Garrett and Claire,
I’m sitting here in the green room on the morning of your wedding and reflecting on all the miles traveled with the two of you to this point. From the bank tour and band concerts, movies at the house with coffee and good food, Mariners games and concerts – to today.
The moment is right – a culmination of a thousand moments – and I am looking forward to today’s celebration with excitement. No matter what happens in the ceremony or with people – good or bad – don’t let anything rob you of the joy of the day. Your hearts have been yearning for this moment where you say to one another “I am yours – You are mine.” And now, by the time you are reading this, you likely have said your vows in the presence of your family and friends and before God – the promises made and the marriage begun with a horizon of dreams and hopes ahead.
Before I give some counsel for future days I want to say how grateful I am for each of you. Garrett – I am so proud of the young man you have become. God has given you a kind heart, gentle and strong. You act after reflection. You consider, not only your own needs, but the needs and desires of those around. You serve others with the goal of bringing them happiness. And you are also able to lead others by example and with patience and kindness. I love you and I am grateful for your life. As a parent, I mainly feel my inadequacy and failures in raising my kids – you included, but I am grateful that God has worked even through my weaknesses and has formed you as He has. On a side note you have definitely been – by a ways – my easiest child so far 😊. Claire – It has been a pleasure having you in our house all these years. I love your ready smile – the way you enjoy things. My friend Bob once said to me, “Small things delight you,” and I think we share that in common. I am delighted to welcome you as daughter (no small thing) and look forward to the years ahead with both of you. It is clear that the two of you have been designed for each other and I am grateful to God for the gift you are to each other.
You both are musicians, but more than that even you are music lovers. I feel this way about music too and I want to use music as a metaphor for what I have to say to you about the days ahead.
This life is a mixture of joy and sorrow. We naturally tend to want to skip over the unpleasant things in life – avoid them if we can, ignore them if we can’t. But this life is not that way. Hard things come. Sometimes very difficult things. Both of you had life and death experiences in your middle school days. The weight of the world felt heavy and you felt alone. We have an enemy of our soul and he wants to rob us. He has a goal to isolate us and take our eyes off our hope in the Lord – to bring us to despair. Your own natural dispositions may even tend in this direction. So I want to say a couple things about this. A great song has tension and even dark moments. The notes bump against each other. The Gsus creates the tension that creates intense longing for resolve. Life has dissonate chords. Sometimes things don’t seem to work – life becomes hard. Sometimes the dissonance seems interminable. When this happens as it inevitably will there are a few things I want you to remember. First – difficulty does not need to drive you apart. It can. Many marriages do not endure hard things. But God’s design is not that a husband and wife are driven apart by sorrow but instead are forged more deeply and thoroughly together through the pain. Just as a master composer uses tension and resolve to craft a perfect song or a painter uses light and dark to portray a perfect setting – God uses both joy and sorrow to forge you together and to form you into his image. Romans 8:28 says God is working all things together for good to those who love Him. This is not saying that God’s children will not experience hardship but that even the hard days are being used by Him for your greatest good. So when these seasons come hunker together (rather than isolating) and seek the Lord together – trusting that the Great Composer is at work creating a magnificent symphony even when you cannot see how it could possibly resolve into anything beautiful. He makes all things beautiful and you can trust him with your life. “Weeping lasts for the night but joy comes in the morning.”
Harmony. Mom, unlike me, is a great harmony singer. There is obviously a place for soloing but normally we do not expect to hear a voice or instrument in isolation. And we would think someone strange who only listened to single instruments. No, we expect piano and vocals, vocal harmonies, brass, strings, percussion. In the same way we are not meant to live alone. Yes, your marriage is a major piece of not living alone. But you will need more. I encourage you to be intentional about making good friendships. Garrett find other men your same age and older that you can encourage and be encouraged by. Claire find women that you can learn from and that you can share life with. Make friends as a couple with other couples – though be cautious to keep some boundaries in place with friendships with the opposite sex so you are never getting your emotional support from a man or woman other than your spouse. In healthy relationships with others you will find their gifts and insights invaluable to you as you make your way through life. The God-designed place for this to occur is in the church. At church we are reminded of the hope we have in Him and we are in a place to use the gifts He has given us to serve others. When you make this a priority – not just to attend church – but to engage with the church (the people) you will find fulfillment in doing what God has designed you to do and be strengthened by what others have been gifted with. Seek to make these relationships more than surface. Get to know people – be transparent about your own struggles and doubts, and I know you will find this is one of the best pieces of counsel I can give you.
