Saturday, September 23, 2006

"I Do"

Fourteen years ago this week Sean and I were sunning ourselves on a beach in St. Croix, enjoying our honeymoon. It seems like forever ago but if I close my eyes I can still see the umbrella I sat under, I can smell the salt air and feel the heat of the sun on my face. I can also hear the hum of the air conditioning that ran in our room 24/7…

Our wedding was amazing. It was the best wedding I’ve ever been to! The music was phenomenal, a perfect mix of Sean’s tastes and my own. My childhood piano teacher played a medley of Amy Grant’s greatest hits, while our church’s worship director led a flautist, piano player, classical guitarist and two vocalists in several beautiful pieces. There was also a pipe organ - definitely Sean's choice.

I cannot even begin to count the number of people who were there. Tons of our parents’ friends, friends of Sean’s from work, and friends of mine from college, many of whom had traveled great distances to be there. I don’t think at the time I appreciated that sacrifice. I certainly do now.

And let me tell you, my Mom knows how to throw a party. Ours was the best wedding reception ever. We got married at seven in the evening and had a fully catered dinner following the ceremony in the church’s activity hall. Okay, it was a gym, but the way my Mom had everything arranged it looked more like a beautiful wedding chapel, just one with brown athletic flooring.

The food was great. (Or so we’re told. We were so busy we didn’t get to have any.) The DJ was excellent, and people stayed long into the night dancing. It was part wedding reception, part family reunion. I guess all weddings are. But to me, ours felt especially festive.

The best part of the whole evening, though, was the words spoken by the minister, who just happened to be my wonderful uncle. As we were planning the ceremony he asked if there was anything special Sean and I wanted said during his sermon. We told him, “Just make sure you tell us, and everyone there, what God wants a marriage to look like.” Boy did he ever. Here’s what he said to us:

“Sean and Christy, there are many things that I could share with you now that would be helpful or meaningful or interesting to you as you begin your married life together. But in this moment I want to put aside what might be good and helpful and focus on the one reality that is absolutely essential. It is the unseen foundation upon which all else can be built in your marriage. What is this essential foundation? I want to encourage you to continue to seek to know and grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul, after many accomplishments and after attaining great stature and reputation, concluded in Philippians. 2:8 that his life goal was, “to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death.” I want to challenge both of you to immerse yourselves in your relationship with the Lord.

In John 15, Christ said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” I want to encourage you to seek to “abide in Him,” to spend time with Him each day, to trust each day to Him.

Sean, I want to challenge you that the highest priority in your life would be to grow in your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Your next highest priority would be to encourage, pray for, and enable Christy to grow in her relationship with Christ. Christy, I would challenge you with the same thing.

I want to challenge you as a couple to remember what God’s agenda is for you – oneness. Now you can choose, as many people do, to settle for less than oneness. It would be much safer, more comfortable, easier, less painful, to settle for less than oneness. But if Christ is your Lord, oneness is what He wants for you. To choose oneness is to choose to know Christ in deep ways, and to richly taste of his mercy and grace. Because to pursue oneness means that you must courageously face your own sin, your own sinfulness, and its impact on each other. It will terrify you to realize how poorly you love. But it will lead you to great freedom and strength when you experience the reality of the love and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul also said in II Corinthians. 12, “When I’m weak, then Christ is strong, because His power is perfected in my weakness.” Don’t be afraid of conflict, of pain, of struggle, but be afraid of settling for less than what God has for you. The intimacy of the marriage relationship can give us the clearest picture of our own sinfulness, also the greatest experience of the mercy and grace of Christ. I want to challenge you to live your lives, your marriage, in such a way that if Christ is not who He says he is, then your lives and marriage will be utterly destroyed.”

Fourteen years ago those words sounded good, but in the glow of the candles I honestly thought, “How hard can this be? We love each other, right?” I had no idea how difficult it would be to live out those words.

We’ve had some good years, and some years where we’d both packed our suitcases and were ready to hit the road – in opposite directions. It has only been the grace of God that has held us together in the good and the bad.

So, happy anniversary to us! I hope the next 14 years see us continue to grow in our love for the Lord, and each other.

Good night, who are those young people?