Last week, my parents celebrated twenty years of marriage. In the past, each passing year has been somewhat of a slap on the back. Something to the effect of “Hey, you did it! Again! Great job!” sometimes without much reflection on what an accomplishment that really is. But this year, with the event of my own marriage, I am realizing how big a marriage anniversary is. Twenty years is a long time. My parents have celebrated and endured much over the past two decades.
I wasn’t expecting the weight of that commitment to hit me with such impact as I stood at the “altar” on my wedding day. Months before my wedding, I knew I wanted my father to not just “give me away” in the traditional sense of a kiss and a brief “her mother and I do” and then retreat to his seat. I asked him to pray about a charge – a commissioning – for Nick and me. I told him I envisioned something “Old Testament prophetic-style.” The belief is that in saying these words as a blessing and a prayer, with the authority God has given him as my father, that they would come to be.
This is what he said.
“Nick, years ago God blessed Will and Edie Simmons with the gift of a precious daughter to love and to cherish, to protect, and to promote. I have been blessed to share in that love and responsibility. Today, as Edie and I give Erika to you in marriage, you formally take your place in this line of love and responsibility. May God bless you with love and faithfulness beyond your human ability.
Nick and Erika, May the life you build and share together reflect God’s glory as you are transformed with ever-increasing glory into Christ’s likeness. May your love mature and multiply as you open your lives to one another, and then to another, and another. May God bless your home and make it a lighthouse shining Christ’s love for all to see. May His kingdom come and His will be done in and through and you.”
Even as my father finished his first sentence, I was overcome with emotion and my eyes welled up with tears. I had wondered for such a long time how I would feel on my wedding day, walking down the aisle, knowing a part of me would carry the loss of my birth father, my “Daddy Will”, with me. I wondered if I would grieve amidst my happiness, my heart heavy and light at the same time.
As my father spoke of God blessing him with the responsibility of caring for me, I flashed back to February of 1991, to the winter wedding of my parents in Walker Chapel at Mountain Christian Church. My sister Kelly and I participated in the wedding as flower girls, and because I was five years old, I was elated to wear a pretty dress and have all eyes on me as I walked down the aisle. I was excited to be a part of the wedding, but had no idea how much that day and my parents’ commitment would change my life, how it would shape my views of love and marriage, and have a hand in molding me into the person I am today. Instead of the two of them lighting a unity candle, my parents invited us to light a candelabra with them while the song “Welcome to the Family“, signifying that all of us were in this together, that Brian’s commitment was not just to my mom, but to all of us.
I am glad to tell you that I did not have a grieving heart on January twenty-first. My heart felt that it might burst with gratitude and love for all that shared in the day with us, but in that moment, especially for my father. I was reminded, at a gut level, that he chose me. That he took on so much in jumping in the deep end, in joining an already established family, and gaining three women in one day. That it was an incredible act of bravery and faith and love. It made me realize that Nick and I were about to do the same. In my father’s love I have experienced the love of my heavenly Father, and for that I am forever grateful. For the rest of my days, I will fight to live up to the weighty privilege and responsibility of trying to love my husband in the same way.