I have two sons in law, Justin and Johnmark. I am thankful for both of them. They are good to my daughters and Justin is a good father to my grand-children. I am confident Johnmark will be a great father as well. Justin is a Methodist minister and Johnmark is probably going to be an Anglican minister.
I have put off this entry for eleven months. I have little concern about their response; its their wives’ possible reactions that cause me to pause. Parents are not supposed to have opinions, especially about the person’s who marry their children. And so I delve into a place where smarter men would know to avoid.
Alethea met Justin at Wesley Seminary. I had advised her to go to seminary between college and medical school. (“There’s a difference between a doctor who is a Christian and a Christian doctor.”) I thought she would come to our seminary, but I was naïve. At any rate they met, fell in love, and married after her first year of medical school. It seemed providential that Justin go through the ordination process in Memphis, his Grandfather’s conference in the Methodist church.
Stepping backward a moment, Justin actually proposed to Alethea shortly after her move to Memphis. We were all over there together and drove back to Cleveland in two cars. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Nashville on the way home. I ordered a pork dish; I always have chicken and dumplings at Cracker Barrel, but for some reason I was adventurous. Adventure is a prelude to food poisoning.
All night long I blessed a trash can next to my bed. The following morning Justin had to leave but he needed to talk with me before he left. I put on my house coat and stumbled downstairs to the den where he nervously asked for my blessing to marry Alethea.
Not in my best form, I responded that my blessing was not important; it was God’s blessing he needed. I asked why he wanted to marry my daughter, did he believe it to be God’s will and if so why did he believe it to be the will of God? I don’t think he was prepared for a final exam, but he responded with sincerity. I responded with a promise, “If you are good to her, I’ll be the best friend you have in the world. If you are not, you will answer to me, and according to my theology God will forgive me.”
I later heard he told his family I threatened to kill him if he mistreated Alethea. The next time I saw him I reminded him of my exact words. I did not use the word “kill” or make any reference to violence. I added, “However, your interpretation of my statement has significantly improved my estimation of your skills as an exegete.”
I gave the same speech to Johmark, but I suspect it had lost its flair through the distortions of family lore. He didn’t seem the least bit intimidated. Maybe I should have eaten some spoiled fish the night before, just for effect.
The truth be told, I am thankful I did not choose my sons in law. I would have blown that most important of decisions for all of them. At least I had enough sense to trust Alethea and Karisa to find their soul mates (written with the full conviction I had a choice). They chose well and were chosen well.
As far as I can tell, and I am observing closely, Justin and Johnmark are both very good husbands to my daughters: they love God, work hard, play hard, and they support my daughters to follow God's call on their lives. And I am the best friend they have in the world, whether they know it or not. Good friends keep you honest and stay out of your business at the same time.
December 2, 2010