Who You Most Truly Are — A Wedding Speech for Abby and Nathan

Yesterday we celebrated Abby and Nathan’s wedding—the first of a whole new generation for the Challies side of the family (though certainly not the last since Abby is one of 16 children/nieces/nephews). The day was every bit as beautiful as we had hoped. I’ll try to share a few pictures in the near future, but in the meantime thought I’d share the speech Aileen and I delivered together.

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Tim: This is a day of great joy. It’s a day of great joy and we are so thankful to each of you that you’ve chosen to share it with us. Thanks to those of you who drove from the Deep South, to those of you who drove from the Great White North, and to those of you who came from somewhere in between. Welcome to all the Elfarrahs and their friends; welcome to all the Challies and our friends; and welcome, of course, to the many friends of the couple. We consider it a tremendous honor that you would spend this day and this evening celebrating with us.

Aileen: We wanted to start off telling you all a little bit about Abby. As a child Abby was always a bit of a force to be reckoned with. She has always been competent and capable and so very determined. At 9 months old Abby crawled for about two days, then decided that was enough of that and got up and walked. At 9 months. I have no pictures of her crawling because she didn’t crawl long enough for me to get them! At 15 months she decided she had had enough of diapers and potty-trained herself in one afternoon. And at 4 years old, after watching me struggle for a solid couple of months to teach her older brother how to ride a bike, announced she wanted to do away with her training wheels. I told her no—that I needed a break. My neighbor told me to let her try, and then watched open-mouthed as Abby jumped on the bike and rode around and around, no guidance, no help, and with a look of absolute triumph on her face. And that pretty much set a theme for her life.  She showed the same determination with her schooling, ballet, working, and pretty much everything else. Abby has always been so very social and fiercely loyal, and anyone and everyone she met was an instant and life-long friend. We knew with how capable, competent and friendly she was, she would do well when she made the decision to move down to Louisville and attend Boyce College.

Tim: Before she left we bestowed some parental advice upon her:

Abby, we think it would be wise to not date in your freshman year. You have to remember that college courses will be difficult and demanding; you may need some time to adjust. We also think it would be really good for you to focus on developing some strong female friendships. And then you need to know that at Bible college the boys all seem to get into a kind of frenzied state when a fresh batch of girls shows up.

(As an aside: We felt we had to give her this advice this since Nick had come to us a few weeks before they set off for college to say he had just found out that there was a certain young man on campus who had spotted Abby on a preview day two years before and was waiting for her to show up. We thought that was a bit weird and we decided not to tell her about it since we didn’t want to freak her out too much.) Instead we said:

Abby, we aren’t telling you what to do; we’re just saying that we think it would be wise for you to hold off and just tell any boys, “I am very flattered, but I have decided not to date in my freshman year.”

Well, as it turns out, Abby began dating not just in her freshman year, but by the end of her freshman month. Before school had even begun, while she was in the quarantine foreigners had to go through at that time, she and that certain young man had been communicating on Instagram and developing the beginning of a relationship. By the time she set foot on campus for the first time, they had pretty much already decided that they were going to give it a try.

Aileen: But it turns out that Abby knew better than her parents did. The “Mom, there is this boy” phone call came a little sooner than we expected, but she still managed to do it all. We watched from afar as Abby settled into college life, watched as she grew spiritually, watched as she made what we expect to be life-long girlfriends, watched as she made the Dean’s list and, yes, watched as she found a guy.

Tim: Nathan, you have wooed to yourself a wonderful young woman and we are thankful to you and thankful for you. We are thankful that in the Lord’s vast wisdom and kind providence he had been preparing your heart to join this family by already causing you to be loyal to the Bills and Blue Jays rather than, say, the Patriots or Yankees—loyalties that might have proven insurmountable. We sent Abby off practically still wearing her ballet shoes and she came back wearing sports jerseys and camo and wanting to settle in with me to watch Monday Night Football. That’s a remarkable change and one that made me very happy. But far more importantly, you have proven your character and godliness by being there through a very difficult couple of years, and we know that bonds forged in the fire are the strongest and most lasting of all. It’s a blessing to us to be able to express our love for you and our confidence in you; and to formally welcome you into this family.

And Abby, my precious Abby, we are so proud of you and so proud of the woman you’ve become. You’re competent; you’re capable; you’re loyal; you’re fun; you’re godly; you’re all a father and mother could ever hope for in a daughter. You’re our kid but you’re also our friend, a friend whose wisdom we value, a friend whose godliness we admire, a friend we just love to spend time with. We love you dearly and we love your husband and we are so thankful that the Lord has brought the two of you together. We know you’ll be very happy and will love serving the Lord side-by-side. We are so excited to see what the Lord has in store for the two of you.

Aileen: I think we are supposed to offer just a bit of advice to the new couple, so here goes: Your job in marriage isn’t to fix one another. So be patient with each other’s sins and weaknesses. Put your spouse before your own desires. And above all, be kind to one another. But, if God has not brought you together to fix each other, he has brought you together to support and strengthen one another. He has determined you are better together than apart.

Tim: As for me, I want to remind you that who you are at home is who you most truly are. Life doesn’t flow toward the home, but from it. If your home is marked by joy and love, your whole life will be full of joy and love. If your home is a place of worship, your whole life will be one of worship. If your home is a place of singing, your whole life will be a song. And so it’s my counsel that you work together to make the Elfarrah home one that’s marked by godliness, one where you display Christian character, one that is shaped and formed by the Word of God. If you honor the Lord at home, you’ll honor him everywhere you go and in everything you do.

And now in place of a toast I would like to offer you a blessing from the Word of God: “May the LORD our God be with you, as he was with our fathers (or in this case, as he has been with your parents). May he not leave you nor forsake you, but incline your heart to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments. May He maintain your cause, as each day requires, that everyone may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. And may He keep your heart wholly true to Him today and every day. Amen.”