Monday, April 16, 2007

weddings

I have a wedding to be at this coming Saturday. It’s not any old wedding. I don’t really like “any old” weddings to be honest. In my pastoral arts calling I participate in plenty of “any old” weddings”. This one is different. It’s special. It’s for my son and his fiancé. I’m old. I may not look it, but trust me I am. People tell me all the time how I don’t look old enough to have a son who is planning a wedding that was actually planned for, if you know what I mean. “Trust me, I’m plenty old enough” I assure them. Not only am I old enough, my own wedding was actually a planned for affair, so you do the math. It works out. I guess that I’m like a decent used car find. I look good in the right lighting and from 10 feet away. Get close enough and I have plenty of stone chips and door dings. My wife, on the other hand, is the real find. It doesn’t matter the light or the distance, she’s the real steal.
So he’s getting married and I’m left to wonder whether or not I readied him for it. It’s a bit late, I’ll admit. I mean really, if one hasn’t been preparing your son for the task throughout the years, then this week will not be of much use. I think he’s ready though. He’s got some rough edges to be sure, but I can’t expect anything else to be true when I still have my own after having lived twice his life. He love’s God, he loves her, and he loves his mom, and he knows how to show it to all three. I guess that you can’t ask for a whole lot more. Children are a measurement of ourselves whether we ever intended them to be or not. What I mean is that how others view our children is often self perceived as a reflection on us as parents. Are they polite? Are they kind? Are they accomplished? Are they responsible? Some parents I have encountered would claim that it’s all about them. I only care about their well being. That’s a load of crap, or at least cause for some costly therapeutic adjustments. Honest parents know that answering those questions in the affirmative is part concern for them and part concern for us. I am fortunate. I frequently have others tell us what wonderful kids that we have. They are wonderful and I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t proud of that. But I’d also be lying if I told you that part of it wasn’t self centered pride on the illusion that I may have had influence on that. I have my wife, their mom, to thank for that bit of influential genius. I have those, behind closed doors when not in the public, memories of parenting gone bad. I remember those moments when all of the parenting seminar wisdom and all the parenting advice that I give in my profession goes right out the window and the yelling ensues.
Children have the best of us and the worst of us all rolled into one. It’s both encouraging and horrifying to look into that mirror. They get that way by modeling us and our behaviors. If I could do one bit of magic in my pastoral calling, I think that it would be to place a special mirror in front of expectant parents and to help them realize that one day they will stand where I am this morning. (Ok, so I’m sitting) One day you'll look at them and they'll look like the image in the mirror if you're not careful. It could be a good thing or a bad thing. The best thing is that you get to decide. One day you will wonder if you did well, or did enough, or did too much, and on that day it will be too late. It will be too late to spend more time at their school stuff. It will be too late to buy their mom more flowers and to give more hugs. It will be too late to establish trust and communication. One day, all of your appointments and commitments, and every other "–ments" that slowly steal your life away will still be there, but your children won’t. You’ll wake up and realize that you became one of “those” parents. You know the ones. The parents you swore you'd never be in the traps that you swore you'd never fall into.
Fortunately, that’s not me. I have tried beyond trying to keep my family front and center in my life, the creation order, in my humble opinion, needing to be God, family, self, task, and then everything else. That’s not been easy in a task that serves others. I miss the mark more than I ever intended, but far less than I could have. God has given me the sense that I can best serve by modeling, just as I can best parent by modeling. I have also been blessed with a community o’ faith that believes this as well.
So here I sit at “Tully’s on the beach” and look back over 21 years and realize that indeed I do have good kids, better than I deserve. I also realize that it was time consuming and sacrificial and wonderful and frustrating and scary and everything that parenting was created to be and I feel privileged to be part of the process. We did alright, my wife and I. My prayer for you parents who take the time to read this is that you put yourself into it with everything that you have. I pray that you love and sacrifice and model. I pray that you realize the enormous responsibility and joy. And I pray that it doesn’t take a wedding to bring you to that point.

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