I can hardly believe that your wedding day is here. I wish I could say, "it seems like just yesterday I was meeting you in the hospital," but that's not true. I don't actually remember the day you were born, (sorry) but I do remember you getting sick and having to go back to the NICU. Of course I was too young to understand the severity of your conditions, but I am so thankful the Lord chose to keep you with us. Your presence has blessed our family beyond measure.
I have an image of you etched into my heart. You're sitting on the couch in the spot closest to dad's chair, sucking your thumb and rubbing your fingers across a tattered, yet loved, blanket. Oh goodness how mad I was that you got to stay home while Amy and I had to go to school.
I love our memories of jumping on the trampoline, swimming in the creek and playing in the barn loft. I'll never forget your inner tube and goggles at the pool, teaching you the Budget number instead of our home phone, or telling you that you looked like Dumbo. (Sorry...again) While we're throwing out apologies, sorry I told you that you were adopted. You weren't.
Of course I'm flooded with memories of birthday parties, Christmas mornings, ten thousand football games, and even a few dozen fights. But as I write this, there are memories that stand out above the others. Memories like cheering for you in the state football championship, reading the most touching letter of encouragement from you back stage at Miss Kentucky (and crying), and watching as you held my baby son in your arms for the first time.
Among those precious memories was the time I watched you from the church balcony on my wedding day as you sang the song of prayer Eric and I had chosen for our marriage. I still pray those words over us often, and never once have I taken for-granted the special role you played on that most blessed day.
Now the tables are turned, and today I'll sing at your wedding. I know the song you have chosen isn't technically a prayer, but it has become my prayer for you and Mandi as you unite in love. There is no relationship on this earth that can compare to that of husband and wife. I have learned more about Christ and his love for us in the past four years than I ever imagined possible, and the song you have chosen, "How Beautiful," reflects so much of what I have learned.
The song starts with the words, "How beautiful, the hands that serve the wine and the bread and the sons of the earth. How beautiful, the feet that walked the long, dusty road and the hill to the cross."
It is my prayer that you and Mandi will see the beauty in serving one another, your children, your church and your community, just as Christ served the sons of the earth. He didn't have to do that. He was and is King of Kings, yet he chose to humble himself by walking the long dusty roads and the hill to the cross. In marriage you too will have to humble yourself. You will have to put your desires on hold and exalt your partner above yourself and above all else. It won't always be easy. There will be days that you feel it isn't fair, that it isn't justified, that it isn't merited. But on those days remember that Christ chose a humble birth and a horrific death for sinners, for people who didn't deserve life, for those who will never proclaim his name, and for those who will never justify his sacrifice. But he did it anyway, and you will too because as the song implies, there is nothing more beautiful than a humble heart.
The second verse goes on to say, " How beautiful the heart that bled that took all my sin and bore it instead. How beautiful the tender eyes that choose to forgive and ever despise."
My prayer is that you will learn to carry one another's burdens just as Jesus took on our burden of sin at Calvary. Marriage truly is "joy shared and sorrow divided." When Mandi hurts, when she's angry, when she's heavy laden carry that for her, bare that burden just as Jesus bore yours.
My prayer is that you will have tender eyes and a tender heart for your wife. I pray that you will choose to forgive and never despise. The fact of the matter is, she will upset you. She will do or say something to break your heart. She will have traits that get under your skin, but just as Christ had mercy on you, have mercy on her. Forgive her short comings and she will forgive yours. (sorry to burst your bubble, but you do have shortcomings.) Always forgive and never despise, because there is such beauty in a tender, merciful heart. "Blessed are the merciful for they will she shown mercy." (Matthew 5:7)
We are at the point in the song where the words require action and commitment from you. "And as he lay down his life, we offer this sacrifice, that we will live just as he died, willing to pay the price. "
My prayer for your marriage is that you will see it as a living, breathing testament of Christ As I've written, it will require sacrifice, and you must be willing to pay the price. The world is watching, and your marriage must be an example of Christ's love, his sacrifice, and his mercy. Do not take this lightly for your very union is bringing glory to our Lord. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:14)
We finally get to the point where the words of the song reflect the event of an actual marriage. "How beautiful the radiant bride who waits for her groom with his light in her eyes. How beautiful when humble hearts give the fruit of pure lives so that others may live."
My prayer here is that you will never forget the beauty of your radiant bride as she waits for (you ) her groom, with his (your) light in her eyes. Never forget a detail about how Mandi looks on this day. Memorize her dress, her hair, her smell, her eyes. Never forget the feeling of seeing her for the first time or watching her walk down the aisle. Never forget the tender moments between you as you exit the sanctuary Never forget the ride to the reception site or any emotion associate with this day. Because it will be these memories that keep you warm on the darkest and coolest nights. It will be these memories that get you through rough patches, and it will be these memories that begin the intimate experiences that are only shared by husband and wife.
My prayer is that with humble hearts you will give the fruit of pure lives so that others may live. "Others" being your children. May the Lord bless your home with the love and fulfillment that only children can bring. May you teach them of Chirst's love through your example and your joy in one another. "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3)
May you find "How Beautiful" marriage truly is when Christ is your source of strength, love, and wisdom. I love you so much, baby brother, and I am so proud of the man you've become.