The couple was elderly and they wanted to be married in the home where they were going to live. On the day of the wedding I arrived 45 minutes early to meet their families and fill out the required paperwork to make the marriage legal in the eyes of the state, or commonwealth, as is the case in Virginia. I had filled out marriage licenses in North Carolina, and the license for Virginia didn’t look any different, at first.
You see, in the state of North Carolina, a minister must be ordained to perform a ceremony. I thought that same rule would apply in Virginia. As I was filling out the license I read something that informed me of something different. One of the questions was: In what county are you licensed to perform weddings? Licensed? No one told me I had to be licensed in a county of Virginia to marry couples, and 40 minutes before my first wedding in Virginia was not a fine time to find out! As I was holding that license in my hands I could feel the terror fill up inside my heart and spread to the rest of my body. What was I going to do? I am going to be honest, the first thought that ran through my mind was to pass over that part of the license and not say anything to the couple. They were elderly and probably wouldn’t care if the commonwealth of Virginia didn’t recognize them as husband and wife. But I knew that would be wrong so I calmly asked someone for a phone book and the name of the Baptist preacher in the next town. The person asked me if everything was o.k. and I reassured them that all was fine. No sense in everybody being upset at me, and if I could talk this minister whom I didn’t know to come over and make the wedding pronouncement I would get myself out of this mess. I called him and explained my situation. I told him he had about 25 minutes to get over to the house and save me from a world of embarrassment. Believe it or not, he came. I performed the entire service and at the end of the ceremony he stood forward and said, “I pronounce you husband and wife.” He signed the license and the couple did not have to live “in sin.” That next week I went to the Lunenburg County Courthouse and was licensed to perform marriages in Virginia.
What did I learn from my Virginia experience? First, things in Virginia are different than in my home state of North Carolina. Second, anyone can be tempted to do the wrong thing to avoid embarrassment. Third, don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone you don’t know. Fourth, it is possible to be responsible for something you know nothing about! Fifth, not knowing all the facts can be disastrous. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This fact is the difference between eternity with Christ or eternity without Christ. Remember, don’t give in to sin. Think about it!
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