This past Saturday, August 13th, I had the joyous privilege of performing the wedding of our eldest son Dan and his bride Kelsey. The entire day flowed as a series of showers of grace. As the father, I wanted to soak in all the little moments that wove a tapestry of blessing. But as the officiant, I wanted to hold it together to say the things that needed to be said and to preach a message to exalt the wonders of marriage, the goodness of God, and the blessing of knowing this God as Savior and Lord.
I had performed marriages before. I had my message well prepared. I was primed for that sacred moment when a groom tells his bride that he’ll stay faithful, “in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, till death do us part.” Contrary to all the joking the day before at the rehearsal, when a bride looks at her groom on her long awaited wedding day and says, “I do,” there is a hush and a sense that something truly glorious is taking place.
I had told couples to allow every detail, every unique unplanned side-drama (like when Dan almost tripped on one of the electric cords on his way out), and every thought that flits through your head to be noticed and cherished and held on to so they won’t be forgotten.
So I felt a tension as I stood next to my son, looking down the long aisle as his bride came over a little bridge, escorted by her Dad, to come to where this outdoor wedding would finally occur. (It had rained hard just a few hours earlier and was still drizzling enough to prevent the musicians from setting up sound equipment as late as 40 minutes before the start of the festivities). I needed to choke back the tears but I also wanted to allow them to flow as things all began. I wanted to register all the thoughts flowing through my mind so I could recreate the day in my memory as many times as possible.
That was the first moment of three emotional overloads – seeing Kelsey appear on the far side of the field. The thoughts started chiming in for notice as the tear ducts prepared for release.
– This is a picture of the bride of Christ and how God looks at us, his church!
– All those references to the bridegroom and his beloved in scripture. Here they appear in reality, right before my eyes!
– What is Kelsey’s Dad feeling right now?
– What is Kelsey feeling right now?
– What is my son feeling right now?
– Thank you, Lord, for stopping the rain!
Another moment that threatened a tear-free officiant’s performance came at the very end of the service as I recited the Aaronic benediction over the now-pronounced man and wife. I botched up one of the Hebrew words. This wasn’t all that big a deal. I quickly processed that hardly anyone would notice and even fewer would fault me for the mistake. But, all within the nanosecond of messing up the word, wondering whether I should try to re-pronounce it or just go on (I opted for the latter), the thought came that Dan would know. And so would David and Jon, our other two sons, standing side by side next to their brother. It all hit me that all three of my sons would know of Hebrew words’ correct sounds but would also rejoice that we would add to the end of the prayer, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” All three love their Jewishness. All three love Jesus. Who could not cry tears of joy at such wonder!
The one moment that caught me by surprise and thus required the service of a tissue came when Dan and Kelsey came forward to take communion. They had decided to incorporate that into their service, as the first act of worship together as a married couple. Only they would come forward, away from the microphone, so that only they would hear me tell them of the bread and juice that pointed to Christ’s body and blood, while everyone else would sing the selected song, “Before the Throne of God Above.”
As the three of us stepped forward, I caught a glimpse of my wife, her face peeking through Dan’s and Kelsey’s, as she sang a song she and I had come to love. I heard her voice intone the wonder that Christ is “a great high priest whose name is love.”
And that’s when I came undone.
How can I drink all this in? I’ve just told a crowd that marriage is God’s idea. It is his plan to promote intimacy and joy and strength and a million other blessings. And now I am mere seconds away from praying for my son and his bride as they begin a lifetime together. And in the midst of those realizations, I’m reminded of God’s bountiful grace to me, in providing a beautiful, godly wife for over 31 years. We are joint-heirs of the grace of life. We have walked side by side through the darkest of times and, now, today, on the most joyous. He has used our marriage to make us both more like Christ, more grateful for his grace, more dependent on his power to love, and more enraptured by the fact that he is indeed “a great high priest whose name is love.”
After Dan and Kelsey partook of the bread and the juice, they prayed alone, with me off to the side…where I could just watch and enjoy…and wipe away tears.