Tag Archives: Engagement

Wisdom in Knowing the Difference

Wisdom in Knowing the Difference (CaD Gen 24) Wayfarer

Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Genesis 24:67 (NIV)

I was in my late twenties and early thirties when I first began to ask a lot of questions about the systems and roles that influenced the child I was, the young adult I grew into, and the adult I became. For me, it is a worthwhile journey of self-discovery and understanding that continues as I progress into new stages of life. There are so many formative pieces of self that I did not, and do not, control. At the same time, there are so many pieces of life that I do control. As the Serenity Prayer so aptly requests, I have found that wisdom is required to know and embrace the differences.

Today’s chapter is fascinating on multiple levels. It tells the story of Abraham sending his trusted servant back to his family and tribe; The family and tribe he left when God initially called him to his faith journey back in chapter 12. The intent of the mission is to secure a bride for his son Isaac from his own tribe. The chapter describes this mission in detail and with it, we get a glimpse into the marriage customs of the ancient near east.

Perhaps it’s because I have officiated a host of weddings along my journey, but I have always been interested in marriage customs and rituals. What’s fascinating to me is the genuine lack of specificity given in the Great Story regarding marriage ritual or customs, and the genuine, legalistic rigidity with which institutional churches, denominations, and members become entrenched despite there being zero biblical support for most all of it.

Once again, I’ve found it helpful to be honest about what is essential (e.g. sacrificial love, spiritual union, honor, intimacy, fidelity, consideration, separation from the childhood family system and the origination of a new family system together) and what is completely absent in scripture (e.g. engagement rules, betrothal rules, and/or wedding ritual, and what exactly determines the moment and reality that two people are “married” to one another). In today’s chapter, Rebecca leaves her family, is led by her fiance into the tent of his deceased mother. BOOM they are married.

Was there a ceremony? Doesn’t say.

Was the act of sexual intercourse a determining factor? Doesn’t say.

Is it possible that the spiritual union of a man and woman that transforms them into husband and wife can and does happen without a marriage license from the county, a church official making a pronouncement, and a public wedding ceremony? Doesn’t say.

Is it equally possible that a man and woman can get a marriage license from the county, have a church official pronounce them married at a public ceremony in front of many witnesses, and yet never experience the spiritual union that transforms them into husband and wife? Doesn’t say.

And yet, along my spiritual journey I have observed many human religious rituals that don’t appear to have any transformative spiritual effect. I’ve also observed spiritual transformations in individuals that have nothing to do with any institutional religious ritual or involvement.

Today’s chapter describes how families arranged a marriage in ancient Mesopotamia which bears little resemblance to the free will engagements two people make in modern American culture. There are no specifics about what exactly made the marriage other than an agreement, two people entering a tent, and the fruit of love.

So in the quiet this morning, I find myself asking a lot of questions that don’t have specific answers in the Great Story. And, while I don’t have a lot of specific answers, I find myself comfortable with the conclusion that marriage as described in the Great Story is not about paperwork, cultural tradition, and religious ritual. It’s about sacrificial love, spiritual union, honor, intimacy, fidelity, consideration, separation from the childhood family system and the origination of a new family system together. There’s wisdom in knowing the difference.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Latest (Summer 2019)

It’s been a while since I filled family and friends in on what’s been happening. Summer had already flown by and here we are moving into autumn.

As has been true for the past decade, our summer revolves around time at our place on Lake of the Ozarks. With increased responsibilities at work and church, I think we spent less time there this summer than ever. Nevertheless, we enjoyed what has become our traditional weekends with friends, along with a few weeks there by ourselves. Here’s a gallery from our time at the lake this summer:

The biggest news of the summer for our family was Madison’s engagement. She and Garrett traveled to Scotland to visit Tay, Clay, and Milo. While they were there, Garrett chose one of the most beautiful backdrops to a proposal ever. A November wedding is planed in Columbia, SC where they both live and will reside.

Madison was home for a whirlwind wedding planning weekend, but still got to see Grandma!

Wedding plans are in full swing. We flew Madison home for a few days in early August to talk finances and wedding plans. It worked out great for her to spend a little time with her mother and the grandparents. Grandpa Dean is making them a stained-glass piece for their wedding, so Madison got to look at the design and some of the glass colors he’s using.

Speaking of grandparents, it’s been a rough summer for my parents. Mom’s Alzheimer’s continues to slowly progress. Dad’s cancer is being held in check by oral chemo, but other issues (double vision, fainting, heart issues) have had him in what seems an endless loop of doctor and specialist visits. In July, dad spent 5 days in the hospital with what was diagnosed as a light stroke. He had another couple of days just a week or so ago for the installation of a pacemaker. I got to spend time with mom while dad was in the hospital, which I wrote about in a different post.

