Lots of things go through my head when I officiate at weddings. Will the videographer be obnoxious? Once I stopped the ceremony when the guy with the camera actually came up on the platform to get a close shot. I turned, looked at him, said nothing, and waited, until he got the message and went back to his seat. It was priceless.
Another time I had one of the groomsmen faint in the middle of the ceremony. We stopped, pulled out the smelling salts, got him in a chair, helped him come to, and then went back to the ceremony.
I inevitably watch mothers of the bride sweat at weddings, (some more than others), hoping that everything goes perfectly. It inevitably does not! In fact, I routinely tell the bride that in all likelihood something will go wrong on the wedding day. “Nevertheless,” I say with confidence, “you will be married, and that is what counts.”
Also, over the years I am amazed at how much money people spend on wedding gowns and wedding clothes. They spend so much time thinking about what they will wear for one hour, and then seal in a box (that they hope to open twenty years later, when chances are, they will never be able to fit into the dress). Yet they spend so little time thinking about the “marriage clothes,” that is, the clothes we need to put on each day to make our marriage work—clothes like patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness, courage and love. I contend that we should spend more time thinking about the marriage clothes than the wedding clothes.
But last weekend was different. This time I was co-officiating at my son James’ wedding with another pastor. I “did” the first half of the wedding, then sat down while another pastor gave the message. It was a wonderful occasion, but I had an entirely different set of thoughts.
First, I kept thinking about whether I would “lose it” or not during the ceremony. This time it wasn’t the mother of the bride who I worried about, it was me! While officiating I was stuck somewhere between grief (losing a son and watching an era pass) and joy (gaining a daughter and enjoying them as a couple). I could not look at my wife during the ceremony or I would have lost it. I even had to pinch myself a couple times to keep my composure!
Along with that, I kept thinking about how fast time goes by. I remember when James was two years old, he once said to me, in a rather prophetic moment—“daddy, in just a few years I will be a teenager!” Where did the time go? How quickly he grew up. When he was young, some of those years seemed really long. On his wedding day, they seemed like a vapor.
Then I thought, by golly, he made it! He graduated and is getting married! I guess we didn’t ruin him. Like every parent, we knew so little when we started having children. We failed many times in being the right kind of parents. Yet he survived! And now he is committing his life to a beautiful young lady.
Perhaps like never before, It struck me how marriage is such a gift. Like many guys, I married over my head. God blessed me with an amazing wife who has improved my life in so many ways. Along with that, God has taught me lessons about life and love and about myself that could only come by having to learn to live with someone and love sacrificially. On top of that, he brought some amazing children into our lives who have taught us so many things. All this came through marriage.
These days, when everyone is trying to redefine marriage their own way, I can’t help but celebrate God’s wonderful design. His design is—one man and one woman married for life. Genesis says that the image of God is made up of male and female. In God’s design, a child needs to be exposed to the complete image of God and see a glimpse of his glory.
He designed marriage to be a secure environment for making oneself vulnerable to another human being. His design of marital companionship includes intimacy PLUS commitment so there is security. He calls us to enter into a life-long covenant. This is the best environment for having and raising children. It creates an atmosphere of security for a child to grow up in.
That is why in the Bible, marriage and family appear as the first institution, even before the state, the law courts, the economy, and the schools. This is the smallest unit, which is essential to the stability of the others.
Even in a fallen world, where we all have our dysfunctions, and some marriages fail, it is still God’s best means of fulfilling our craving for deep love, for nurturing new life, and for preserving order in the world.
So at this wedding, I got to look out and see my parents who have now been married 63 years, and my wife’s parents who have been married 54 years. I got to reflect on the blessings of my own marriage. Then I looked down and saw my son walking in this same path. I could not help but feel very thankful for God’s good gift and the many blessings that come through it.
We don’t say enough about this good gift.