Monday, March 22, 2010

Anticipating the Others

I breathed a huge sigh of relief Friday night.

I attended the rehearsal dinner for a bride whose family I've known for over fifteen years. After thanking all their guests who had traveled from near and far, the couple took time to honor the role each person present had played in bringing them to readiness for a lifetime commitment to each other.  It was a sacred time, and truly incredible to hear how this group of otherwise strangers had impacted two people.

They spoke for nearly two hours, though it didn't seem long.  There were people there whom they'd known since babyhood, friends from college, colleagues turned cherished confidantes, roommates, mentors, family companions, and lots of family.  The bride and groom spoke of the myriad ways these people had invested in and encouraged them,  of the significant influence they'd had in shaping who they are today: from rafting miles and miles into the ocean to funding education to counseling them as they faced and surmounted rocky terrain in their relationship to simply standing witness to the many milestones in their lives thus far.  The tapestry of stories was lovely and meaningful and, frankly, awe-inspiring.

And I realized that Ben and Abby will have their own toasts to give some day, their own stories to tell, their own entourage of supporters and cheerleaders and mentors and faithful friends to thank for helping them become the man and woman they will be when they stand at the altar and exchange vows with another person who's been guided and shepherded and encouraged and loved by his or her own entourage of faithful and willing supporters.

Sometimes, in these precious fleeting years when they're so small, it feels that their path in this world will be shaped for better or for worse by me and Josh.  But I realize that our children already have some other remarkable individuals who consistently take time to know them and love them and acknowledge their gifts and encourage their interests.  And this sphere of influence will only widen, will only grow more diverse and more specialized.

Soon teachers and coaches and classmates will join the ranks of the life-altering.  Later, friends and their parents, roommates, coworkers, mentors, amazing people they happen to run into at some ordinary, unremarkable time who will become major characters in their stories--these, too, will step in to shoulder the weight of growing them into maturity.  Eventually, they may marry and have children, and then they will have to confront who they are and who they want to be with an honesty and clarity heretofore unknown.

I witnessed Friday night the proverbial village at work with and, at times, in spite of their parents.  Building on their parents' successes and strengths.  Redeeming their parents' failures and mistakes.  Frankly, it was so much less about their moms and dads and so much more about the extraordinary symphony of people and events that God composed for a young man and young woman who are now husband and wife.  It was beautiful to behold: a masterpiece, really.

Seeing this provision has relieved me of a good deal of responsibility and angst.  I am a part--a significant part, perhaps--of Ben and Abby's stories, but just a part nonetheless.  Now, as I endeavor daily to raise them with all that I am--good, bad, and otherwise--I also anticipate and look forward, in faith, to seeing the rest of the ensemble appear.

Thank you all, whoever you may be.

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