"Her mother and I," with those words lives changed until death do we part.
I have presided over dozens of marriage ceremonies and have given a gracious smile to the father answering back those words to me. I now understand what it feels like to say those words and walk away from my daughter.
When our older son, Michael, married three years ago, I preached the marriage sermon in a similar way as I did last Saturday at Jennifer's wedding. Now married, Michael and I still enjoy the same relationship that we did before he made his vows. When I gave Jennifer away to James, our relationship changed, as it should. She now belongs to James and not to me. I gave her away.
James didn't have it easy with me when he first showed interest in Jennifer. I didn't meet him at the door with a shotgun, but I did make him pass some tests. If he was going to take my daughter away from me, he was going to do it with my blessing. My blessing would come to him after vetting him.
There is no man alive good enough for either of my daughters, but I also don't want them living at home forever either. And there's the person in my house who is interested in the title, "Grandma." So, I needed to get on board with the idea of my daughter marrying a man.
A few years ago, I contacted a number of older men I respect and asked them how they vetted the man each of their daughters married. I was stunned how little involvement the dads had before the wedding day. I wasn't willing to take that risk. I had a good idea of the kind of man Jennifer needed, and I wasn't willing to leave that to some guy's testosterone.
I needed answers to two primary questions.
Was this the kind of man Jennifer could follow? People can have much in common but still not be compatible over the long haul of marriage. Brenda and I know Jennifer, her strengths and areas of need. Her strength of character would carry her in most relationships, but for their relationship to blossom, she would need a certain kind of man.
Does he lead himself? A man will never lead other people if he isn't disciplined in leading himself. Young men should show growth in leadership as they mature, but even young men should demonstrate enough leadership of self to give confidence to a dad that he can take the responsibility to lead that man's daughter.
Last Saturday afternoon two Christian families intertwined, not at the arrangement of the fathers, but at the good pleasure of our Heavenly Father, who in His wisdom and kindness joined together two of His children as husband and wife until death parts them. Their mutual purity and innocent love drew us all into their joyful wedding. Over the next many hours, we laughed and cried, hugged and kissed, praised and petitioned. Then we sent them off to honeymoon in the way the God of heaven intended.
As both her dad and her pastor, I had two roles in the wedding. I also officiated the ceremony. I won't ask you to read the whole of my sermon to them and to all who gathered with us last Saturday, but here are my closing comments to James and Jennifer. It is as close as I can come to extending a blessing on them. They are built on Ephesians 5:22–32, the New Testament's most significant instruction on marriage - one woman and one man for a lifetime.
James, my son, go be Jennifer's husband. For the last 24 years, God gave me the privilege to lead her, but my time is done. I have led her as far as I can. Now the privilege to lead her is yours. In God's grace and with God's blessing, lead God's daughter and my daughter to places she could never go without you, a place where God is glorified and where happiness is both yours and all who interact with your blessed union.
Jennifer, my daughter, go be James's wife. By God's grace your mom and I have tried to build a godly home where you could flourish. Our time is done. Now, in God's grace and with God's blessing, go, my sweetest of children, and build a godly Christian home with this man, a home that brings glory to the name of Jesus and is good for you and to all of us who interact with you.
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.