The familiar tune and lyrics from “Fiddler on the Roof” keep me company these days. I hum them to myself in the car and repeat the lines as I jog. Nostalgia nuzzles its way into my heart:
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older. When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
Sunrise, sunset; sunrise, sunset;
Swiftly fly the days.
How often you have been the sunrise of refreshment in our home! It began with your birth shortly after your mom and I stepped into ministry together. Those were tough, lean, uncertain days for your daddy. Your brother was almost out of diapers and your parents were scratching around to find the place we would fit in God’s family. In a couple of years, we were off to New England for a first taste of the pastorate on our own. Talk about scared! But there you were, Charissa, tiny little wisp of a girl, bringing color and beauty to dark gray days and cold, winter nights. I suppose we’ll never forget how the winds of Boston swept you off your feet (literally)—you were about the weight of a feather and the size of a butterfly.
And wasn’t camping in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut fun? We roamed the beaches of Cape Cod, you and I, digging clams with our toes. We sang crazy songs and played those silly car games, the four of us, as we laughed our way back to reality at the little home we occupied at 10 Bruce Road, remember?
Your mother and I learned so much there, much of which was painful...but there you were, day after day, so consistently full of life and sparkle, so innocently unaware of the things we were working through, so encouraging, so physically fragile yet emotionally affirming. I shall never forget how your tiny arms around my neck and your quiet words of reassurance, “I love you, Daddy,” kept me going through the dimly lit tunnel of self-discovery. There were days, Sweetheart, when picking you up in that fuzzy grey coat with the hood and holding you close to my face made it possible for me to keep on truckin’. Thank you for being so easy to love, so undemanding. Sunrise, sunset...sunrise, sunset.
A few years and two more kids later our world had changed rather dramatically. From New England to Texas...from an old, established area to a bright, new suburb...from blizzards and snow shovels to long, hot summers, school days, and new horizons for your daddy. By now you were becoming quite sociable. A little sister was on the scene with whom you shared a bedroom—and a tiny brother you loved to hold like your own special doll. But even though our lives got busier and our pace increased, you never wavered in your affection. How I treasure the memories of your tiny hand in mine and watching you model those special “spin-around” dresses from Sunday to Sunday. Our six lives intertwined in that Finley Road dwelling, and we all continued to grow as God stretched us and moulded us into a family unit. Growing up together was great! Without you, we would not have stopped to smell the flowers.
Just about the time we thought we had a handle on things—California, here we came. That was ’71...and you were only eight. Sunrise, sunset...sunrise, sunset. My little will-o’-the-wisp became a young lady. Junior high, senior high...cheerleading, dating, driving, growing into womanhood. Falling deeply in love with Jesus, thanks to good models, fine leaders, and a church full of folks who gave us the freedom to still be a family without having to be perfect. There was junior high “Rancho” at Forest Home, then high school winter camps, core groups, and Bible studies, but mainly there were those talks we enjoyed at home, which solidified and affirmed so many of your decisions. Amidst all the involvements of a fast-moving, ever-enlarging. sometimes-hectic, come-on-let’s-talk family, you seemed to remain a calming influence, a young woman of deep friendships and genuine love. You were never enamored of the superficial, forever committed to the truth. At that point, you are most like your mother. May that never change, Charissa.
And now? My, what can I say? A very discerning and capable young man has discovered you! And of all things, he has not only captured your attention, he has won your heart. Come Friday night, the man has you forever. Sunrise, sunset...sunrise, sunset. The little thing I held and loved, the butterfly of yesteryear, the lovely young woman who has graced our family and taught all of us the value of consistent love and hold-me-close affection moves from our arms to his...and rightly so. This little girl I carried is ready to become a wife. She is highly qualified, more than able to make another house into a home...to add her distinct dimensions and depth of character to a guy who deserves only the very best. With pardonable pride, I must add: Colour him fortunate.
It is with the utmost delight that we applaud your marriage. We agree with your choice for a husband. We affirm your right to have freedom from our control and our leadership. And we anticipate a richness in your relationship with each other and strength in your commitment to Christ.
You will make a lovely bride, and much more important, a splendid wife, Charissa. Your mother and I will release you with unreserved confidence. But I am sure you understand that our memories will never be released. They are the stuff of which our lives consist after you say “I do.”
Sunrise, sunset...sunrise, sunset;
Swiftly fly the years.
One season following another
Ladened with happiness and tears.
With all my love, Daddy.
“Sunrise, Sunset,” by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick from the musical play Fiddler on the Roof, copyright © 1964 by R & H Music Co./Mayerling Productions, Ltd, and Jerry Bock Enterprises.
Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.