ALL IS OF GRACE
'Dad' Pilmoor walking his daughter down the stairs for the last time!
25th September 2013
I remember the dining rituals at College well. Friday evening 'treats' were a bowl of peanuts and raisins, often used as missiles of mischief! Matron made a fuss about this and gave scathing instructions just before I was called to say grace. I remember being inspired to invoke a special blessing on 'the peanuts', to the horror of her hubris, and the general amusement of students. I guess this reputation, gives reason for our family to be nervous, come the 'father of the bride' spiel. I
For Hertford College the venue of our daughter's wedding this week, the standard grace is just two words: Benedictum, Benedicat - May the God who blesses, bless.
This grabbed me as the punch line for an old softee, searching for something to aim for beyond that 'lump in the throat' moment before going squeaky.
En route, it occurred to me that the process for finding a life partner is pretty complex these days. Most of the romantic drivers actually hold little weight compared to the need to find someone who really is a soul mate. This 'longing' is it seems part of our self discovery. We come to love the person that helps us love ourselves. "Love is the link turns our longing to be-longing", a wonderful line I found in John O'Donohue's Eternal Echoes - Exploring our hunger to belong.
Most of the romantic drivers actually hold little weight compared to the need to find someone who really is a soul mate.
It is sad that most of us associate 'belonging' with ownership. We are corrupted with things that 'belong to' rather than the relational association of togetherness, and the people we 'belong with'. I have had to come to grips with accepting that 'my daughter' was never 'mine', she was always 'her own' a child of God on loan, for whom it was my task to earn her sense of belonging from the outset. This may seem a trivial point save that it was the point that God made in sending His Son. The one that they called Emmanuel, not the one over us, or the one to be appropriated by us, but the God who is 'with us'. Further, it was a salient point that needed to be made following generations of patriarchal abuse and power. Jesus demonstrated the failure of human sovereignty, control and slavery.
I have also had to reckon with the question 'who gives this women to this man?' For this too, an understanding beyond the common is required. We are conditioned by capitalist economics to view gifts as a transfer of ownership. Goods that formerly were owned by one party now become the entitlement of another. My loss becomes their gain. In the gift economy, a gift does not denote the transfer of an object or even value, but the extension of a relationship. Honour is maintained by reciprocation. Having freely received, we freely give. As such, the giving of a daughter 'to have and to hold', brings honour and recognition to those who were given to me, 'to have and to hold'. In the gift economy, we gain by giving. The rendition of music, the display of art, the sharing of information are not diminished in their giving, rather they give life to new meaning and understanding. My appreciation, does not diminish your utility. Similarly in the giving of our children to the love of others, we lose nothing but gain expanded joy and circle of togetherness. Not to speak of the expectation of 'having and holding' for generations to come.
So Dad made it! No need for tears, only joy and pride. I lost nothing and gained much. Bring on the voices of celebration - Now thank we all our God, Guide me O thou great Redeemer, and Tell out my Soul, the wonders of the Lord, backed by choir and organ. I can't recall standing so tall and singing with such gusto for years, so what was there to go snuffling about?
Come to think about it, that is the honour of our calling. Benedictum Benedicat.
"All is of grace"
British Union Conference
of Seventh-day Adventists