Yikes! Skin Cancer!

I had my own medical bout this summer. My annual dermatology exam found squamous cell carcinoma on my right ear. I had surgery to remove it and then contracted a nasty infection. I’m happy to say it has healed nicely and all is well.

No One Was Injured

Wendy and I have each been doing our thing to stay healthy. Wendy has been regularly doing yoga and this summer Wendy she began assisting our friend, Shay, who is opening her own studio. Meanwhile, I have been doing CrossFit for over a year now. My goal continues to be simply to keep showing up.

Milo was in a wedding this summer, complete in his Scottish kilt.

Taylor and her crew continue to live and flourish in Scotland. When we see them at Madison’s wedding it will be almost a year since we’ve been together. We get to regularly FaceTime with our grandson, Milo, which is always a treat. Typically, Taylor calls while Milo is the bathtub because it’s the only time the wee lad will sit still enough to talk to us. He’s calling us Papa and Yaya, which never ceases to melt our hearts.

Other highlights of the summer included finishing Phase 3 of our three-year landscaping project. My rose garden out back continues to grow and flourish, which makes me happy. I officiated a wedding this summer for a lovely young lady from church. Wendy and I hosted a company pool party for our team members and their families. We took in a little theatre. I had the joy of mentoring my friend Nathan for his profession of faith, and we celebrated at the Iowa Cubs game. I’ll leave you with a few photos from the summer:

Popping the Question 10 Years Ago

It was just over ten years ago that I asked Wendy to marry me. These days it seems that video technology and social media have made popping the question an industry unto itself with ever crazier stunts and extravaganzas. In August of 2005, however, few people had heard of Facebook (it started in February 2004) and Twitter did not exist. So, in the small town of Pella, Iowa I was just this one guy trying to find a creative way to ask the woman I love if she’d marry me.

The theatre seemed a good place to do it. Wendy and I met in community theatre and the stage was our shared passion. The other thing that I wanted to include were friends who had walked with us through this particular tumultuous stretch of our respective journeys. And so, I staged a little production for Wendy’s surprise that began with scheduling a dinner at Monarch’s restaurant with our friends, Kevin and Becky.

I picked up Wendy at her apartment that gorgeous, late summer evening. She’d just gotten home from work at Goalsetters and it had not been a good day for her. She was running late and wanted to get freshened up before dinner. As she prepared for the evening, I received a call on my cell phone from Pat telling me that he was at the Community Center auditorium and needed some help. Our community theatre’s summer production had just finished a week or two before and there were a few large, straggling set pieces that needed to be put away. At least, that was the story I fed Wendy. She was a bit annoyed at the interruption and asked why it had to be right then, but I assured her it would just take a moment and that Kevin and Becky would understand.

We arrived at the Community Center and I encountered the first hiccup to my master plan. Wendy was still putting make-up on in the car and told me to go in and help Pat while she finished. I went in and informed my co-consipirator that Wendy would be in momentarily. The moment lingered, however, and I became increasingly nervous as it became obvious to me that she was not planning to come in.

My heart was already pounding with anticipation as I stepped out of the Community Center door and motioned for Wendy to come in. “We need your help!” I yelled to her in the car. I could feel her increased annoyance as she got out of the car and trudged up the steps. Hastily I improvised a story about needing help holding the curtain back while we hoisted a flat up into storage. I ignored her grumbling as we made our way into the Community Center, into the auditorium, and up to the stage.

The stage was empty and the overhead floods were on. I led Wendy onto the stage telling her that we just needed her to hold the curtain at the far end while we lifted a flat. What Wendy didn’t know was that when she hit her mark, center stage, she was going to get the surprise of her life.

As she reached center stage the lights went out to the pitch blackness of a closed auditorium. Amidst the darkness, all of our friends who had been hiding behind the tormenter curtains lining the back of the stage came out to their places in front of the curtains. A spotlight came on suddenly and highlighted the two of us. I turned to look at Wendy whose eyes had grown huge in shock.

In the spotlight, I dropped to my knee and pulled out that little box. It suddenly dawned on Wendy what was happening. There, center stage, surrounded by friends and loved ones, I asked Wendy to be my wife as she melted into tears, said “Yes,” and then leaned down to kiss me.

Dinner at Monarch’s with Kevin and Becky turned into dinner at Monarch’s with all of those who shared the moment with us. It’s amazing to think that it was a decade ago. “A lot of water under the bridge,” as they say. Still, it doesn’t take much for me to be right back in the midst of that memory, and I’ll admit that my heart still skips a beat when I go there.

I should mention that I had our photographer hiding on the floor of the auditorium. As soon as the lights went black, he popped up from between the rows of seats and began snapping pictures. We turned the photos our our engagement into 5×7 notepads that were given out as gifts to guests at our wedding reception.