“For a man’s ways are before the Lord’s eyes, and He considers all his paths.”-Proverbs 5:21
Yesterday I officiated a wedding. The program listed me as the “Officiant.” It seems like a strange title, as if I am on some field officiating a game. Pastors do play this precarious role of refereeing relationships, but this usually comes later when all too many joyous weddings turn into angry marriages. Flagrant fouls are committed, and someone has to step in and make a call.
But on Sunday, as in most weddings, everything was perfect and all the blemishes were covered up. Nestldown, hidden in the hills on the way to Santa Cruz, was the setting. Lush gardens, ponds, waterfalls, redwoods–all were beautifully manicured for the occasion. The wedding party was stunning, the bride and groom were immaculate, and proud parents were radiant. The guests were in their Sunday best, and everyone was in a celebrative mood. Flutes, harps, photographers–everything and everyone was in its place, under the watchful eye of the coordinator. Even God came through with perfect weather. He ALWAYS comes through!
This is when the mind begins to imagine all that can go wrong.
Maybe it is just me (and too many weddings), but I think most pastors realize how precarious things are in such moments. Like secret service agents, our eyes are watching for any threats–as there usually are–
-will a mother begin to uncontrollably sob (either over the daughter she is losing or the son she is gaining)?
-will the oh so cute ring bearer get distracted and get lost halfway down the aisle–or scream?
-will the best man fumble the ring handoff?
-will the nervous bride suddenly get sick and hose the place?
-will I draw a blank when introducing the couple?
-what will I do If this ceremony goes longer than expected? Why am I sweating? Will my bladder explode?!
It’s the culmination of a long journey that began with premarital counseling, where anything goes. After the exchange of pleasantries, I usually get down to business, asking searching questions like–why do you want to live with this person? (Hoping they are not sharing a residence already). Have you met the family? Are you aware he is not working? Sometimes I will ask each one if there is anything he/she could change in the other. I do this to see if they are okay if it does not change–because it often doesn’t. A few years ago, the future groomanswered–“Her looks.” (I’m not kidding!). Not a good answer. Thankfully, he pursued individual counseling, and today they are happily married.
The post wedding journey is more harrowing. After the honeymoon and the sugar coating melts away under the heat of marital responsibility, one is confronted with the realities of those vows that were shared, the sacred covenant that was made, and the meaning of unconditional love that needs urgent application. There are also predators that still lurk.
The father in this proverb is aware that marriage is no insulation from sexual temptations. His son faces a world where temptresses have no respect for marital boundaries. And nothing has changed in 3000 years. There is the potential of a fatal attraction to smooth words and sensuous lips, and things done in secret. Behind the sweet, however, there is the bitter; underneath the invitation to live it up, there is the worst of deaths. Behind the promise of more is the reality of less. Unfaithfulness will take away everything you have worked for.
Near the end, the sage uses the “for” to summarize. We live under the rule of an omniscient God. We live in a world there nothing is ultimately hidden. Our thoughts, our desires and affections, our motives, our ways–are all before God. He scrutinizes our tracks. God can see an emotional affair as clearly as a physical one.
So today–in this crazy, sex saturated world, watch over your heart. Maintain the same scrutiny as God. Immerse yourself in wisdom. Let it be the gate that guards your heart. Too much is at stake. The beauty of a wedding can be trashed in a foolish moment.