On Saturday, October 6th, our fifth son, Micaiah, married Alexandria at Heritage Farms in Huntington, W.Va. This was the last of the six Branch brothers to take a wife.
After the processional, Alexandria and her father, Larry, paused in front of the steps that led up onto the stage, which the bridal party had moments before ascended. After the music stopped, I told the congregation to be seated, and Micaiah and I moved closer toward the father and the bride.
I spoke personally to Alexandria. She was absolutely gorgeous, I said, bright and brilliant. After all, her wedding service was much more than a social event. It was a worship service in which she, the bride, represented the Church. The presence of God was prayerfully invoked. The salvation of Jesus Christ was cited. We all were grateful for the manifestation of His will in bringing Micaiah and her together.
Then, I mentioned to her, “But you must realize that you are taking from our home the last of our six sons. For a lot of years, Terry and I had the persistent, non-stop sounds of young men growing up in our house. There were joys and there were struggles. But, Terry and I, by the grace of God, worked hard to keep things on an even keel. Now, it is just the two of us. We are left alone.”
“With that in mind,” I continued, “I would like to play myself a little song to commemorate the deep meaning of this solemn moment.” Alexandria nodded consent slowly.
From my Bible, I pulled a card I had bought at Wal-Mart. It was one of those musical cards. When I opened it for all to hear, the musical group started singing with their band playing, “Celebration time! Come on! It’s a celebration…”
I looked at Micaiah and grinned, for his marriage to Alexandria represented more than supposed. In the process, I did a little celebratory dance jiggy-steps style. There was considerable laughter among the ranks.
Many realized the implications….for that wedding service became the very moment (at 6:30 p.m.) that——after forty-two years of having kids in the house——TERRY AND I OFFICIALLY BECAME EMPTY-NESTERS! It is now just the two of us! We did our duty. The house is now ours all to ourselves. There is now total, quiet solitude in our halls. We now have great in-house elbowroom. It is a great feeling.
But, having attained such a milestone does not invite for me a let down concerning the continuance of our family. Comparatively, it is clear we sometimes have the perception that, having done something good or having attained a certain status over a period of time, we can take a “I’ve done all I need to do” stance.
This is typical of the church-goer’s mindset. But, living for Jesus Christ and serving Him faithfully maintains, on the other hand, a steady expectation. For example, when the Apostle Paul said near the end of his life that he had “fought a good fight,” it was with the perspective that, despite how many times he had preached the Gospel or how many churches he had started, his spiritual nest had never emptied. His spiritual duties had never diminished. He had remained consistent from beginning to end.
At the Willow Island Baptist Church, near St. Marys, W.Va., Ethel Cokely was just about the best and sweetest church member that any church could have. But, it got to the point where she could not go like she had gone for so long. It got to the point where she could not do like she had done for so long. So, near the end of her life, she told me one day, “Pastor Ron, I will keep doing what I can for the Lord.” And, she did. That was her rule-of-thumb till the Lord called her home. When it came to Christian service, Miss Ethel was not an empty-nester.
Neither should we be. Keep on keeping on.
At the end of weddings I officiate, I typically say a few words to the new couple in a private manner before announcing them to the congregants as “Mr. and Mrs.” After some general remarks, I told Alexandria particularly, “Micaiah now belongs to you. Whatever you do, do not send him back!”
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio.