26 June 2008

Weddings and Marriage

The month of June is normally a time for weddings. You can see pictures in the local newspapers of a number of couples who have ‘tied the knot’ and they look so happy and blissful. Young love is simply a beautiful thing. It makes the world go around. It makes ‘old timers’ reflect over the intervening years when they went through the same experience. Isn’t life wonderful? In the midst of so much ‘gloom and doom’ it is good for us all to pause and consider some lighter moments regarding matrimony and the time honored event that we call a wedding. In my years of preaching I have performed several weddings for young couples. There have been some unusual happenings that occurred before, during and after the actual ceremony. I must begin with my own personal experience.

I went all the way to Wildwood, Florida , to meet who I hoped would be my future in-laws. Now brother Sam Slaughter was an impressive looking gentleman from the old school. He had worked for the Seaboard Airline Railroad for many years when I first met him. He also had cattle on his farm that was located between Wildwood and Oxford , just off of U. S. Highway 301. I finally got up enough courage to ask him if I could marry his daughter. Well, would you like to know what he asked me in return? Out of the blue he asked, “Can you hitch up a team of mules?” My integrity was immediately tested. I had to reply in the negative. Brother Sam later said to brother Orvel Boyd in my presence, “Here this young man wants to marry my daughter and he can’t even hitch up a team of mules.” Now I have never understood the connection between hitching a team of mules and marrying the love of my life. I really think he wanted to know if I knew how to provide for his middle daughter. I did go ahead and marry his daughter and to this day I still don’t know how to hitch up a team of mules.

I have been requested to perform wedding ceremonies for many couples but never in this fashion. I was visiting in the hospital in the city where I was preaching when a lady who was employed by the hospital approached me in the hall. Now this lady was a member of a congregation in a different city and she knew me and I had seen her on occasions during gospel meetings, etc. She walked up to me and the first words she spoke to me were, “Will you marry me?” Now I had never been asked exactly that way before, not even when I was single. I knew what she meant but having a sense of humor I had some difficulty in answering her in a collective manner but I did and I said I would.

The ceremony that I have used over the years has been a traditional one. I remember on one occasion the young lady said to me during the rehearsal that she did not want the part of the vows used that had her to repeat “to obey” her prospective husband. I didn’t use it and I don’t think she did. Someone didn’t obey someone because the marriage failed after a few years.

In one wedding the father of the bride was unable, because of sickness, to give his lovely daughter in marriage so her brother was chosen to do the honor. During the rehearsal I instructed him how to bring his sister down to front of the auditorium and where they should stand in front of me. I then instructed him to reply to my question ‘Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?’ in this manner, ‘Her father and her mother.’ He smiled and took this responsibility rather lightly and I reminded him that things would be quite different during the actual ceremony so we went over this part again. It was a beautiful wedding with the men in their tuxedos and the ladies in their lovely dresses. When the time for the bride to enter, her brother escorted down to where they stood in front of the wedding party. I had some choice words about marriage and the sanctity of the home and when I had finished; I looked the bride’s brother in the eyes and asked in a very solemn manner, ‘Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?’ In all seriousness and without any hesitation he replied “Mama and Daddy” and with that he turned and sat down. Well, the groom and the bride were grinning from ear to ear and the entire wedding party was about to laugh out loud and there I stood trying my best to carrying on with the ceremony. The gentleman had no inclinations to be so formal when referring to his parents as ‘Her father and her mother.’ But I have learned whether while preaching, conducting a wedding or whatever, you have to learn to ‘roll with the punches’ and carrying on the best you can, and of course, with a sense of humor.

But on the serious side of matters I want to mention that in preaching for two different congregations recently I had three ladies to walk up to me and mention that I had married them. Two were from the same congregation. The first lady said, “You married me thirty-nine years ago and we are still together and I love you for it.” The second one informed me that I had performed her wedding ceremony thirty years ago. A younger sister in Christ and her husband reminded me that I performed their wedding twenty five years ago. The lady introduced me to a son, a handsome young man, age twenty two. I could mention several couples that I performed their wedding ceremony many years ago and who remain married to this day. Most of my friends who attended the same Christian college that I did and who married are still living together with their mates. They are proud grandparents and in some cases even great-grandparents.

My wife and I, the Lord willing, will celebrate our fifty third wedding anniversary this year (August 19). I pray that my generation will not be the last to believe that this sacred and beautiful relationship is for life. I trust there are scores of young Christian men and women who will hold marriage in high esteem as God has intended. Our Lord Jesus Christ in answering a question said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” “So then they are no longer two but one flesh, Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

To Be One With Each Other
What greater thing is there for two human souls
than to feel that they are joined together
to strengthen each other in all labour,
to minister to each other in all sorrow,
to share with each other in all gladness,
to be one with each other
in the silent unspoken memories?
~George Eliot (1819-1880)

1 comment:

Nancy Hood said...

What a sweet story!! I love listening to you and Virginia tell of your courtship and the early days when the babies were little~we love you both bunches!!