(At the wedding of Aimee-Joy Cork and Joseph-Alexander Hearn, August 5, 2018, Katy, Tx)
The last time Joy sang that song in public she was holding my hands and looking into my eyes. It was May 23, 1982. Joy’s father was the pastor who stood before us. Some of you were there. Ten years later, Aimee came into our life, the fruit of that love. And now it is my turn to play the dual role of father of the bride and pastor.
When Jesus was asked about marriage in Matthew 19, he replied
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
This is the starting place for any Christian theology of marriage. In this passage, Jesus tells us the origin of marriage, its purpose, and its sacredness.
And a key part is letting go.
Your parents have guided you to this day, with this purpose in mind—That we would take you to a certain point in life and then we would let go, and you would embrace someone else, and make a new start.
We held you when you were babies, we steadied you as you were learning to walk, and to ride a bike. We gave you cute names like “Pickle” and “Jandito.”
We had dreams and hopes for you. And those included that you would form minds of your own. And we realized those minds might generate ideas and hopes and dreams different from what we imagined.
You did surprise us. You went in directions we never could have expected. You have amazed us with your vision and your dedication to achieving your dreams.
We were often anxious and concerned as you took your first steps toward this day, especially when you went away to college—way off at Andrews University in the frozen wilderness of “Pure Michigan,” too far for us to ever think about being helicopter parents. There you met other people, and you began to wonder if this person or that person might be “the one.”
Our hearts skipped a beat when you first told us there was someone we should probably meet.
I remember the day I picked up Aimee at the end of a Spring semester. I had been hearing about Joseph, and I asked, “Are you going to introduce me to him?” “Oh,” she said, “he’s busy, I don’t think he can come over.” But he texted and said, “Since your dad is here, do you think he could help me put some stuff into storage?” And when I met him he gushed, “It’s such a honor to meet you, sir! I’m so proud of what you do for our country, sir!”
And I thought to myself — “This kid shows promise.”
But it took another three months for Aimee to tell Joseph what she had been telling us for a long time–that she was definitely interested.
Then came the time for parents to meet and check each other out. A teacher and a nurse, a Marine and a Soldier — all with deep commitments to the same faith, all very proud of our world-traveling and multi-talented children — of course we agreed. And breathed a sigh of relief.
After a dinner in San Antonio three years ago, as Aimee prepared to go off to Madagascar, it was Annette who put into words what we were all feeling: “How do we help keep this relationship going while they are away from each other? This needs to end up in a marriage!”
Well, we’re here. We’ve done our part. The training wheels are off the bike. The guiding hand is off the back of the seat. You go on from here together as a new family.
You will find prayerful emotional support from our combined families, and advice (some of it solicited and some of it not)—but you have to make your own decisions, and we have to realize that those decisions might not be ones we would make. But it is your life now. This is what it means to “leave your parents and cleave to one another.”
And yes, this was the theme of that speech my father gave to each of us that came to be known as the “getting on the train lecture.” We can only take you to the train station — the rest of the journey is yours. I was the first to get it, and it came as I boarded an actual train from Chicago to Worcester Mass to go to college. When I came home a few months later on a different train, my wife-to-be was with me. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our families are both musical. Y’all might have noticed that. I think today especially of songs from “Fiddler on the Roof.” The parents here have all conspired to play the role of Yenta the matchmaker at one time or another, but we found that our efforts weren’t necessary. As Tevye said, the same one who introduced Adam and Eve brought you together.
Recall the wedding scene under the canopy, as prayers are said and a cup is shared and the parents reflect back on the events leading to that day. A preacher can empathize with the feelings expressed by Tevye and Golda:
What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
Now they must learn from one another
Day by day …
You’ve heard the words of scripture that have been read. Those are the words of wisdom we give. Those are the words we invite you to return to, day by day.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
You won’t always live up to that ideal. But this union will last as you return again and again to this place. To these words. To the promises you make this day.
Over the years we’ve shared with you our stories, and our ups and downs. Like that first time I said I love you to a girl on the steps of the girls’ dorm and she said, “I like you, too.” “That’s not what I said,” I replied. “I know,” she said. But 36 years later we are here at this day, because we said yes to one another again and again, after each stumble.
Joseph and Annette have had to do the same. Starting with that time when they first were getting acquainted when Joseph, a US Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, discovered that Annette had a collection of workout videos. Jane Fonda workout videos. They got over that hurdle–She got rid of the tapes.
This is the beginning of your journey together. And that is how you will continue in the right path in the years to come–resilience, forgiveness, and the ability to laugh.
Toward that end we, your parents and family and friends, extend to you our heartfelt blessing, and our prayers—and not a few tears of joy.