To My Baby Sister on Her Marriage


(This last weekend, we traveled to Pennsylvania for my baby sister's wedding. This is part of a letter I wrote to be read at her bridal shower last month.)

It’s funny to think of you getting married—not because I didn’t think that you would, but simply because baby sisters, by definition, are never old enough to get married.

I remember life before you ever existed. I was the only girl wedged between two brothers and while this was beneficial when it came to things like playing baseball and learning to wrestle, it left a lot to be desired in the realms of dress-up and fairy princesses.  My solution was to pray for a sister, and so I began my personal crusade to convince God that an addition to the family was in order.

He agreed and you came along.

But I soon learned that the compliant, accommodating sister that I had planned to lead in playing house and dressing up had her own plans. Eventually, you and I found a way to bridge the personality and age differences and one night, before I left for college, I found you crying because you didn’t want me to leave. I tried to comfort you, to convince you that nothing really significant was changing, but with a perception beyond your ten years, you knew that family life would never be the same for us. There would be fewer and fewer dinners together, fewer and fewer television shows to fight over, fewer and fewer vacations, and ultimately the rhythms that had marked your young life would be gone entirely.

Life has a way of never staying what you want it to be. Just as you are savoring the moment, just as you get comfortable, it flies away and you find yourself entering a new normal. Soon you will enter one of those transitions. You will be married. I’m only eleven years into that journey myself, and while there are many things that I have yet to learn, let me take this opportunity to give you some advice. (I am your older sister after all--so just sit there and take it or I’ll tell Mom.)

The first thing that I want to tell you is that, despite what you think, you are not marrying Prince Charming. None of us do. Instead, I’ve discovered that you often marry someone better. And you learn this, not through candlelit dinners or romantic cruises, but through moments when

>He doesn’t want to you to make a big dinner when he comes home because he’d rather just spend time with you... >He buys you your favorite candy, just because… >He helps you fold the laundry while he’s watching the Steelers’ game... >He walks through the ups and downs of pregnancy with you and still thinks you are beautiful... >He packs school lunches at 9:30 at night because that’s when kitchen is finally clean enough to have the space to do it... >He gives you room to continue to grow and change as the years pass even as he grows and changes himself... >And through it all--despite the changes--he stays by your side for a lifetime.

No, you’re not marrying some storybook character. You are marrying a man, a good man. But even in this, you must remember that he is a man--a man with feet of clay, made from the same pitiful, earthy dust that you are. Because know this: whatever weaknesses you have, he will have them too.

And really, that’s one reason why we get married. It’s not because we’re perfect people, but precisely because we are not and God knows that we need all the help and support we can get to make it through this life. And ultimately He uses marriage to make us better people. Through every fight, through every disagreement, through every time that you humble yourself to ask forgiveness and every time that you extend forgiveness.

Some people think that the gospel is best displayed when we are doing a good job at being a wife or a husband. But I’ve come to learn that often, the gospel is best on display when we’re not. When you’re weak and selfish and he loves you anyway--just like Jesus does. Or when he’s stubborn and frustrating and you forgive him anyway--just like Jesus does. And when you spend a lifetime sacrificing for the good of each other, dying daily to your own desires, your own preferences, your own wishes—just like Jesus did. Because when you love like this, you can’t help but be changed and then the gospel will truly be on display through both of you.

But this is not an easy thing. So when you stand before us and make vows to love and care for each other for the rest of your earthly lives, understand this: you are not capable of keeping those vows. You need Someone bigger and stronger and more faithful to keep them for you. And He will.

Because even before you ever thought to make promises to each other, He had already made some of His own. He has promised that He will never leave you or forsake you. He has promised to uphold strengthen you and to give you joy and laughter along the way.  And He has promised that even when things look darkest—when despite your best efforts, you still end up hurting each other—He will be there to pick up the pieces, offering grace and resurrection.

Perhaps in another eleven years, I can give you more insight—maybe you can give me some as well. But whatever road God leads you on, whatever path you take together, remember that I love you and I’ll be rooting for you all the way. And then maybe sometime, after the dishes are done and the children are grown, you and I will have time together once again. Time to catch up on all the years we’ve missed and time to play fairy princesses like I’ve always wanted.

All my love,