The hauntingly beautiful bagpipe strains of “Highland Cathedral” filled the spring air as I gazed, along with our guests, through the trees that lined the vineyard on that gorgeous May afternoon in 2003, eager to capture my first glimpse of the bride– our daughter, Sarah. And suddenly, there she was– stunningly beautiful and graceful on the arm of her father, my husband Dan, who struggled visibly to keep tears from surfacing. Clearly, he sensed at that moment– like I did– that something hugely significant was happening in our lives.
Regally, they turned a corner and made their way to the rustic, floral-covered arch ahead of us where her bridegroom, Jason, waited with his attendants. Then, characteristically, this was the part where the pastor was supposed to say, “Who gives this woman to this man?” and Dan would undoubtedly have replied, “Her mother and I do,” before he stepped back, possibly kissed her, and took his seat beside me. But that’s not what happened.
No one was as surprised as I was when the pastor handed his microphone to Dan, and Dan proceeded to address Jason:
“Jason Bradford Rose, this is the day that you have been waiting for. But in fact, it’s the day that Susan and I have been preparing for, for many years. Sons leave home, but daughters are given.
A son leaves his father and mother in order to take a wife and establish a new home. A daughter is given to a young man who is ready to establish a home. The purpose of the Lord is for godly families to be established on the earth. We see that in Genesis 18, where Abram was to command his children in the way of the Lord. It is for this purpose that your parents, Jim and Barbara, prepared you, their son.
The book of Malachi communicates the purpose of a godly home in which two become one, and raise godly seed. God is seeking families to be established on the earth, who will raise godly children. This is the burden that we, Sarah’s parents, carried: to prepare a daughter fit for the man who has responded to this high calling.
I stand here today at the threshold of this new covenant of marriage that is about to be established. I am ready to relinquish my duties as Sarah’s father, as her protector and covering, and give her hand to you in marriage, so that in agreeing to this covenant, you become her protector, her covering, her husband. While it has been my duty to care for, nourish and protect Sarah as her father, you now take on these duties as her husband.
I conclude my responsibility with a charge and a blessing:
To you, Jason– take up with joy this high calling of a husband. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Protect her, provide for her, lead her and love her in all godliness.
To you, Sarah– gladly follow Jason as your husband, submitting to his leading. Pray for him, encourage him, assist him in embracing the vocations to which God calls him.
To both of you– establish a godly home. Embrace the privilege of having children, and joyfully take on the burden of raising godly children, as this is the purpose of two becoming one– the ultimate purpose being to glorify God.
I bless you!”
Then he kissed Sarah, hugged Jason, and sat down beside me. And at that moment, I understood what had just happened in our lives.
For a long time, I had struggled over the “…her mother and I…” part of the ceremony. I didn’t want Dan to include it in Sarah’s wedding ceremony– but not because I felt any less involved than Dan was in bringing Sarah to this turning point in her life. Without a doubt, as a mother I had been completely in the saddle with my husband in our child-rearing. Both of us had taught and trained our children. Both had taken turns sitting up at night with croupy kids… both of us had participated in the ups and downs of raising them… both of us had rushed to the ER in grief when we found out she had been seriously injured in a horrific car accident…both of us had shared responsibilities in educating the kids… both of us had cared for and spanked and nourished and disciplined… and both of us had blessed this new marriage.
But it was because I knew that my role and Dan’s also had distinct differences that each of us would ultimately be accountable to God for. His– not mine– was the burden and the role of protector, provider, and spiritual covering. Except in the case of my husband’s death or abandonment, as a woman I should not have to bear such a heavy load. My role was to bear, train, nurture my young, and assist my husband in every way as we brought our family purpose to completion. It was my husband’s name that our daughter carried, typifying his protection and covering over her, until the moment of this covenant transfer where she took on her husband’s name in acknowledgment of his role as her new protector, provider, leader.
Over and over, the Bible points us to pictures in life that help to illuminate Christ, and give greater understanding of Who He is, and marriage is one of the pictures the Bible speaks of. “The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body… Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:22 forward.)
Somehow, in our current culture Christians along with non-Christians have lost the picture of Christ’s protection and provision over His Bride, the Church, as women have sought to be equal, or superior, to their fathers or husbands. Women are currently entering all kinds of arenas where they are being required to take on great burdens that they were never intended to carry, of protecting, providing and defending. I can’t help but think of the seriousness with which God punished Moses for trivializing the picture He had given of Himself, when Moses struck the Rock– which was a picture of Christ– instead of speaking to it as God had commanded him. He didn’t lose his salvation, but Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land.
Soon after Dan had given that exhortation to Jason and Sarah at their wedding, several other upcoming fathers-of-the-brides asked him if they could use his words at their own daughters’ weddings. What a great joy it was for us! Later, it was published by Greg McPherson in his newsletter for “Life Track Ministries,” and we have no idea how many fathers used it from there.
Had the pastor asked, “Who blesses this marriage?” I would gladly have listened while Dan said, “Her mother and I do.” But had he asked, “Who gives this woman to this man?” I would gladly have let my husband bear that responsility, then relinquish it to her husband who is now–like Christ is to His Bride the Church– her protector, her defender, her provider, and her leader.
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