Saturday past was a ‘dad’s’ dream. Under a rain-laden sky, gunmetal gray and threatening, I married one of my ‘sons’ to one of my ‘daughters’ beneath a rustic arbor draped in white and wreathed in flowers.
My wife and I have had a ministry in the bride’s life since she was a very little girl. Some years ago, we caught wind that she was in love and the young man her knees went woozy for was very likely “the one.”
As only God could orchestrate it, this same young man was brought into our small group of twenty-something guys by his very best friend a few months after his very best friend asked me to start meeting with him on a weekly basis. “To go deeper into the Word,” as his very best friend put it.
That was in the early Spring of 2011, a season in which I had no ministry, no office, no nibbles, no outlook, except to quietly, patiently, and privately heal from an infection that nearly took my life.
Sick, weak and aimless, God opened a door and pulled me through. What I thought might be a tiny pantry door back then has become more of a barn door; maybe not in size but in magnitude of satisfaction. And, yes, I add humbly, lasting influence.
In time, God grew the group to a dozen or so millennial dudes who met every week in my living room for worship, sharing, and time in the Word. I called these guys my “young lions” and they’ve each been like spiritual sons to me. For nearly five years now, they’ve inflated my aging heart with pride (lions, get it?), purpose and supremest joy.
The guys call me Pastor; I could die now, quite happily.
So imagine my rapturous delight when the groom-to-be knelt at my feet one evening and asked me to marry him to his fiancée. Call me home now Jesus; I’m fairly done for.
They’re like my kids. Not in the procreative sense, mind you, for both have wonderful parents whom we love in every sense, but in a way that is eternal and sacred.
The ceremony was heaven-kissed (God even opened – momentarily – a bright crease in one spot of rain-dampened sky) and, after I pronounced them husband and wife and the gracious crowd of 300 erupted, a thought flickered in my mind as they strolled jubilantly up the aisle.
You and Sandy will see them change their world. It’s your reward for years of investing and caring and showing them Jesus.”
I also got the obvious sense that we’re not done. When the reception ended and the dance floor opened, I beamed with joy at many more of our ‘kids’ who crowded onto that small square of space, turning it into a makeshift mosh pit, and turned loose. The songs were theirs, the steps were theirs, but it was Jesus and His pleasure that covered them.
Sandy and I weren’t above joining in on the chaos either, rolling into the middle of the hubbub, she in my lap, dancing with all my whiteness to some Backstreet Boys. Thinking: I’ll be a fool right here because these kids are everything to us. Every moment with them is a chance at joining with God in what He’s doing in the earth. Didn’t some guy named Blackaby teach us this?
Chalk it up to a young church undulating with small children, or the sovereignty of God’s plan, or both, but as I started out as a young pastor in 1992, the burden and emphasis of our collective heart was to construct a church atmosphere with – almost exclusively – our children and children’s children in view.
Our vision passage then read,
Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord. (NIV)
The bride and groom were just newborns when my pastorate set sail, which had me thinking about it all in that split nanosecond around 5:35 on Saturday afternoon as my puddling eyes followed these two ‘children’ when they headed back up the aisle.
At some point in the future, perhaps, these two babies will have their own babies to teach and point the way. And so it goes. Why do I do what I do? Why do Sandy and I open our home and hearts to this generation, cry with them, dance with them, scold and hug them? Because we want to be in on what God is doing through them in the earth:
Psalms 22:27-31 (Message)
From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.
All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together
Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.
We want to be alive to testify:
Psalms 78:1-8, 70-72
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to…He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand.
We get to watch God call away his Davids and Deborahs from the tents of men, have a part in their shepherding and shaping, and release them into the world to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the nations … in South Africa, Honduras, Colombia, Haiti, Thailand, Spain, Douglasville, Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, Alabama, Costa Rica, Atlanta’s Inner City, the World Race, and to all peoples everywhere.
This is the generation. They are the generation of Joshua to lead us into yet-to-be-conquered points on God’s compass. Some might know prisons or martyrdom; some might spend all on a mission field; some might know scars of hardship; some might know the power of His resurrection through the fellowship of His sufferings (Phlp 3:10); some might reap a harvest; some might produce praiseworthy children who “will not defile themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless (Rev 14:4,5)” or know such sacrifice themselves; some might get their hearts broken to bits and rise from the ashes of wreck and ruin and find Christ in the mess…and minister grace to others out of that.
This is our hope.
This is why we do what we do.
We want to be near them; if just to feel the draft of the Holy Spirit.
But also –
We want to go with them.
Up the aisle, into the more that is awaiting us.
Unto Jesus, “outside the camp” (Heb 13:13).
All dressed in white.
Eager for that First Dance.
And the glory of Final Consummation.