Who Gave This Woman?

On June 23 my daughter, my only daughter, was married to the incomparable Nicholas Bodnar, in the mountains of North Carolina, on a farm in Spring Creek, where she lived last summer on a Duke Engage Literacy Project in Madison County.  Nick burned up the roads between Durham and Spring Creek last summer to see his girlfriend.  He was known to sleep in all manner of places around the community--hanging his trusty hammock from trees all over the place.  After they were engaged, when we we made a reconnoitering trip up to Spring Creek to scout out the place as a wedding site, we slipped into the tiny, quaint private Chapel that some cancer survivor built in tribute to her rescue from the jaws of death and we found there Nick's long-lost blanket.  Maybe one day they will set up plaques that say, "Nicholas Bodnar Slept Here."

But I digress.  The wedding was really lovely, if I do say so myself.  Actually, I can say so myself without a hint of vanity, because it rained sideways at the rehearsal and scared us all to death, knowing that our back-up plan at the community center was half-baked.  But God smiled on us the day of the wedding and we had a really fine day in every way.

Jennifer Crook did the photos.  She lives in Knoxville (my home town).  You can check out her blog with some of the pictures posted.

The Davis families, who own and live on the farm, were unbelievably hospitable.  We'll never be able to thank them enough.

I had the privilege of delivering the homily at the wedding.  Here's what I said:

Wedding Homily
Nick Bodnar and Jenny Denton
June 23, 2012
Davis Cove Farm
Spring Creek, NC

It doesn’t get any better than this.  You are both looking fine.  Your friends are around you—turn around and look at all these people who love you and are celebrating with you.  The Davises have welcomed everyone to this idyllic spot.  The weather is glorious.  It doesn’t get any better than this, this side of the Kingdom Come.  And by the way, when God gave John a vision of the Kingdom Come, do you remember what he showed him?  A wedding!  The marriage of heaven and earth.  It is a blessing for us all to be here.

Nick, I recall the day I knew this might be serious.  I had come home in the late afternoon in the winter of 2011, and I was riding my stationary bike in the garage.  Des came to the door of the garage with you and said, “Nick is here.”  She didn’t know what you wanted—I think she expected you to show up with a basket of dirty laundry, like other Duke students would from time to time, and she didn’t know what to do with you, empty-handed.  So she brought you to me.  And I’m ashamed to say that I kept peddling while we talked.  I remember thinking, maybe he wants to talk about his job search or something.  You just stood there in front of me, politely, and then you came out with it: “I want to ask Jenny if we could take our relationship to another level.”  At that point, I stopped peddling, got off the bike, and said, “Why don’t we go inside and sit down.” 

Jenny and Nick met freshman year at Duke, through their mutual involvement in a ministry called Reformed University Fellowship.  They stayed friends through ups and downs the first two years.  When Jenny went off on her crazy adventure to Tanzania, Nick was the one who really stayed in touch with her.  I think Nick was probably the one friend who would have appreciated Jenny’s excellent African adventure.  Then, when Jenny returned, they went on some road trip to South Carolina and it wasn’t long after that that I found myself riding my trainer in front of the man who would be my son-in-law.

Nick, I love that story because it shows me several things about your character: that you have guts, that you can take the lead, and that you love Jenny deeply.  All of that matters a lot.  Jenny, you are not a wallflower.  You are smart and you are pretty and you are talented and you have opinions.  If your mother and I had been prescient enough, we could have named you aptly, “I Do It Myself.”  We knew that it would take a special man to make a marriage with “I Do It Myself,” and we are so glad that you have met him.  Nick, I do believe you are up for the job!

Not that it will be easy.  You are both strong people, and your marriage will be the opportunity for you both to be transformed.  We have just heard the Apostle Paul urging us to put off our old selves and to put on the new self that is hid with Christ in God.  That new self is not natural.  It is a servant self.  It is a gentle and humble self.  It is a forgiving self.  It is the self shaped by love: patient, kind, not insisting on its own way, bearing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things.

I think that marriage may be the best instrument in the world for such reshaping of the self.  People will tell you, “Don’t marry someone expecting them to change.”  I agree.  But I would say this: “Do marry someone expecting that you will change.”  As iron sharpens iron, so a wife sharpens a husband, and a husband a wife.  Nick, Jenny is God’s gift to you not only for your comfort and happiness, but also for your holiness.  Jenny, Nick is God’s gift to you not only for your comfort and happiness, but for your becoming more like Christ.

You were both made to love.  God, who is love, made you both to live the amazing other-centered, selfless kind of life that Paul talks about.  I pray for you many blessings in your marriage—prosperity and children and excellent family adventures.  But most of all I pray that you will get glimpses of the Jenny and Nick that is hidden with Christ in God.  And that self may shine forth as much in the tough times as in the good times. 

Moments ago, Dave Bowen asked me a profound question: Who gives this woman to be married to this man?  I answered correctly, I think: “Her mother and I do.”  But let me tell you now a secret: My sweet Jenny, you are not mine nor your mother’s to give.  You are our beloved daughter, but you do not belong to us, just as Nick does not belong to his family.  And this wedding does not mean that you belong to one another either.  In the truest sense, in the words of the catechism, “You belong, body and soul, not to yourself but to your faithful Savior, who loved you and gave himself for you.”  This is the great truth I leave you with as you embark upon your marriage.  Help each other learn who you really are: People who belong to God.

We love you.


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