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My daughter is marrying out of the church

October 1st, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I brought up all my three children in the church. My daughter is is getting married very soon, and will not have a clergy or a pastor officiating at the wedding. I am hurt that God will not be at their wedding.
 
How can I come to terms with this? It is as if she is turning her back on our Lord.

∼ Fran F.

Answer:

Dear Fran,

Even before we give birth to our children, we give birth to hopes and dreams for their lives. We pray for their physical health and safety and for their spiritual health and safety as well. We do more than pray; we buy car seats and bike helmets, we bring them to church or synagogue, celebrate holidays and speak to them of God. Yet, despite our efforts, we are not able to control events or them.

We understand your grieving. Maybe you could have done some things better (as we all could) or maybe the path that this child is taking is unrelated to the way she was brought up. From your letter it doesn’t sound as if she is rejecting you, although she is making a decision for her adult life that does reject what you tried to teach her. There is also the possibility that she is turning from organized religion rather than from God.

Two things strike us in your letter.  We may be reading more between the lines than you intended but the first is no mention of her father.  You didn’t write,  “My husband and I brought up our 3 children…”   If her father is out of the picture as your letter might hint, it naturally added immensely to the challenges you confronted.  Second, no mention of the man who will become your son-in-law.  Does this hint at your disapproval of him?  In which case, not getting married in the church is probably as much his decision as your daughter’s. Or more.  Is she following her man, or leading him?  These are tough things to contemplate but possibly relevant.

The first thing we would say is to acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to grieve. You don’t actually “come to terms” with this type of loss; you have no choice but to accept it. Your daughter, as well, needs to accept the end of her dream of parents who are thrilled with her marriage. How to act needs to be discussed with your faith leader (do you attend the wedding, do you do more than that?), but we would urge you to use this opportunity to strengthen your own relationship with God.

Turn to God with your hurt and keep your prayers for your daughter flowing. Today’s actions don’t mean that change can’t happen in the future. To the extent that it is compatible with your faith, keep the lines of communication open and share your hopes for her happiness with her. That hasn’t changed. You don’t need to love the way she is getting married to love her.

Easier said than done,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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