celebrating 40 years of dating – grateful for the journey

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You have captured my heart,
    my treasure, my bride.
You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes,
    with a single jewel of your necklace.
 Your love delights me,
    my treasure, my bride.
Your love is better than wine,
    your perfume more fragrant than spices. – Song of Solomon 4:9-10

Those of you who read this space often already know I consider each new day a blessing worthy of celebration. Life is an awesome privilege, and my best word to anyone on any day is this: “Live like you mean it!”

But today – February 4 – holds extra special meaning. Because it was on this day back in 1977, forty years ago today, that Rebekah and I met up on the steps on front of her dorm at Stetson University, smiled a little self-consciously at one another, and headed out on our first date!

We were both just twenty years old. Oh, my, goodness. And twenty is – as you can tell from the pictures – very, very young. I had actual hair! Rebekah looks much the same.

img_7661Rebekah Alexander – a junior – was a serious scholar engaged in a broad classical humanities curriculum. She already knew that God was calling her into full time ministry. I, on the other hand, had essentially squandered my high school education before traveling the world for two years. I was a freshman, learning how to be a student for the first time, and taking psychology classes because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

Meeting Rebekah did a number of amazing things for me. First, I was suddenly dating the most beautiful woman on campus. Then, I began to see just how rich, and deep, and satisfying, and meaningful, life could be. Rebekah helped me begin to plot a trajectory that led me to an increasingly more complete experience of, and appreciation for, both my life and my faith. In fact, she helped me understand that a full life and a deep faith are one and the same thing.

Rebekah helped me begin to plot a trajectory that led me to an increasingly more complete experience of, and appreciation for, both my life and my faith. In fact, she helped me understand that a full life and a deep faith are one and the same thing.

Always/Still Dating:

We’ve been dating now for 14,610 days. We’ve been married thirty-seven and a half of those forty years, but we’ve worked really hard to make sure that we never stopped dating.

img_7652That first date involved simply walking over to the Edmunds Center to watch a basketball game; tonight’s will either feature dinner at Outback, or me cooking filet mignon at home. In between we’ve picnicked on mountaintops, dressed up for five star restaurants, taken a hunk of cheese and a bottle of wine to a park in Paris, met for hurried lunches between meetings, and sipped hot tea on the White Cliffs of Dover. Some of our early favorite dates involved a shared honey bun and a pint of milk on the steps of the church, late night walks on the beach at New Smyrna, or breakfast at IHOP when I got off the graveyard security shift at 6:00 am.

But no matter how much we had in the kitty, where we were in the world, or how busy life seemed to be, we always continued dating – at least every week. We believe in it, we believe in making the effort, and we will till the day one of us passes into eternity.

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North Carolina, 40-years later

So today I am grateful that Rebekah picked up the phone, called my dorm, and asked me out on that first date. After that she never had to ask again.

And I am deeply grateful for the journey we are on, the journey that still continues. We still have some growing to do, more lessons to learn together, and many tomorrows to engage with creativity, and purpose, and passion, and promise.

Maybe we should go out on a date and talk about it….

– DEREK

(all photos from early 1977)

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