By Grace Thornton
Plastic wrappers and other pieces of litter rolled like tumbleweed across the empty space under the Jefferson Street Bridge.
Two hours later, enough chairs were set up to seat several hundred of Nashville’s homeless, and enough chicken and baked beans had been prepared to feed them all.
While many were still eating, a cloth was rolled down the aisle, and my friend Amanda walked through a crowd of her homeless friends to meet her fiancé at the altar under the overpass.
She’s not homeless. Never has been. Neither has Heath, her fiancé. They just have tasted the grace of God and now see people through the eyes of Christ.
“Husbands are called to be the model of Christ in their marriage and, as a result, communicate to the world who Christ is,” Heath says.
And Christ is a servant to all—especially the outcast, he says. Getting married among the homeless and outcast was a step in communicating Christ’s love.
When people ask Amanda why they chose a wedding in such an unusual setting, she shrugs and smiles. “It doesn’t really feel like we’re doing something out of the ordinary,” she said. “People get married at their favorite place, and our favorite place is under the bridge. We feel closest to God here.”
Those of us who weren’t regulars to their normal Tuesday night gathering of friends run by The Bridge ministry in Nashville, Tenn., didn’t quite know what to do when we first arrived, except we knew one thing. The homeless were to be the guests of honor.
Over and over we had the privilege of escorting guests as they walked to their seats, or talking with them and serving them plates of chicken and beans as they settled in for the wedding.
“You look beautiful,” one lady stopped and told the bride with a gap-toothed smile as she walked to her seat. Amanda beamed. She had carefully thought this through, and it was just what she wanted.
She had normal bride jitters, but she kept trying to remind herself that she and Heath were doing their favorite thing, they were just wearing different clothes—a fancy gown she had bought intentionally to wear in the dust and gravel under the bridge.
“I knew it would be dragged through the dirt, but I felt like God was saying to be the bride of Christ,” she said. “I felt like He was telling me I shouldn’t choose not to be beautiful just because I was going to be with the homeless, but to give them that gift.”
As a train whistle echoed under the overpass and Tuesday evening rush hour traffic shook the concrete, Amanda smiled out at a sea of familiar faces as the band played and sang …
“There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God
So many fallen, but hallelujah
There are no orphans of God.”
And then the couple pledged to love each other for a lifetime as they love the “outcast” together.
As they walked back down the aisle as husband and wife, Amanda reached out and grabbed the hands of several of the homeless men. “That was special to me,” she said.
She loves them personally. As Amanda puts it, she “looks the homeless in the eyes” every day on her way to work downtown. And she and Heath love them both spontaneously and intentionally—once, they spent a date night passing out cupcakes to their friends in a local park.
Their wedding feast was an extension of their everyday, missional lives—a celebration with the least of these on His behalf. Amanda simply explained, “We want God to be glorified.”