I'm grateful to everyone who has asked me about preparations for Maggie's wedding on Saturday. Before and after the ceremony I will be chauffeur and concierge for some family and friends. I know I'll spend the day before in my familiar role as Laurence the Camel: hauling, loading, unloading, hauling. I'm an expert at packing and unpacking our SUV. As FOTB I've dutifully paid for a share of wedding expenses. I expected and welcome all of this.
What I wasn't ready for was the emotional roller coaster ride that goes with being FOTB. As a pastor I've dealt with the emotions of many Mothers of the Bride. A MOTB can be a real handful in the days before and after a wedding, while a bride can be as cool as a cucumber. FOTBs are usually in the background, feeling things just as deeply as their wives, but mostly silent. At least until the toasts at the reception begin.
Today I saw a young father having a lunch date with his daughter, who looked to be between three and four. I saw Maggie and me and, to be honest, that's how I still see us a lot of the time. I figure that's how I'll see us on Saturday. She will always be my girl. I know not every father-daughter relationship is good and loving. I also know fathers and daughters can share a bond that may stretch but can never be broken. When she's three or four you are like a god to her. When she looks at you with love at any age, you feel like a god. When you have just one child, and that child is a daughter, it's especially hard to let her grow, and let her go to follow a path she has chosen.
So, to everyone who has asked me how I'm doing, I have to say I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm proud, I'm afraid, and I'm already tired. I have two FOTB speeches prepared. One ends with me telling the groom he's the luckiest man in the world and we're delighted to welcome him into the family. The other speech is a warning. If he ever disappoints my girl, I'll hunt him down and... I'll probably go with the first speech. I think he already gets the second message.
Parenting offers us a unique opportunity to experience what it's like for God to love us unconditionally. If we think of the old image of the church as the Bride of Christ, then maybe we can imagine God riding the FOTB (or POTB) roller coaster of joy, sorrow, pride, frustration, rage when others hurt us, anger when we choose to hurt ourselves, forgiveness that flows like tears, beyond control. God knows the mixture of pain and satisfaction that come from letting us grow, and letting us go.
Like a FOTB God watches, mostly silent, but loving truly, madly, deeply. Seeing us only at our best. Taking us by the hand only when and for as long as necessary. But never stepping beyond our reach.
Maybe this post would be more appropriate in the week before Father's Day than now, with Mother's Day approaching. I didn't choose the wedding date.
I'll do my best to be a good FOTB. Play chauffeur, concierge, Laurence the Camel, and Rock of Gibraltar. For my little girl, who is in so many ways much smarter than I am, and in so many ways more mature than her mother and I were when we got married.