Note: Below is the message that my friend Dr. Jim Cowman delivered on the wedding day of his daughter Courtney.
By Dr. Jim Cowman
Wyandotte Alliance Church,
September 21, 2013
When asked how he felt about officiating his daughter’s wedding ceremony,
Dr. Jim Cowman remarked: “Being asked to perform Jake and Courtney’s
Wedding Ceremony was the highest honor of my life.“
Looking at you with a father’s eyes, in all your bridal beauty, I cannot help being reminded of the little girl with dark hair all made up in braids who used to jump on my lap for one of the many viewings of “Cinderella.” And how could I forget how you covered your eyes when you saw the wicked step-sisters. And how you happily jumped off my lap, and joyfully danced around when the prince placed the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot, and it fit perfectly convincing him he had found the girl he had fallen in love with.
At your reception, when you and I dance to the song, “Have I Told You Lately that I LOVE You?” – (something our family asked one another many times), we will close the circle of life on your days in your parents’ household. Now you have found your own `real life’ prince! And in Jake, you have found a godly man who has more than enough charm, and heart to lead you through any future hurt, or harm, without alarm.
Truly this is a day that is life-transforming for you both. You will celebrate it every September 21st. And over the coming years, there will be many aspects of this day that will make a special claim upon your hearts and minds: the beauty of decorations and garments; the love of relatives and friends; the bounty of gifts and toasts; the joy of great food, music, and dancing. So many memories, photographs, records and mementos! But above all these good things there is one higher remembrance to which I would call you both: “Remember Your Pledge.”
Jake and Courtney, in a few minutes you make a very important commitment: one that you have been preparing for, and anxiously anticipating, since your engagement. Next to your commitment to Christ, this is the most important one that you will make in your life-time. God calls the relationship and agreement that secures the union of one man to one woman, a `covenant.’
You may be thinking, “How does the idea of a `covenant’ differ from a `contract’ when it comes to one’s marriage relationship?” I am certainly not a lawyer with legal expertise, but I can bring God’s perspective to bear on this. A `contract,’ you see, is a conditional agreement that is only as good as the parties’ wills and capacities to keep the conditions. When the stipulations of this kind of agreement are violated, the contract is null and void. The end. For example, if a builder contracts to build a mansion, but builds a dog house instead, no one is going to pay him the contract price.
A `covenant,’ on the other hand, is an unconditional agreement between two parties. The special and mutual obligations, to which husbands and wives are called, are not conditions qualifying the validity of the agreement, but positive reinforcements to make better what God has intended to be very good. Thus, there are no conditions that must be kept to secure the continuity of the agreement. Whether due to lapses of weakness or misjudgment, or common misfortune, or genetic predisposition—some difficulties are bound to come and they will tug at the fabric of our union. But such shortcomings, disappointments and failures have an answer: they are absorbed by love and forgiveness: “Love one another as I have loved you,” said Jesus; “Forgive one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you,” said Paul. (Ephesians 4:32); “Love covers a multitude of sin,” said Peter (I Peter 4:8). Jesus, the unfailing example of the Christian life, even forgave his enemies who condemned him to crucifixion, speaking from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).
To be sure, the rips in the fabric of our trust we may experience can be very painful, but, they generally fall far short of sending us to a cross. In fact, no matter how strained, pained, or tempted we may become, we are still commanded by God “To keep faith with the wife your youth” (Malachi 2:13-16). The unconditional covenant protects all parties: husbands, wives, children, relatives, friends and society; and it assures them that in their own household they are always accepted and loved.
Remember that the pledge you make today lists no condition, or exceptions to your commitment. You will say, “For better or for worse,” “for richer or for poorer,” “in sickness or in health.” You might add wrinkles, pounds, senility, joblessness, irritability, and cancer. Come what may, covenant keepers you must be. If you are tempted to think otherwise, remember your pledge.
Your parents do not cease to love you because, by your marriage, you begin a new household. The porch light will always be on and the door open. There will always be a place at our table and a bed in our home for both of you and what children may come – but we also realize that from now on, whenever you say, “there’s no place like home,” you will be referring to the home of Jacob Wesley Oosterhouse’s household, and not your father’s house!
May God crown your new home with a permanence, stability, and strength great enough to embrace all of its members in unbreakable unity!
So I say again, “Remember Your Pledge!”