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Seven Words That Will Change Everything

[A sleepless night provoked this post a few months ago. It sat in my draft folder until now. Reader beware.]

Considering the prospect of giving my daughters away makes this dad think. As a minister I may even officiate their weddings. These are my initial thoughts of what I want to say to them as their dad, first, and as their pastor, second.
Today, you enter into the covenant of marriage. As your father, I will walk you down the aisle and place your hand into your future husband's hand. In moments, you will hear the pronouncement, "I now pronounce you husband and wife." With those seven words everything changes. God tells us this in Genesis 2:24. At this moment you leave us and cleave to one another in marriage. The whole covenant context changes. You are now his wife. 

You've been raised as our covenant daughter. We promised to raise you in the fear and admonition of the Lord in and with the community of believers. We sought to do that. You have been such a blessing. Professing faith, seeking to follow Jesus, being bold with your faith.  God has shown His faithfulness in you. For that we will be forever grateful.
When I give you away and you hear those words, you will be moving from one covenant context to another. You are a wife; his wife. Our covenant daughter has become his covenant wife. Everything changes.
The words, "for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health and for better or worse" provide you the limits of this new covenant relationship.
Of course, we will still love you more every day. But it will be different.  Our love for you will be secondary to your husband's love for you. Your love of us will be secondary to your love for your husband. 
Of course, we will still pray for you every day.  But our prayers will sound different. Our prayers will be for your faithfulness to him...and Him. Our prayers will be that God is building you and your husband into a new covenant community. It isn't about you and us anymore. It is about you and him...and Him.
Leaving and cleaving means when you two fight, you lean in to one another. Work it out within this new covenant relationship you are building. Be quick to confess and quick to forgive. Keep short accounts. Don't call us.  
When you two have a big fight, when you are both so mad you can't see straight, call your pastor and elders. They are committed to both of you, as a married couple. 
Don't call us. We can't be objective. We won't be. We've given you away. You've left.  Leave us out of it. Seek reconciliation with your husband. He is the most important man in your life. Pursue him, cleave to him. 
Our prayers and love will be as those who are cheering you on from the stands. You are our girl. You two are our team. We will cheer and cheer hard. But we can't coach.  
This will be hard. But it's good. And it's right.
You've grown up as a "preacher's kid". Praise God that He placed us in a congregation where the members didn't see this as your primary identity. You were in Christ first. But still, you were a preacher's kid. So, if you remain in your hometown, try to find a new home church, you and your husband. You are leaving and cleaving and need to strike out as husband and wife, not husband and wife and "our pastor's kid". Pastoring you and our son-in-law would be fraught with challenges, for you, for him and for me. Leave and cleave. I will always be your dad, but with these important qualifications. I shouldn't always be your pastor.  
Speaking of church, find one that makes much of Jesus. He will make much of your marriage. Join a church and set yourselves under elders and God's Word. Find a church that preaches the text, and from there comes the topic. Stay away from churches that preach a topic and then find supporting texts. Find a church that values and is committed to God's Word as inerrant and infallible and the only authoritative rule of faith and practice. Find a church that promises to make much out of Jesus. This is your only hope in making much out of your marriage. 
If God should bless you with children, thank Him. They will be your covenant responsibility. Raise them in Christ. Point them to the eternal love of your Father, the preciousness of the blood of Jesus and push them to depend on God the Holy Spirit. 
Remember when you thought (and maybe even said a couple of times), "I will be such a better parent than you!!"?  From your mind and mouth to God's ear. We want you to be a better parent than we were. We made mistakes. You know that. You had a front row seat to many of them. But you are who you are not because of us, but in spite of us. You are who you are because of God's redemptive and sustaining grace. This will be true of you as a parent too. Fight for faithfulness as a mom to your kids.
God calls you to continue to honor me and mom. This is still true, but it looks different. Honor us by succeeding where we failed. Honor us by loving your husband well. Honor us by leaving us well and cleaving to him. Remember, you are both husband and wife, under the headship of Christ. As married people, follow Him. This will be hard. But it's good. And it's right. It is the way God designed it. 
God has numbered my days. In His perfect providence He may not allow me to give you away. I may not hear those words "I now pronounce you husband and wife."  If that is the case, read this. Mom will point you here.   
If God sends His Son back before you marry, then never mind all of this. We, you and me and your mom will gather around the wedding feast of the Lamb. He is your true Groom. Mine too. This is our ultimate reception. So, I'll see you there. Praise God! 

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