I am not quite sure that she knew the gravity of the words she had spoken to me just a few seconds before. Then again, I wasn’t ready for the weight of them, either. We had just watched as my youngest daughter, Emily, and some of Katie’s, my oldest daughter’s, friends walked down the blue-carpeted aisle. Yes, we were rehearsing for Katie’s and Kevin’s big day, which would be arriving the next morning. Sherry, the wedding director at Ardmore United Methodist, was exquisite in her practice of ensuring that all details of the sacred moment would be almost second nature for us who would be actively participating in it. But then she uttered that invitation that struck me no less than if I had stood in front of a speeding locomotive, “All right, you may go when you’re ready.” I am sure that she had spoken these words countless times before. Likewise, in any other circumstance, I probably would have thought nothing of them. But at that moment, it was different—oh, so different. “When I’m ready?!” my heart screamed out to the point only my mind could hear. “I’m not ready! There’s no way I will ever be ready…this is my little girl!” Yet, as much as I wanted to scoop her up and cradle her in my arms, like I did so many times in years gone by, to do everything I could to protect her, my feet started making the trek down the aisle, without giving any consideration to my heart’s abject refusal. True, it was just the rehearsal, but it was a very real sign of an imminent future.
Having made it down the aisle, knees still trembling at the surreality of it all, I began to regain a bit of calmness and composure. After all, this is my domain; this is my workspace. Here, in the center of the chancel area of the church, is the place where I plan for and perform the duties of my calling. So, I took a deep breath and thought through what I would say. “I can do this. I’ve done this many times before.” But then, someone else spoke up and my world flipped over again, as I realized that I was facing the wrong way. I was not the pastor here; I was the father of the bride, the most pitiful of all of God’s creatures.
My eyes quickly darted from side to side as if searching for some words to say that would bring me into some sort of stability. But as they flashed back and forth, I heard her speak, my dear friend, Renee, asking me these words, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” Once again, I was speechless. On so many occasions I had asked that same question, but it was now time for me to give an answer…the answer. Renee could sense my inner turmoil and just smiled as she patiently waited for me to say, “Her mother and I.” Yes, it was just the rehearsal, but it was the very real sign of an imminent future.
With those very words, which I did indeed utter the very next day in that beautiful sanctuary, my part was over. I had just given away one that is priceless to me. I was able to do so only because I saw the look of love in Katie’s and Kevin’s eyes. While I saw glimpses of it at the rehearsal, on the day of their wedding, I saw it in all of its splendor. I was able to accomplish the toughest job I had ever had, only because I had rehearsed the evening before and had time to hear God speak, “It’s okay, Tim, I am here with them and you. This is part of my plan and it’s good. It’s very good.”