Jess and Natali

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The Scriptures are full of metaphors that describe the glory of fulfilled longing. That longing, the kind of thing that is frequently no fun at all, is nevertheless the basis for one of the deepest kinds of joy.

One illustration used for fulfilled longing is the imagery of “return from exile.” Psalm 126 puts it this way.

When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Fulfilled longing can seem like an impossibility, like it is too good to be true (v. 1). Fulfilled dreams seem like dreams, but it is the longing that fades away as the dream takes over as the reality. Our response to this is, appropriately, laughter (v. 2). Not the laughter of scorn or mockery, but the laughter of overflowing gladness. C.S. Lewis said it well in one of his stories when he described the kind of occasion where people make jokes to have an excuse to laugh, but the laughter is already there. A second result of this gladness is music—singing. This is explosive gladness, and it simply must have an outlet.

Nonbelievers can’t figure this out, but they do know that God is with us. They see that God blesses His people (v. 2). Not only do they see, but we see it also (v. 3). We know that God blesses, and this is the reason we are glad. And this should be noted well, because one of the perennial temptations confronting conservative believers is the temptation to forget the infinite kindness and graciousness of God to us. He loves to deliver us, He loves to bestow on us. He loves to give.

But this is a pattern to live by, and not just a one-time lesson drawn from a one-time event. A return from exile is celebrated, but then, in the next breath, the psalmist pleads for God to turn their captivity again. Those who have been freed from captivity need to be (continually) freed from captivity (v. 4).

Here is the pattern. Here is the template. Here is God’s way, God’s discipline. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy (v. 5). Desperate longing and complete fulfillment. Promise delayed and promise completed. Death, and then, three days later, as the cornerstone of our faith, resurrection.

Plowing, taking rocks from the field, planting, and then, as it seems, waiting forever—all of this falls on the longing side of the register. But the long promised deliverance comes, and, when it comes, it comes in overwhelming joy (v. 6).

Now this is a wedding, and Jess and Natali are both standing here, silently testifying that they believe being unmarried is for the birds. This is a day of gladness, laughter, singing, rejoicing, eating and drinking, and then more laughter. It is a day for laughter and lovemaking. It is a day for proud parents, toasting, and feasting, with the day culminating in virginity exuberantly surrendered. In short, this is very much a return from exile. What could go wrong?

But in the warning of the psalmist, we are reminded that we need constant reminding. In the middle of the dream-like deliverance, when we are pinching ourselves, we are learning what to do next. When God teaches us to sow in mourning so that we might reap in gladness, He does not do this just one time in our lives. Farmers go out to plant annually, and they bring the harvest in annually. When we have learned the lesson of hard planting and glad reaping, what does God want us to do with this? He wants us to do it again. When we have prepared a meal, and enjoyed it fully, it turns out that God wants us to do it all again the next day. If we do something once, and think we have it down pat, this means that we do not even begin to have it down.

So Jess, the fulfillment of your desire to be a married man is now here. That is the good news. But a different kind of good news is also here. All the lessons you learned, growing up into a man of God, are lessons that are all still applicable. God schools us, teaches us, disciples us. And everything in your life up to this point is a necessary prerequisite for what you are now going to undertake.

You might ask what good some of that was. You learned how to trust in God with your longing, and now your longing is all fulfilled. Doesn’t that mean you were acquiring a spiritual skill you no longer need? Not at all. Before you are all kinds of unfulfilled desires—desires for children, desires for blessings for your children, or deliverance for your children, desires for vocational blessing, desires to have the Monnette household make a profound difference in the world, desires for godly spouses for your children, desires for grandchildren . . . you get the picture. The desire you have had to be married is the kindergarten of desire.

Too many Christians are nervous about desire in itself. Instead of learning to surrender and discipline it in the service of Christ the Lord, in the name of spirituality they cultivate a kind of mystical apathy. “If I don’t want anything, I can’t want it wrongly.” They bury in the ground the one talent they have been given because they falsely believe they serve a harsh master.

Longing that is deranged is lust. But the problem with lust is not that it is so powerful, but that it is anemic. God’s plan is for us to grow up into maturity. And maturity does not mean a condition in which you no longer want anything. That is lethargy, not maturity. In the process of maturing, your desires—along with you—are growing up.

And so Jess, my charge to you is this. Want way more than you do. Desire God’s abundant blessing, not in a grasping and selfish way, but desire it as a blessing for others. Like Jacob at Peniel, wrestle with the Lord, and refuse to let Him go unless He blesses you. Seek a blessing for your wife. And when you have it, seek one for your first born. When you have that, always ask for something more. And, of course, the central blessing for others that you should want is the blessing of your obedience in relation to them. When you ask for that, you are asking in the will of God so ask high. When you ask for that, shoot the moon.

Natali, your charge is a simple one. You are a very accomplished woman, and you are here to give all those accomplishments away. But note that I said you are to give them away, not throw them away. As you give them away to your new husband, you are trusting him to guard them for you. He is doing a similar thing—surrendering all his accomplishments to you, so that you might return them, thirty, sixty, and one hundred fold. He gives to you, you glorify it, and return it to him. This is the kind of mutual sacrifice and giving that makes Christian marriage so glorious.

The world tells both men and women to be selfish, to acquire, and then to protect what they have gained zealously. But Scripture tells us to acquire as much as we can so that we can give as much as possible. A worldly woman gathers against the possibility that others might cease giving to her. Why do you work so hard? “So that I will have something, just in case . . .” But the believer, working just as hard, gathering just as much, does so for a completely different reason. Why do you work so hard? “So that I will always have something to give . . .”

Jess and Natali, you are both here for the same reason—to give the other the gift of yourself. You are each offering the other quite a remarkable gift. You are both well-educated, you are both full of fun, you are both hard-working, and you are both wise. But most of all, each of you loves the triune God above all. And because of this, as you give this gift, He is present and promises to bless it. And when He blesses something, it is like walking into a dream.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, amen.

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