Last summer I officiated a wedding with my husband. It wasn’t the first time we’d done that, but it was the first time we were officiating the wedding of a couple that we had counseled—together—not just in a few pre-marital sessions, but over a period of years.
The previous summer Travis Wagner had proposed to Shannon Brawley, and there was a celebration at her mom’s home that evening. I was there. I got to pray over the newly engaged couple.
Sammy and I got to meet with them as they worked to get as ready as two people can get for marriage. They took that work seriously. They dug in, had hard conversations, cried, laughed, and prayed for their marriage. Despite their ages, they were as prepared as any couple I’ve worked with.
And then I got to stand with them before God as the God of creation created a new family.
I cried then, and I cry now, at the holiness and awesome opportunity of that moment.
I started from scratch when I wrote that wedding. It was no ordinary ceremony, and these were no ordinary people—five-foot-nothing girls who fell in love with men whose heights are only surpassed by their IQ’s, couples who believed in the purity of the wedding night.
As I prepare for another wedding with this family this weekend, I’m also thinking back to the worship we shared a year ago. Here are some words I got to share that day:
Shannon and Travis, you are standing before two pastors who love you…and who know a bit about those long-term, long-distance relationships that begin at Powhatan High School, continue across separate college campuses, and culminate in marriage. We know the maneuvering and posturing required for a simple kiss between a giant and shrimp. We know how annoying it is to hear, “Long distance relationships don’t last,” and, “Nobody actually marries their high school sweetheart,”…and we also know the pride of proving those people wrong:) We know the frustration of fighting for purity, and the blessing of protecting it. We know the fear and chaos of getting married in grad school with no money.
We know a bit about the road that’s brought you here. We’ve spent time with you preparing not just for this day but for the marriage that awaits you. And we tell you again—We are proud of you. You have worked hard, prayed hard, sought wise counsel, and put God first. You may be young and poor, but you have a rich relationship, one that you’ve invested in heavily and wisely...
“You are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. Therefore, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” ...
Shannon, when Travis is weighed down with studying, exams, long hours, budgets, and bills, respond with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. He carries a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders—responsibility that he craves. His dependability, responsibility, and stability are essential to your relationship. Remember that you love those qualities in him; remember that he carries that responsibility, because he wants to take care of you.
Travis, when Shannon is crying and talking at mach speed and there’s not a rational argument to be found in all the words and tears, when she’s begging to take you out on a date, when she wants to push aside the books and bills to carve out her spot beside you, respond with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. She brings joy, energy, passion, and love into every relationship and every room, and she wants to lavish all of that on you. That red-headed fiestiness and love of life and people are essential to your relationship. Remember that you love those qualities in her; remember that more than anything else in the world, she wants to be with you.
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and…patience.” You have proven to each other and to all of us that you can be patient. You’ve waited for this day for six years. You’ve waited for college degrees to be earned, for internships to be completed. You’ve waited to make sure this relationship was God’s plan for you. You’ve waited for the morning when you could wake up beside the love of your life.
You’ve waited for the end of the goodbyes. Your summer and Christmas breaks, your weekends at home, your dates have ended in “goodbye” for six years. The last “goodbye” has been spoken.