and a touch. God takes our ordinary lives and does something extraordinary. And the best is yet to come. Like aged wine, enduring and faithful love matures into the marriage of a lifetime. The weathering of struggles and joys are all part of the fermentation process. One day, or on a lovely autumn afternoon, you realize that your miracle has already begun and it started with you.
As my husband and I walked down the aisle hand in hand, I felt light of heart. The convergence of young love and old love, of water and wine, was sweet drink for my thirsting soul. Miracles happen, sometimes early, sometimes late. No matter when they happen, all miracles begin with ordinary lives touched with extraordinary grace. So, if you are waiting for a miracle, remember oftentimes, God saves the best for last.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.