Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent and Anticipation of our Daughter's Wedding

I'm used to the discipline of anticipation each Advent season. Dutifully and for the sake of the payoff and fun that happens when Advent yields to Christmastide, I annually put myself in the mindset and disciplines of hopeful expectation--the primary mood of Advent. The onset of December finds me resetting my mind and heart to an empathy for all who yearn for fulfillment of a promise long awaited.

This Advent, however, anticipation is not something I have to imaginatively work at or mindfully develop. During this Advent season, on December 19, to be exact, our daughter Molly will be married. We've got boatloads of anticipation. Our hands are full of preparations. Everyone in the Hay clan is getting ready for the big day and the joy it will bring.

What a combination: preparation for Molly's wedding and preparing for Christmas. Both call for lots of external activity. Making lists, checking them twice. But both, just as much, call for a preparation of the heart. While I am working down the checklists and activities for the wedding and Christmas, I am very much aware that I need to be preparing my heart, too.

I remember my lack of internal preparation for our oldest child Abby's wedding and marriage six years ago. I thought I was ready. I waltzed through all the arrangements quite readily. Everything was falling into place just fine. But when the week of the wedding came, I experienced feelings I'd never experienced before--feelings that perhaps only fathers of the bride of a firstborn can know. While I was full of anticipation and prepared externally, a knot developed in my throat and heart that I couldn't quite shake and still can't quite describe. I was both joyful and sorrowful, both happy and sad. When people asked me what was wrong, all I could muster was: "Nothing's wrong. It's all wonderful. But this must be what it feels like to let go of your child." I walked through my part in Abby and Alex's beautiful wedding in a bit of a daze. I feel its surreal emotions even as I reflect on it and write this.

Whatever it was that hit me that week faded. I guess I got over it. But not quite. It left me with a profound reverence for the marriage Abby and Alex have entered into. It left me with an awe that these things go much deeper and higher than our mere outward preparations. It left me with an appreciation for the sacredness of passages and relationships and life. Truly, none of these things--nothing in life, really--is to be "entered into lightly, but reverently, discreetly, and in the fear of God" (from a wedding ceremony statement I have frequently used).

So, Molly and Jacob's wedding rapidly approaches. We busy ourselves with what we need to do to make it the wedding they have imagined and we all can celebrate together. In the midst of these preparations, I must check my heart. I must take time to be still. To reflect. To Listen. To try to share thoughtful conversations. To be honest with myself and faithful to the emotions that sweep through me. To shape my worries into prayers. To envision the future of blessing that lies before Molly and Jacob and all of us who have a part in their life together. To envision this whole thing as bigger than me, than our family, than Molly and Jacob, than what any of us can think or imagine--to conceive of it as a critical part of a Kingdom and Intention of which we are invited to be a part.

If I do that, or even part of that, or attempt to do part of that, I may be ready come December 19. We'll see. And then...then I can think about getting ready for Christmas.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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