These are the words I shared with my son and his bride today—their wedding day. Perhaps they will encourage you:
Eighteen years ago, it was just another normal Tuesday night in the high desert of Southern, CA. My partner and I drove to Palmdale to make a follow-up visit on a family that had visited our church—the Shannon family. After knocking on the door, it sounded as if someone was home, but no one came to the door. Saturday I tried again. This time, Tammie came to the door, but was hosting her daughter’s 3rd birthday party and asked me to return another time. One week later, I finally met Curtis at his front door and was invited in to sit and talk in the living room. We connected immediately, and quickly became friends.
Tammie stayed busy during most of the visit, though I did invite her to meet my wife sometime. I remember saying, “You and my wife would become good friends if you would come back and meet her.” And somewhere amidst all of the grown-up conversation, there was a cute brunette little girl peaking around corners and listening in. Curtis introduced her as his daughter Hillarie. She was three.
The Shannon’s came back to our church. They soon became members. Their family grew and so did ours. Before long, Dana and Tammie did become friends. So did our children. And as our families had more kids, they became friends too. Birthday parties, kindergarten graduations, elementary field trips, church events, holidays together, youth activities—months turned into years… and sadly, decades. For a season the Shannons were our neighbors. For many years they served the Lord with us in music and student ministry—conducting class, presenting musicals, hosting rehearsals, planning banquets, driving buses, counseling teens, and investing their hearts into local church ministry.
Over all those years of faithful friendship, we often wondered if Lance and Hillarie might one day fall in love. We sometimes even prayed that way. From before kindergarten they were such good friends. They complemented and encouraged each other in a myriad of ways. Through elementary school their friendship developed. In junior high and high school they continued to be “friends.”
During his final basketball season of his senior year of High School, Lance and I were driving home from Long Beach late one night. On those drives, our conversations often went deep. Lance would usually ask questions about life, future, college, and marriage. This time he asked about Hillarie. “Dad, do you think Hillarie and I will one day be married?” I paused, wanting to answer in a way that didn’t reveal bias or create pressure one way or the other.
“Lance, it’s possible, but it’s too early to really know. Either way, I think God will probably take your lives apart initially—so be prepared for that. During that time he will grow you and mature you both. He will build your dependence and Hillarie’s dependence upon Him alone. And if it happens to be His will, then He will bring you back together. You just have to follow Him more than your own desires.”
And then I added one more thought. “If it is Hillarie, you wouldn’t find any better, that’s for sure. And there would be something really cool about the fact that you’ve been friends since you were four.” The conversation trailed in other directions at that point.
Several more years passed, and then at about the time when we had all figured they had permanently gone their separate ways—God had other plans. He turned their hearts toward each other in a more serious and long-term way. And it didn’t take anyone long to know that this time it was for keeps.
From when he was five, to that late night drive, to today—his wedding day—it sure seems like life has blown by like a bottle-rocket (except there’s no whistle and trail of smoke… just bewildered emotions and cloudy memories—for which I have chemo to thank!) For the past seven days, all I can think is, “Where did the time go!?” I’m old. (My wife is still young, by the way.)
I can’t believe it’s Lance’s wedding day! What a profound privilege it has been to be his Dad, and Larry’s and Haylee’s. What an adventure we’ve enjoyed together. What a joy it has been to follow God together. What a dream to get to serve God together—at least for a season.
Lance and Hillarie—congratulations! We (your parents) love you more than life itself. We couldn’t be more thrilled that God has brought your lives together ’til death. We couldn’t be more anticipating how God will use and bless your lives and ministry together. We couldn’t be more pleased with how you have honored us and the Lord in your lives and relationship. It’s all just a massive dream come true!
Dana—congratulations! You are a phenomenal mother. Unbelievable, off the charts, redefining the very word, raising the bar higher than ever before. Your heart, your love, your joy, your energy, your bubbly personality has so abundantly blessed our home and family.
Curtis and Tammie—congratulations! We love you and your family. We cherish your friendship. We thank you for laboring so tirelessly to bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We thank you for serving to sacrificially with us in student and music ministry for so many years. Thank you for leading Hillarie to prepare her heart for the Lord and her future husband.
Pastor Chappell—congratulations! Thank you for staying for 27 years in one church. Thank you for mentoring me in making a follow-up visit that would one day prove providential in a very deep and personal way. Thank you for being our pastor and for loving our children as they have grown up. Thank you for allowing God to use you in providing a healthy ministry environment in which our children could thrive.
Lancaster Baptist Family—Thank you! Thank you for influencing and investing into our lives and our children. Thank you for showing them that the Christian life is real and worth living.
Emmanuel Baptist Family—Thank you! Thank you for embracing strangers. Thank you for helping us transition. Thank you for loving us, for letting us lead, and for embracing healthy change that glorifies God and allows Him to revive our church. We are thrilled that you are the church family that God has called us to, and we dream passionately for our future together.
Lance and Hillarie, a personal word to wrap this up.
You two are embarking today into one of God’s greatest creations and epic adventures—marriage. Looking back on twenty-three years of my own, I can only tell you, next to being saved, being married is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Difficult? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Tough times? Absolutely. Lots of stretching and growth ahead? You bet. Easy or effortless? No way. But wonderful? In every way!
Here are three things I can tell you for sure.
God will bless your lives in direct proportion to how supremely you love Him. Together, pursue Him and the fulfillment of His call. He has brought you together to use you together. Share the call. Share the vision. Complete each other to the fulfillment of His dreams. Don’t have competing dreams. Share one vision to love God as a family and serve Him with passion and fervent commitment. Become a team, and together seize every opportunity He gives you to influence others and make a difference with His truth. Keep God first in your marriage and home, and keep your eyes fixed upon Him as you run your race together!
God will bless your lives in direct proportion to how well you care for each other. Outside of your faith, the greatest gift you have in life is each other. The health of your friendship should be one of your greatest pursuits and highest priorities. If you neglect each other, you will pay a very high price. Next to Jesus, love each other the most—in tangible ways. Let your love be visibly, measurably greater for each other than lesser things in life. Let it be so obvious as to leave no question. Give generous helpings of time, sacrifice, and personal investment to each other in frequent abundance!
God will bless your lives in direct proportion to how faithfully you navigate hardship. You are going to traverse some stormy seas together. There will be tough seasons. Relationally, financially, physically, spiritually, and in ministry—you will face unpredictable seasons. Each of these is an opportunity to grow, to glorify God, and to move forward in real faith and dependence. These hard times are when you prove your love for each other and your faith in God. Your testimony whispers in the good times, but it shouts from the platform of your trials. During our lives most difficult times, our God is doing His most marvelous work. Remain steadfast and faithful to the Lord and one another, and you will emerge from hardship refined, closer, stronger, and more abundantly blessed in many intangible ways.
Marriage is God’s idea. You were God’s idea. This moment is God’s idea. It’s a picture of how much Jesus loves us! Hold on to Him, hold on to each other, and determine to enjoy together all that He has in store for your future.
Being a spouse is one of the greatest privileges and challenging responsibilities in all of life.
By God’s grace, I believe you will become a great team for His glory!