I was in college but home for the summer. A girl I’d been dating asked if I would be her date for the wedding of one of her sorority sisters. I vaguely knew the girl, who came from a wealthy family, but not the husband-to-be. The wedding was held at a small Presbyterian church in an older, rather well-to-do suburb of New Orleans. I knew where it was; two good friends from high school had lived just down the street from the church. And the reception was set for one of the most exclusive country clubs in New Orleans.
It was on the way to the wedding service that my date told me a little bit more about the wedding. It was unusual in that the groom was Catholic and the bridge Presbyterian. It was even more unusual that neither planned to convert to the other’s religion. There would also be few of their sorority sisters attending, and I shouldn’t expect to see many people sitting on the groom’s side of the pews, although they would be more people at the reception.
“Are the families not speaking to each other?” I asked.
“No,” my date replied. She took a deep breath and then explained. “The groom’s family is Mafia.”
Then it all clicked. A girl from a wealthy society family was marrying into a Mafia family. And a member of a Mafia family was marrying into a wealthy society family. In 1970 New Orleans, that simply didn’t happen. I doubt it would happen in 2016 New Orleans.
At the reception, the bridal couple were upstaged by the arrival of one of the invited guests, the Mafia chieftain whose territory ran from south Louisiana to Tampa. He was more than well known. “Notorious” would be the word. He had been the subject of more newspaper ink and federal investigations than you could imagine. (He would eventually be caught and go to prison.)
No, not your usual wedding and reception. Bodyguards accompanied this guest through the reception line.
Two years later, I ran into my date from that evening (we were no longer dating). When I asked her how the girl who’d been the bride was doing, she shook her head. No friends except for other wives in the “family.” Her former sorority sisters stayed away. Even her family stayed away. She was desperately unhappy, and felt unable to do anything to change her situation.
“She’d been warned by all us,” my former date said. “She said she knew what she was doing, and she knew that love would change everything.” But it hadn’t.
In Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength, Christa Black Gifford talks at length about how we tend to blame God (or deny He exists) when things go badly, as they often do. “This is where God takes the most punches,” she writes, “bearing the blame when the free will of others leaves us broken and bleeding.” Or our own free will, and our own free choice. Or we experience or read terrible things, and ask where was God, and if He exists he must be a cruel taskmaster to let these things happen.
We forget we have free will, and that others have free will. We forget this is a fallen, broken world. We forget (or deny) that there is a very real enemy who wants to destroy us.
“Friend,” Black says, “stop being surprised when wounded people act wounded; they will continue to hurt you until they are healed.”
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading Heart Made Whole. Consider reading along and join in the discussion. To see what others are saying about this chapter, “The Reconciled Heart,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by Irina Pechkareva via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.