the mystery of marriage

We have a night of blessing for young men in our church when they get married, and we had everyone over last night to spend some time with my son Michael, who is getting married in a month.

It’s a great time of fellowship, with a healthy blend of jokes, advice and prayer. One part of this event is a blessing by the father for his son, and here is what I had to say:


When you were 18 months old, I taught you to say you were a poet and a philosopher. And I was pretty close.

Certainly you are articulate beyond your years, and always have been. People treated you like an adult when you were a child because you sounded so grown up.

Like any poet, you have a gift with words and a greatness of heart. You feel deeply and care passionately, and it shows in your relationships, your art and your faith.

You’ve managed this depth of emotion by becoming a philosopher as well, thinking carefully and arguing endlessly about words and the ideas behind them. Sometimes this allows you to process your feelings. Sometimes it allows you to escape them.

You can be completely transparent and you can be extremely guarded. You are still learning when to do which. And you will learn much more about that in the next two years with Karina than I could teach you in ten.

But you have learned much in many areas, and have been faithful as a friend, a brother, a teacher, an artist, a writer and now as a lover. There are so many things about you that bring me joy. I am grateful to call you my son.

But I am also grateful to call you by your name, Michael Joel Metts. These are not only the names of your godfather and my grandfather. They are strong, significant biblical names. Michael Joel, the prophet of the day of the Lord, a messenger of God and his work among us.

I suppose when you were small I should also have taught you say you are a prophetl, at least in the sense that every man in this room tonight who follows Christ should proclaim the truth of God.

I’m not sure how this will play out in your life. You may report this truth, or photograph this truth, or preach this truth. But you must proclaim it. We all should.

I make no apology for giving you a name, as I did your brothers, which calls you to higher purposes and ideals. My prayer for each of you is that you will aspire to be elders in the church, godly men who lead your families and others into faithfulness. Your mother and I long for this and rejoice in the faithfulness you have already shown. This is our prayer for you, and our deep desire.

But tonight we celebrate your choosing not to take this journey alone. I congratulate you on choosing Karina Lynn Mora to be your bride. She is a woman of character, beautiful on the outside and the inside. Your mother and I cherish her, and pledge to love her as our own flesh.

Scripture says he who finds a wife finds a good thing, and this woman your love is good and virtuous and strong. Together you will learn lessons I cannot teach you, lessons are only learned in marriage.

“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and his church.” This is what Paul says in Ephesians 5 when he says we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.

We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, and it is for this cause that a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

There are 50 men here tonight, and none of them can tell you what this means. We have all of us only scratched the surface of this mystery. No poet or philosopher or prophet has fully plumbed its depth or understood its power or known its joy.

Part of it I think is that in this mystery we get a glimpse of the joy that is set before us. I can sit on the porch in the afternoon with your mother, sipping a cup of tea, content in ever way. Moments like this show us something about what it is like to rest in God and experience his presence. Certainly it is but a touch of transcendence, but it is enough to make us desire more, and to long for our true home.

Another part of this mystery is that we learn to be like Christ as we learn to love our wives as we love our own bodies. And I can tell you this, we do love our own body. We might feed it or starve it; we might discipline it or indulge it. But we think about it all the time.

Now, I know you already think about Karina all the time. I know this because you no longer hear us when we call you, or acknowledge us when you are on your way to see her. You just walk out the door, thinking of her.

Imagine then that in every moment Christ thinks about his church in this way. We are never out of his mind or out of his heart. He longs for us and wants to be with us, and in this way he sanctifies us and purifies us and presents us holy and blameless before the throne of God.

In our best moment we can not love our wives as well as Christ has loved us on our worst days. You can not love Karina more than Christ loves you. And you must not love her more than you love him. Marriage is not just a way we understand this; it is the thing that must be understood.

All your best times will be mere shadows of the glory that will be revealed in Christ. Enjoy them, but contemplate them, and in these moments you will see the grace of God and find his mercy. Find your delight in him, and this frees you to find more delight in her.

There are many things that might blind you to the lessons God wants you to learn through your marriage to Karina, and I admonish you as your father and as an elder in Christ to avoid them. Here are three of them:

First, do not give you heart to another woman. You sometimes have too much confidence in your ability to resist sin. We all do. But the woman who might destroy your marriage is not a beautiful one, but a needy one. You are sensitive and thoughtful, and some woman in pain will want you to be sensitive to her and thoughtful about her problems. Do not give your heart to such a one.

Drink waters out of your own cistern, and running waters out of your own well.
Let your fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of your youth…..
Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and be ravished always with her love. Proverbs 5:15-20

Second, do not spend more than you have or desire more than you need. This again is a temptation we all face, but everything you own must be cared for and everything you owe must be paid for. Caring for stuff and paying for stuff can distract you from caring for her and spending time with her. It will also distract you from serving God or spending time with his people.

You will be surprised at how little she wants and you will be amazed at how much she requires. So do not try to make her happy. You will fail in this. You must each find your contentment in Christ. You can not be for her what only Christ can be for her. But you can point her to his sufficiency, partly by what you say and mostly by what you do. Rest in Him and find joy in Him, so that she can rest in you and find joy in you.

If the text in Ephesians says anything at all to us about this mystery it is that it leads to holiness, not happiness. Cleanse, sanctify, cherish, nourish. Holy, blameless, pure. Great words, but in this longest and most direct text about Christian marriage, there is not a single word about our happiness.

What happens when you chose the thing that will make you or your wife happy over the thing that will make you or your wife holy? And what happens when you make this choice over and over again, day after day?

The mystery of marriage is diminished, and you have a relationship not unlike that of any pagan. If this becomes your goal then you are without authority and without respect and learn nothing about who God is and how he loves us.

I am not saying you should be trying to make her unhappy, nor am I saying that you will not be happy together, sometimes for days and sometimes only for moments at a time.

I’m just saying this is not the goal. Christ did not lay down his life to make us happy, even though we often find in him abundance and joy.

Among the joys I’ve found, you are one.

So before these men I honor you as one committed to understanding grace and knowing truth, as a son who has been obedient, and whose maturity and judgment are, by the grace of God, equal to the task that lies before you.

May you learn more than I ever did,
and sooner than I ever could,
how Christ loved the church.

And may your marriage reflect it,
To Karina first, and then to us.

May your children and their children,
Both in the flesh and in the spirit,
Find peace in your home
And strength in your story.

And may the glory of grace change you,
The mystery of marriage amaze you
And the truth of God sustain you,
‘till death alone do you part.


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