Before the Feast


I will not likely get a chance to post until after the weekend – the wedding is coming soon upon us and it’s not local. Bags are being packed – last minute details that seem to be endless are all coming to an end that lack of time alone can bring. When it’s all said and done a wedding takes place.

As I have written before, our family gathers from the four winds for my son’s wedding this weekend in S.C. I’m sorry that you’re having to read about this again, but I’ve thought about almost nothing else for the past week if not the past month. And when you write, eventually you have to actually write about what’s going on around you.

I think of nothing more daunting in anyone’s life than raising children. When our first child was brought home from the hospital my wife announced, “I’m tired I’m going to sleep, listen out for the baby.” I cannot remember more frightening words. I slept that night on the floor beside her crib. I learned very quickly that you can actually sleep in your bed and hear a baby wake up.

There is also the fearful thought for every young parent that you will do something wrong with your child. Do you spank? How do you discipline? Where should the lines be drawn? If your family of origin was healthy and these things were clear this may not be a great issue. It was an issue for me.

I remember Stanley Hauerwas at Duke saying, “The blessing and curse of children is that almost no matter what you do they will turn out to be like you.” Stanley has been named by Time Magazine as “America’s Greatest Theologian.” I’m not sure that makes him America’s greatest parent – but as time has gone by his words have largely been proved true in my little family. Fortunately, three of my four children are girls which means their primary model was their mother. My son, despite my every effort has turned out wonderfully.

In hindsight it seems clear to me that though we do much to raise our children well (though there are those whom I know who do great damage to children as well) it is still the case that grace has a way of trumping both our best efforts and sometimes our worst failures.

I can look at my own life and see any number of places where events could have turned on the spot in such a manner to have changed the entire course of my life for the worse. On the one hand it says that in certain times in my life I sailed a little close to the edge (this is true). But it also says that despite my own efforts to damn my soul, God saved me. And this is the witness of Scripture, that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

At one point in my son’s young life I had an occasion in which I would have to say, “I heard God speak.” My imagination was running in one direction for my son and reality was headed elsewhere. I heard the words, “This is for his salvation.” I drew back in tears surprised by my own ignorance and the wonder of God. I also stood back from my son, realizing that I was not the Lord of his life, or the shaper of his destiny (how demonic that would be). I laid the words to heart. These children do not belong to me and never have. They belong to the only one who can give us life.

And thus we can pray for them and do for them that which parents should do – be aware at every moment that their life is for their salvation and God alone knows how this must be.

I rejoice that my son’s salvation includes his marriage this weekend – and now his salvation becomes interwoven with that of another whom God has mysteriously led to this point.

Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works! There is no word to hymn Thy wonders!


  1. Fr.Freeman,

    I have young children. I know that I am going to blink, and I’ll be in your situation. I must admit I often wish I could freeze time and hold on to them longer.

    Being a parent, a good parent, is so hard. I make mistakes all the time. But, in this brief time I have with my children, I pray that I can appreciate what a wonder they are.

    God bless you and your children during this happy time.

  2. It’s briefer than you think. Indeed, if I can be the preacher again, the Scriptures tell us that the whole of life is briefer than we think – but a puff of wind.

    Repentance is hard for the young.

    Old age is too fast for repentance.

    The mercies of God alone will save.

  3. Father Stephen, I have just one very young daughter so far, and this post was so moving (as usual). I pray nothing but the best for your son and his soon-to-be wife, you and all your family and friends. I hope it’s a blessed and fun weekend.

  4. Fr. Stephen,
    I remember another hot summer wedding not so far in the past, held at St. Anne’s. I too was an out of town mother of the bride in this case, and could not have made it without the blessing of you and your wife. I was not orthodox at the time, and the beauty and admitted strangeness of the nuptials were very profound. I often remember the kindenss of Mat. Beth in working with the caterer, the people who brought all the “stuff” of the wedding, and the kindness you both showed to all of us strangers. May you be so graced in SC. this weekend. Kh. Anastasia and her two munchkins will be here in Chattanooga the last of the month. Maybe we’ll be able to see you. My love to you and your wife, many years to the blessed couple.

  5. May they have a wonderful life, Father Stephen and blessed be your family! From Romania we wish you only happiness and we pray all the time for you, for your wife and your children.

    Father Dorin

  6. The wedding and all the festivities surrounding it were completed on Sunday. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen my son happier nor in a such a state of bliss. The gathering of family and the support of friends added to the joy of the day. I cannot begin to thank those of you who have prayed for my son and his new wife or offered many years from around the globe. When I tell him that Christians from Down Under to Romania have sent their greetings, prayers and blessings, it will only increase his joy, as it does mine! Glory to God for all things!

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