I trust I can be forgiven for writing a lot about marriage recently.
There are several reasons for this. One is that I am married, and I spend a lot of time thinking about it.
But I also recently became the associate pastor for family ministries at our church. And marriage is all over our calendar this fall. In addition to a bible study in our home on marriage every two weeks, I’m meeting with two other couples regularly and we have a shower and two “nights of blessing” on our docket.
A night of blessing is a tradition we started ten years ago, when our oldest son got married, and we have now done it several times with others, including last night with Kyle, Tina’s fiancée. Tina is the daughter or our friends Kim and Ivan Hoyt, who returned from the mission field in Argentina for the wedding.
The night of blessing is the antithesis of a bachelor party. It is an opportunity to welcome a young man into a community of men who take the responsibility and blessings of marriage seriously.
It is not entirely sober—there is lots of laughter, but it is sobering nonetheless. After eating together, the men share lessons and advice. We take an offering of pocket change, reminding the groom that they may not have much of that in the foreseeable future.
And we finish with both the advice and the blessings of the father and the father-in-law to be, a brief charge by an elder and a prayer. It’s very intense. And it’s very welcome. The young men in our church have found it to be one of their most memorable experiences.
In my charge last night, I encouraged Kyle, who is himself and is also marrying a type-A personality, to protect their rest:
I don’t mean by this that you should protect her play. She is playful enough. Not do I mean you should protect her work. You both work hard. You must protect her rest. You must be thoughtful about what you can do and should do, but also what you can not do and should not do.
Rest, I said, is important because our weaknesses loom larger when we are tired. “Our intemperance as often as not will reflect the pace of our lives, our running when we should be standing still,” I said. “Stop. Think. Rest. Sleep. These too are God’s mercies.”
As an elder I find it impossible to consider these events without reminding young men again and again that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. For Kyle, I put it this way:
I remind you again that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. And I remind you that the church is not just called to serve him, but to rest in him—to set aside its striving and its fear, and to rest safely in his ever lasting arms.
Advice like this is personal and also universal. The men who come say they are strengthened in their own marriages. We are, after all a community of men who take marriage seriously, a calling to sacrificial love.
If you are interested in this, here are some links to charges from nights of blessings in the past:
And wherever you are I encourage you to consider this model of sanctifying the purpose and the promise of marriage for young men who are just beginning to understand what it is to love their wives as Christ loved the church.
We have another one this week. About fifty guys will gather at our house to encourage our associate pastor Rob, who is marrying Lindy Thanksgiving weekend. It will be a night of blessing indeed.
One of many, for them and for us.