I haven’t really had time to process my feelings about last Friday night with my daughter Katie. Both our girls—if you don’t mind a little bragging—are pretty remarkable. Rachel got married two years ago and lives in Chattanooga. She and her husband Tyler are very involved in leadership at the Chattanooga Vineyard. I’m super-proud of both of them.
Katie lives here in Cincinnati and has married a great guy named James who is on staff with us at Vineyard Cincinnati. Katie has been involved with Student Ministries and currently facilitates worship for a young adult group that James leads.
Weeks ago Katie and I talked about what she wanted to do for the father/daughter dance at her wedding reception. I threw out some ideas but none really grabbed her. She said she would pick one out. As the day got closer, I wondered what she was going to do. At the rehearsal she said it would be a surprise. I wondered if it was some song she liked as a little girl. And then I remembered the N’Sync and Backstreet Boys teenage years and got worried. Oh well…it was her day. It could be a joke-song of sorts.
Then she got me.
When Katie was a little girl, she was never comfortable with sleepovers. I think some of it had to do with her fighting asthma and afraid she might not do well and have an emergency. Whatever the reason, she just didn’t feel comfortable. For her it was really a big fear to overcome. Most of us have something like that. The first few times she tried it, about 11 PM I’d get a call from a parent saying, “I think Katie really wants to come home”…and of course I’d go get her. She would fight the tears back, disappointed with herself.
One day she wanted to go with the other little kids on a two night retreat at the church. When I pulled up, there were lots of other little kids and their parents waiting in line. As we got out of the car, her eyes filled up and she said, “I don’t think I can do this.” And of course no little kid wants other little kids to see them crying. She jumped back in the car and burst into tears. She really wanted to do it but was simply anxious.
I’d been through this before and honestly I felt frustrated. She was at an age where I really thought she should handle this. I started to slip into a controlling mode to tell her I’m not going to do this again and if we turned around and drove all the way back home, that was it—I’m done—and she should be old enough to handle this. Bla bla bla...
But instead, God was merciful and shut my big mouth (which isn’t always the case). And then He gave me something else to offer.
I said, “Katie, I’ll tell you what. I can be a father to you in two ways right now: I can be ‘soft daddy’ and say, ‘Honey, you don’t have to do this. It’s not a big deal; your time will come. Let’s go home.’ Or I can be ‘tough daddy’ and say, ‘Come on, Katie, You’re a big girl; you can do this.’ I’ll be whatever you need right now.”
She looked down at the floor, took a deep breath and said, “I want you to be ‘tough daddy’…”
And so we got out of the car and walked all around the parking lot while I gave her my best Woody Hayes talk without the expletives. “You can do this, Katie! You’re going to have a blast and by the end of this you’re going to wish you could keep staying! It’s not that big of a deal; you’re not that far away. You can call me if you absolutely need to…and I’ll be there. But you can do this—I know you can!”
She hugged my neck and left…and never had another problem. I’m glad I didn’t force anything on her. Control is really not that great of a deal.
And then years later I remember the day she drove to Nashville without really knowing anyone and found a place to live with two other girls for two years and became fearless in so many areas of her life in Jesus, discovering her own faith. Six months after that she took off for Australia, Thailand and Indonesia with Youth With A Mission for nearly a half-year.
And so here we are at the wedding. It was in a one-hundred year old Catholic church that our friends at Vineyard Central bought a few years ago. The room was filled with tables, beaucoup candles, food, wine and old and new friends. After the ceremony and dinner, my buddy and co-worker Alton Alexander announced the father/daughter dance…and said it was a special song that Katie had written and recorded for this night. I was surprised, partly because I’ve always been a cheerleader for Katie’s songwriting, but she had cooled off a bit on writing in the last few years. She gave me that two-hundred watt Katie smile, held my hand, and we danced as she whispered the lyrics in my ear while we both cried…
Dance With Me | Katie Workman
Kiss my heart
Once is not enough
My dreams won’t find me
Without that last touch
I won’t forget
As I drove away
You’re so hard to leave and
I tried to be brave
So dance with me
Dance with me
This will be our song
Taught me to love
Forgive those that hurt
Gave me the freedom
To fall and to learn
Here in this dress
Where everything changed
You opened your hand and
You gave me away
So dance with me
Dance with me
This will be our song
Yeah, pretty well wiped me out.
May they have a long and Spirit-filled marriage.