How I Acted like Myself at my Friend's Wedding (instead of that other perfectionistic person I used to be)

By Chaney Mullins, board of director for Healing Center International

Weddings are some of the most joyous occasions, but as someone who struggles with anxiety, they can also be sources of tremendous stress. I’ve been in many weddings now, and they used to be punctuated by extreme distress—complete with feelings of inadequacy and devastation whenever the slightest thing went wrong. But recently, I have been learning more and more at each big, panic-inducing event to implement skills that I have learned through HCI so that I am inviting Immanuel into the ugly moments as well as the happy ones. 

In 2016, I was honored to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of my former college roommate. I arrived two nights before the wedding, and there was a lot to do in 36 hours. As soon as I arrived, the bride called me to say she was running late picking me up from the airport, and started listing all that had already gone wrong. I was able to stay calm, to focus on listening to her concerns. I offered reassurance and comfort, but mostly just stayed relational, knowing my job isn’t to have all the answers, but to be present in the pain.

When we got to where we were staying, our generous hostess showed us to our rooms. The bride parked her car in the street for the night, and it seemed like we would finally get some much-needed rest. But at about 3:15 am, we awoke to loud cries and commotion. The car had been towed in the middle of the night. No one had noticed the no parking sign in the darkness. In a fervor of activity, the groom drove to where we were staying with his car to give the bride a ride to pick up hers, and I was left to calm down our sweet hostess, who was beside herself, weeping with shame—feeling like it was all her fault.

I was able to coach her through a version of Shalom for my Body, which calmed her breathing, and then led an Immanuel session right there, leaning on the kitchen counter in the middle of the night. “Jesus, how do you see this situation? Is it our fault?” Both of us were extremely comforted by the words that he spoke and were at last able to sleep. We also felt so bonded that the rest of the wedding week we were great friends!

But that was just the beginning of how much I needed the skills I’ve learned through HCI. The next day I was told that with just over 24 hours to go, the programs hadn’t even been started. At first I felt shame that I couldn’t design one myself, but quickly returned to joy from shame so I had all of my brain “on” and could creatively solve the problem. I ended up calling a designer friend of mine who whipped up a program in a matter of hours, a program the bride thought was the most beautiful she had ever seen.

Getting them printed was the next hurdle. After the rehearsal dinner, we went to the local print shop, only to be greeted by an extremely stressed worker who was not happy to have another last-minute job. I recognized that she was overwhelmed and simply told her, “I’m so sorry we didn’t clearly communicate with you about this project. You must be feeling so overwhelmed.” Instead of losing my relational circuits, I was able to attune to her. We had to wait while she finished other projects, and as we waited, I became restless. Feeling my shalom slipping away, I turned to my companions and asked them to share their favorite part of the day. All of a sudden, we were smiling and laughing with recollections of rehearsal dinner speeches and unexpected anecdotes that the day had held!

The wedding itself was beautiful and nearly perfect. The day after, however, a sleep deprived Chaney hung out with the family of the bride, only to learn that the mother of the bride had severely injured her hip while dancing. It was painful watching her limp around, until I remembered that Immanuel could come help us with this as well! I rallied to family and we laid hands on her, asking for healing. Although she did not experience instant pain relief, we all felt so connected in our care for her and one another that joy filled our hearts.

As I reflected on those three days, I realized with delight that I had brought in HCI “exercises” to my week and was succeeding in making them a natural part of my lifestyle. From reflective listening, to Shalom for my Body, to Return to Joy from shame, to joy building exercises, to healing prayer. I shudder to imagine what that wedding must have been like if it weren’t for HCI! What a large impact just a small bit of experiential knowledge can have on our daily lives! I am so proud to support a ministry that is changing me from the inside out.

After being so impacted by the work of Healing Center International, Chaney now serves on its board of directors to help spread the message of hope and healing to our world.