On September 4, I participated as a parent in the wedding of my daughter. In an enchanting, tall- and clear-windowed chapel in the heart of Missouri, festooned with baskets of chrysanthemums beginning to burst into riotous color, drenched with the sun and a suddenly, miraculously, cool breeze, filled with caring witnesses, an exquisitely lace-bedecked bride and handsome groom flanked by their attendants arrayed gloriously, with smiles and tears, in a service rich with Scripture texts from the Song of Songs and the book of 1 John, “Be Thou My Vision” and “In Christ Alone,”—a place and moment Spirit-blessed to endure as a now—I witnessed Stacey and Evan say their vows, and I said one of my own to give her away. “I do.” “I will.” “I do.”
Never having been the mother of the bride before, I was in for a shock regarding how momentous it would be. It was a tectonic shift, a good passing bright with future prospects which nevertheless has its sorrow, as any end of an era does. I ponder deeply the significance of my vow to give her away. The familiar landscape has fled. I now live in the quiet darkness of a dawn, the yet-to-be-known of a new reality.
And I watched the pair come toward each other with fearless love and trust to make vows with no qualifications. Two beautiful wholes became a more beautiful, different, whole. A family was born.
If things are real, then things that make things are more real. (Ancient and medieval philosophers’ unquestioningly presumed that every effect has a greater cause.) Words of covenanting promise make real things. Words of covenanting promise are more real.
This is not to be wondered at. God “let there be’d” all things into existence. He spoke, and they came to be. The worlds are formed and sustained by the word of his mouth. He gives himself to His people in his Word, his Name, and the Word made flesh. In our redemption, he speaks a word effectually. In church this morning the worship team introduced a new Getty-Townsend hymn, “By Faith,” whose climactic words are, “We will stand as children of the promise.” The promise renders the future sure. And when Christ comes, it will be as bridegroom coming for bride, lover for beloved, a prospect—a reality!—so precious that you cannot keep back the tears.
He has conferred on his image bearers a derivative capacity to covenant into reality. We say let there be, and there is. We say I do, and there is. In the reality forged in the promise, a home and children come to be, and to stand.
Words unmake reality also. Words of attack destroy a home. In this broken world, what may be needed is to unmake a reality turned destructive. We may need to say, I don’t. But this too may be God-like. Jesus came “to destroy the works of evil.”
But there is something more real than covenanting promise. Where there is “I do” or “let there be,” one person covenants with another. Most real, then, is the persons who covenant together in the promised word. Promise makes reality, and promise requires person to promise to person. The covenanting vows are made good in the context of interpersonal relationship of trust, a person who loves and a person beloved. The word made real is as good, as real, as the steadfast covenant love of the person who speaks it. Most real is the Lover who says, “Arise, my darling, and come with me,” and the beloved who says, “Place me like a seal over your heart.”
We sensed the blessed presence of the Holy Spirit in that sun-drenched, breeze-caressed, event, in part because persons made vows of love to each other, and thus made reality. In that moment we caught a glimpse deep into the heart of the real, into the heart of God.
God’s deep blessing on your marriage, Stacey and Evan Smith. “Here in the love of Christ we stand.”