07 July 2007

Daddies and Their Not So Little Girls

Here's to my young friend, Lynea, and her brand-new, fresh-out-of-the-box husband, Jason, with heartfelt congratulations on this evening of their wedding day, praise and thanks unto the Lord Jesus for His blessing upon them, and intercessions for their life together in holy marriage. It was a joyous privilege to be in attendance at their wedding, to witness their vows and their union in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to pray Vespers with them. So do we live together in faith as fellow members of the Bride of Christ, His Holy Church, of which the lovely Lynea became a beautiful living icon on this day. A bride is rightly adorned as radiantly and beautifully as possible on her wedding day, not for the sake of outward vanity, but as a confession of the perfect righteousness of Christ, with which He clothes His Church by grace. Lynea appropriately demonstrated both the modesty and the glory of repentant faith in the One who is the heavenly Bridegroom of us all.

Up until today, Lynea has been under the care of her father; now she has been given to her husband, as the Lord once brought Eve to Adam and gave her to him. Lynea's father, my good friend Tim, offered some insightful comments about that very thing in his touching speech at the reception this evening. He described the transition that his daughter has been undergoing over the past several months, how she has been turning gradually away from him and toward the man who has now become her husband. That is all well and good, exactly as it should be, but one should not suppose it is an easy thing for a Daddy to let go of his not-so-little girl. Tim has two younger daughters yet to give away, and, if the Lord so wills, he may well be giving one of them to one of my own sons. For that reason, and because I also have several daughters of my own, including one who is now engaged to be married in less than a year, I listened pretty closely to Tim's words. His comments were not only well said, but poignant and helpful to me.

We earthly fathers are given to deal with our children in the name and stead of God the Father, by whom all fatherhood on earth is named. Yet, we give our daughters away to men who then love and serve them, as husbands, in the name and stead of our heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Surely there is no competition between God the Father and His Son. When the Father brings the Church to Christ Jesus, the New Adam, and gives her to Him (as a bride made ready for her Husband), He does not cease to be her God and Father. Indeed, the Church's relationship to the Father is precisely in and through and with her marriage to the Son, who is one with the Father. Not so in the case of Daddies and daughters. Of course, we do not cease to be their fathers when they get married, but the nature of our relationship is changed, and there is a tension of sorts between that paternal relationship and the new relationship that our daughters are given as wives to their husbands. Tim has gone through this with his Lynea, and I am just now beginning to experience the process with my DoRena.

It occurred to me that we earthly fathers and husbands are but icons of the Father and of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, our heavenly Bridegroom; not unlike the way that our wives are icons of Christ's Church, His holy Bride. Icons point beyond themselves to something more and other than what they are. Christian wives are members of the Church; so in that sense, they not only signify the Bride of Christ, but belong to her. It is different, though, in the case of husbands and fathers. We signify Christ to our wives, and the Father to our children, but we never do become the Father or the Son; we are, rather, members of the Bride, along with our wives and children. We are reminded of that distinction when we give our daughters away to their husbands, and we feel the sense of separation. Similarly, we earthly husbands eventually have to let go of our wives, when "death us do part." These relationships are profoundly significant, but they are temporal and preliminary to that which is eternal in the heavens.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, yet, but it seems to me there is a difference in letting go of a son to become a husband and letting go of a daughter to become another man's wife. As my Zachary is transitioning into adulthood, working away from home this summer and getting ready to begin college in the fall, I miss him a lot, but it all feels like an extension of myself, a continuation of who I am and of what I have received and handed over. Likely as not, he'll be getting married within the next few years, and certainly that will change my relationship to him. He's been under my care, as my child, and then he'll be taking responsibility for a wife and family of his own. In doing so, however, it won't be a case of someone else "replacing" me in his life, but rather his beginning to be and do for others what I have been and done for him. When my DoRena gets married, she won't become a husband, nor will she ever be a father. Instead, Sam will receive her as his wife and be the man who cares for her in the name and stead of the Lord, in a way that supercedes the place that I have had as her father heretofore.

Perhaps this distinction is importantly connected to the fact that a woman takes her husband's name, in place of her father's, when she is married (leastwise, that is how it always used to be). My sons will not only keep my name, but will share it with their wives and hand it over to their own children. My daughters, though, will go from being named by me to being named by their husbands. Thinking of that makes me a little sad, but it is a good reminder that my stations in life point beyond me to the Lord Jesus Christ and through Him to God the Father. Thanks be to God that the Name He has graciously bestowed upon us in the washing of water with His Word, the Name above all others, is the Name that we share with our Christian spouses and our Christian children, indeed, with all those baptized into Christ, forever and ever. Amen.

No comments: