Dating is nothing new for my daughter. Years ago Rachael began leaving our house once a month for dinner and a movie with the guy she loved: Her dad. It wasn't for lack of alternatives. Boys proposed to her when she was three, four, and twice when she was six. Each time she most emphatically said no.
In her teen years she pasted a Bible verse to her bedroom door. Psalm 56:1: “Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me.” And they did. A few showed up holding flowers. I had rehearsed clever and witty things to say to them, threats involving their little bodies and staple guns. But I never had the heart while they stood there on our front steps, sweating, as if someone had already yelled, “Ready! Aim!—”
“Why don't you go out with them?” I surprised myself by asking.
“They're not the kind of guys I wanna marry,” she said. “Besides, I like dating you. You pay for everything.”
A few summers ago a guy by the name of Jordan began showing up with regularity. His nerves weren't so good either. One day he leaned against our counter and the toast popped up. You'd have thought he had licked an electric fence.
Jordan is immensely helpful around the house. It's surprising the things this guy will do for free. He has cleaned our shed, repaired our dryer, mowed grass, shovelled snow, and correctly assembled a barbecue. He does dishes, sweeps floors, and is showing real potential in the cleaning-out-our-fridge department.
One day last June Jordan stammered, “I, uh, was gonna talk to you about, uh, your daughter. I really like her.”
I had rehearsed clever and witty threats for him. They were too good not to use. While sharpening a knife I informed him that I'm not real big but I have lots of friends. That if he broke her heart I would break some things that he might need. I told him that nothing on earth matters more to me than this girl; that we've prayed for her every single day of her life. That she'd find a guy who doesn't talk about God as much as he loves Him. And I told him about the video surveillance units we've installed in every room. And in his car.
He chuckled nervously and said, “I'll be good to her.” And he has.
Just before Christmas Jordan's enthusiasm for chores reached an all-time high and his nervous disorder resurfaced. While Ramona and I wrapped Christmas gifts one night, he tapped on our door, and tiptoed in like a porcupine entering a balloon factory.
“I was going to ask you about the uh,” — long pause—“marrying Rachael.”
“Does she know about this?” was all that came to mind.
“Sit down,” I said, stalling. Jordan sat on the bed. “You have the right to remain silent,” I informed him. His grin widened. “Seriously, we've been watching you and we like what we see. You're a gentleman. You make her laugh and we've seen your love for Jesus. You're a youth pastor so you'll be broke. That's OK. We were too. Rachael has made me very happy. She'll do the same for you if you let her. Just remember, I dated her first, you know?”
Then I asked him a few simple questions: Why would you like to marry her? Will you be stronger together than apart? How do you plan to encourage her gifts? Are you honouring her now? How will you honour her after you tie the knot? How will you help her grow closer to God? What will you do if marriage doesn't turn out the way you planned? Easy stuff like that.
He spluttered a little, so I suggested we talk about these things during the seven years he would spend raising cattle for me. Jordan laughed. “You have a great sense of humour,” I told him.
“I think I'm gonna need it,” he said. And we all laughed.
On December 28 Mr. Jordan Culp produced a sparkling diamond set in gold, got down on one knee, and fainted. No, he didn't. He popped a question: “Will you marry me?” It wasn't the first time she'd been asked, but this time Rachael broke down and cried. And said, “Yes.”
We couldn't be happier for them. But like an eight-track tape plugged into a Blu-ray machine we realize that life changes fast. I find myself offering up more prayers now, and less unsolicited advice. Last night I found myself on the other end of things when I asked Jordan, “May I have your permission to date her when you're married?”
Sometimes we watch them in the car talking about their June wedding. (The picture is quite clear from these new-fangled surveillance cameras.) They're planning a lavish catered affair, but I think we should have a backyard potluck. A-E bring a hot dish. F-M salads. N-Z toasters. I haven't mentioned this to Rachael. But I'm sure she'll leave that decision up to me.
After all, I'm the dad. I pay for everything.
The Wedding is June 18.