I won’t mention names here but I know I have heard names of folks from band over the years who, shall we say, were not contributing to the quality of the band sound. What happens when this is you? The bible rightly says we are all sinners. This is not a theoretical statement. So when you belch out a wrong note in your marriage (possibly obliviously as some of your classmates) what should you do? Dealing with wrongs (sin) is probably the most important thing I could tell you about. And I could say many things about it but let me see if I can boil it down to a few essentials.
- Your spouse is not perfect. Not even nearly perfect. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23. You both are idealistic – meaning you tend to see the best in each other and gloss over each other’s flaws. This is not a bad thing necessarily but there may come a morning when you see a glaring flaw – so then what? The knight’s armor is not so shiny – the princess’s beauty is not so charming. This is going to happen. You should plan on it. And when it does the first thing you must remember is that you are also a sinner in desperate need of help yourself. As long as you consider yourself above the other (this is her problem – this is his problem) you will not be able to effectively help the other. Instead you will drive a wedge between each other.
- Jesus died for sinners. The cross shows us how ugly our sin is. Jesus didn’t die on a cross to pay the penalty for pretty good people. The cost shows us He died for wretches. It is possible you may not see this or see this fully right now. We tend to think of ourselves as pretty good or trying hard and that God is pleased with us because of this. Which is exactly why we need to remember the cross. Jesus, who is God, came in the flesh and suffered nails through his hands, though He himself was without sin, so that the just penalty we deserve (death and hell) would be paid for those who trust in Him alone and not our “pretty goodness.” If this reality of the ugliness of our sin hits us then the message of the forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus is glorious. Though I deserve death for my sin, Jesus has died the death I deserve in my place. There is no way for us to do this even partially. The gospel or good news is not “do your best and God will do the rest.” In fact to the extent we think we can do it – we make light of what Christ has done. Instead the Gospel says Christ has done it all (Ephesians 2 is very helpful with this idea). Christ has died for us we are called to trust His work for us and not our own goodness.
- Forgiving each other may at times be hard. In fact it may well be impossible. I know it may seem hard to believe that you could possibly hurt each other deeply but most people experience both giving and receiving hurt from their spouse. When this happens you can move away, isolate, sulk, despair, get angry, become bitter, hate or forgive. This kind of forgiveness – a moving towards rather than away from the offender, a helping hand to the sinner rather than a slap in the face or cold shoulder is truly only possible when we recognize our own failure before God and receive his undeserved forgiveness. “The one who is forgiven much loves much.” So if/when these dark moments of sin happen either to you or because of you – GO to your Father and receive his forgiveness and then extend that forgiveness quickly to your spouse. Don’t let bitterness build up. Confront each other lovingly when there is a grievance and then have a heart, because of what you have received, to forgive. If there is a top key to marriage built to endure and thrive even in hard times – supernatural forgiveness is it.
There is more to say and I hope over the years ahead there will be many conversations and times to be together. Mom and I love you in a way you probably will not fully understand until you have your own children. Our hope is not to intrude on your lives – you are after all to leave your mother and father and cleave to your spouse – but we also would love to have as much time with you as we can. Visit anytime – call – ask questions – hang out. Our hope is to have a closer and closer bond with both of you as the years go by.
And now it is time for the big moment. A dramatic and beautiful movement at the beginning of what will be a symphony. The moment your bride stands at the back and looks you in the eyes, Garrett, as she prepares to join you at the altar, will be something you remember always. As you leave tomorrow for your honeymoon, revel in your first moments together as husband and wife. There is such a joy in being, at last, joined with the one you love free to go and do as you please. Enjoy each other. Be patient with each other. Learn more about each other. Be a student of each other. And when you get back to the real world… do more of the same.
Marriage is a glorious gift – and “he who finds a wife finds a treasure.” So delight in each other – and more, delight in the one who gives good gifts.