“‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then He said to me, ‘Write, blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” (Revelation 21:7-9)
“Your work in the South Side must be so rewarding.” This was the comment made to me at a recent meeting with a principal at Riverside Junior High. I stopped by to introduce myself as I am hoping to place one of my interns as a volunteer in the school this upcoming fall. To this comment I laughed out loud, only to realize this he was being quite sincere. Composing myself I said, “Honestly, it isn’t most days.” Now don’t get me wrong… I do love the work we do as I have been doing it for over a decade now. However, I think that people sometimes have the wrong impression of how challenging, difficult, and trying this work can be. Do I really enjoy investing time in relationships with people, only to have them go back to their old ways of drugging, lying, and cheating the system (and me)? Do I really enjoy watching young mothers destroy their lives (and their children) as they seek to gain a sense of security, identity, and purpose in the chaos that encircles them? Do I really enjoy watching struggling at-risk teens struggle with their sexual identity as they cry out for a place to belong? Do I really enjoy watching the young youth we work with turn to thuggish ways to live like so many of their peers? Absolutely not, but we press on in HOPE for our hope is in Christ and His spoken Word that one day His Kingdom will come fully. Our HOPE is that there are lost sheep, of which He is their Shepherd, and He will lose none of them. And in the struggle of seeking this Kingdom and proclaiming the good news of Jesus to those around us, every once in a while the Lord allows those of us working in the trenches to see His amazing grace as He works powerfully in the life of an individual.
This past weekend my wife Shelly and I experienced one of those moments. Gathering Saturday, March 23, at the Chrysalis Acres Community Center, I had the joy and honor of officiating a wedding of two changed, redeemed, and transformed individuals (*I’ll call them Ben and Sarah). Here is what I said as part of my homily:
“I want you to hear what a blessing it has been for Shelly and me to meet with the two of you these past two months in preparation for this day. It is fair to say that your coming together as husband and wife is one of the most encouraging demonstrations of God being at work in two people that I have personally witnessed in a long time. As followers of Jesus we have a future wedding to look forward to, that being the joining together of Jesus and His bride, the Church, meaning all of us who have faith in Him.
Since the day you were first brought into this world the Lord has been at work in your life. Whether you knew it or not, He was pursuing you, eventually leading you to where you are today – a place of walking with the Lord and seeking to live your life in obedience to the teachings of Jesus. He has done a great work in both of you and will continue to do so every day going forward. As you come together in Jesus’ name today, joining hands as husband and wife, it is a beautiful picture of the gospel of Jesus as He takes that which was hurting and broken to make it whole again. I thank you for your devotion to the Lord Jesus and pray that He continue to grow you in deeper intimacy with Him as together you live as the Bride of Christ in our world today.”
After years of drugging, being in and out of a non-sober relationship with one another, the law and criminal living finally caught up with Ben and Sarah, leading to their arrest. While in jail they both independently realized how tired they were of their worldly living and came to a place of submitting themselves fully to the person of Christ. This was not a ‘jail-bird religion’, but was marked by real brokenness and crying out to God, the giver of Life. Upon their release, Ben and Sarah began communicating once again, but for the first time in the history of their relationship they were sober and living lives as followers of Jesus. Coming out of Passages, Sarah secured a room at the Hannah House (our discipleship house for women in transition) and was able to find a job. Ben also found a job and found a cheap place to rent. During this season of dating, Ben and Sarah committed themselves to living according to God’s way and maintained a celibate relationship. It became evident to them that they should marry one another, at which point my wife and I were blessed to perform their pre-marital counseling and wedding.
How proud I am of these two for their commitment to the Lord and their love for one another! And how I praise our Father that He works mightily through the person of Jesus to draw hurting, broken, sinful people (of which I am one) unto Himself as He gathers His Bride for the great wedding to come. Thank you Lord for encouraging my heart this day! Come Lord Jesus, come!