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He Will Make Straight Your Paths

The following is a manuscript of a wedding sermon. I never really looked at it once the service got going, and there are a few things in the manuscript that are much rougher than I would like. But this sermon does connect the lives and history of the hearers with the biblical text and intentionally interacts with a prominent conceptual metaphor in the culture. So do this, just do it better.

The LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor includes an inference pattern related to relationships: relationships are like vehicles, they get you moving toward your life goal. Of course, the implication of this mapping is that if your relationship is no longer heading in a direction you see as your goal, it is perfectly reasonable to change vehicles.  In order to replace that inference with a different kind of inference structure, I replaced the mapping that I am in charge of my life goal and direction with the text from Proverbs 3 that the couple had chosen for their wedding day: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

The result is actually a blend of the inference structure from the potter and clay image: God is using this journey of marriage to mold and shape us. God is in control and able to use even difficult times for our benefit according to His purpose. It is no longer reasonable to change vehicles if I don’t feel happy. A different lens has been laid over the journey metaphor to invite a different way of experiencing and reasoning about marriage.  The text of the wedding sermon is below:

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Trey and Aimee, you made it!  The big day is here! You finally arrived! After all the waiting and planning and waiting and studying and waiting and graduating and waiting. . . it’s here! You made it! You finally arrived!

It’s been quite a journey so far!  You’ve come a long way since that 2nd grade class room inGrand Prairie. If I got the story right, Trey was the class clown and you two “hated each other!” (their words, not mine!)

You’ve come a long way since that Sophomore AP English class where you intentionally sat in opposite corners of the room . . . until you discovered you liked each other after all (and I do mean “like” in that special, Sophomore, “check this box if you like Trey Russell” kind of sense).

You’ve come a long way in the eleven years you’ve been together. Trey, when you gave Aimee that ring with 5 smaller diamonds in each side if the larger stone, when you gave her that ring with one diamond for each year you’ve been together, it seems to me you were saying Wow! Look how far we’ve come! And by making the 11th diamond the biggest, you seem to have said, We finally made it! The big day is here! We’ve finally arrived!

What a wonderful thing to look back over 11 years, through good times and bad, through times of closeness and separation (goAuburn!)—what a wonderful thing to look back at 11 years and be thankful for how far you’ve come. No wonder you proposed on Thanksgiving!

And as you two thought about how you wanted to celebrate this special day, you picked a verse in Proverbs chapter 3 that ends: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

You finally arrived at this big day, and to celebrate, you chose a verse that says, the Journey has just begun: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” You’ve got more ways and paths ahead of you! You’ve got more roads to travel down together! You’ve got more journeying to do!

In one sense you have finally arrived, and in another, you’re just getting started! There is so much more ahead of you! That’s why you are about to pledge yourselves to each other “from this day forward.” There is so much more to this adventure.

And as you head out, we take a moment to remember the last 11 years with thankfulness. And then we look forward with confidence that God is glad to be with you every step of the way: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

Now, I don’t get the wrong idea here. You have come a long way. And from this day forward, you are journeying together. But it’s not like you just happen to be going in the same direction so it’s more convenient to share a ride.

You see, that’s how much of our North American culture views marriage today. Research shows that Americans, whether consciously or not, tend to see marriage as a vehicle, a means to an end. It may be a Rolls Royce, it may be a Honda Civic, but my marriage is something that gets me farther down the road toward my goals in my life, goals I typically identify as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Now if happiness is my goal or destination, and my marriage is the vehicle or means of getting me there, then what happens if my marriage isn’t making me particularly happy right now? What happens if husband and wife no longer seem to be headed in the same direction? It seems obvious: if the bus I am riding isn’t taking me where I want it to go, the best thing to do is change busses.

But that typical way of thinking is not what brought you here today. That typical way of thinking is not what you learned from your parents. (Parents, I want you to know that Trey and Aimee both told me how they learned life-long commitment from you.)

Trey and Aimee, if your marriage is only a means to get you to something else, you’ll always be able to find a good reason to change busses. But the point of your marriage is not to get you to the destination of your choosing; the point of your marriage is the journey. True happiness isn’t some far off goal to reach at any means; the joy is in the journey.

The joy is in the journey! God has brought you together. God has given you to each other. God promises to walk with you. And the joy is in the journey! Your journey, your life together, is exactly what God uses to grow you and mold you and shape you to be just a little bit more like Him. That’s what it means to trust in the LORD with all your heart. That’s what it means in all your ways to acknowledge Him, that He might make your paths straight. You aren’t in charge of this Journey, God is!

God has taken two very different people and brought them together on purpose. God has taken one Nurse, Realist, with a Science mind and joined her to an Entrepreneur, an optimist, a dreamer. And as different as these two people can be at times, as heated as those competitive games of Cranium can get, God is using you to shape each other.

Trey, you told me what comfort and strength Aimee gave you when your Dad died your Jr. year. Aimee, you told me how calming patient Trey was right after that fateful Christmas car wreck. You both know God is growing and guiding you through each other.

But it’s not just when you are at your best, but when you are at your worst that God is still there on the journey with you. Trey, there will be days when she will drive you crazy. Aimee, there will be times when he will make you want to tear your hair out. But when you hit a bump in the road, when your relationship stalls or gets detoured, you know that’s a part of the Journey. God is still at work showing you His love and patience and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

It’s on those detours, it’s in the midst of the bumpy road that you learn what love is. Because of the tough times, you experience what it means for love to be patient and kind, not self-seeking or easily angered.  On the journey, you learn love that keeps no record of wrongs. You learn it from Jesus first, and then you share it freely with you travel partner. (Believe me, they’re going to need it!)

Trey and Aimee, you are in this together. You’re in this for the long haul. And Jesus has committed himself to being with you every step of the way.  Aimee, your ring celebrates what God has been doing the last 11 years. And it points you to a future where God continues to walk with you both.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” You’ve finally arrived. And you’re just getting started. Thank God, there is joy in the journey. Amen.

About Justin Rossow

Justin writes and talks at the intersection of Scripture, culture, and metaphor theory. As founder of Next Step Press, he helps people delight in taking a next step following Jesus.

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