“Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” – Ruth 1:16-17
Today, August 18, is the 36th anniversary of the day Rebekah and I were married. Last year we marked 35 with an epic vacation in Italy; this year we’re celebrating by saying, “Yay! thirty-six years! What a wonderful adventure!”
Before we started dating (February 4, 1977), Rebekah had the perfect, best ever, “I’ll never see that guy again,” relationship terminator line ready to use when necessary.
“I’m going into the ministry,” she would say; “God has called me to be a pastor.” Stetson was – then – a Southern Baptist university, and the line worked like a charm – flawless. One date? Three dates? Things not going so well? Things humming along nicely? Pull out the relationship terminator and she’d never see them again.
Sometime before our first month was done she tried it on me. Did. Not. Work. I came back with some version of, “How cool is that!” and made her a cup of tea. The dump-Derek plan was derailed before it even left the station.
To be honest, I really didn’t have any idea what the preacher’s husband (clergy-hubby) job might involve; but I did know that I loved Jesus, and that any journey Rebekah and I might head out on together, as followers of The Way, was going to be the kind of epic adventure I would not want to miss.
SOME JOURNEY! So two and a half years later, after Rebekah’s first year of graduate work at Columbia Seminary, we stood in front of a crowd of people and promised to cling together through all the astonishing, wild, beautiful, unimagined, love-saturated, difficult, breathtaking, heartrending, wondrous, extraordinary days, months, and years to come.
Along the way we have loved with spectacular alacrity, we have loved stubbornly, with teeth gritted, and we have loved when we didn’t know what else we could possibly do. We have thrown ourselves into ministry, falling in love with three uniquely gifted faith communities. We have walked, we have danced, we have stumbled, we have held one-another up. We have raised two astounding children, watching them find themselves, their faith, their lives, and their loves. We have seen God at work in unimaginable ways, we have literally watched angels walk into our home, and we have just as surely stopped evil at our very door.
We have rented three apartments, purchased four houses, lived in five towns, owned 23 different vehicles, raised four animals, and found ourselves – to date – with two adorable grandchildren.
SO MUCH MORE… We have learned so much, and we continue to learn every single day, and we have grown – and continue to grow – inasmuch as we willingly submit ourselves to each other, and to the guiding hand of Providence…
…And the best part is that sometimes I feel as if we’re just now catching on. This life, this adventure we are living, is so rich, and full, so challenging, and saturated with grace; we are surrounded by good people who love us, and God has placed us in a community where we are reminded daily that absolutely anything is possible if only we believe, and if only we struggle together, and if only we continue to walk in the light.
So, Happy Anniversary, Rebekah! Let’s walk into our future together with faith and anticipation. Let the adventures continue! – DEREK