Thirty nine years ago tonight, Janet and I, along with our families and bridal party, were celebrating our rehearsal dinner at a restaurant in the south suburbs of Chicago named the Barn. It was one of our favorite places to eat and always the place that I went with my family to celebrate birthdays and special occasions throughout my childhood and young adult years. With the dawn on Friday, we celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary. Earlier today, we were reflecting on the events of that life-changing union when we exchanged our vows in Trinity Methodist Church. In fact, we were even married on a Friday – and this was just one of the many things that we discussed on our journey east to celebrate.
Today, Janet and I left Indianapolis to head to Williamsburg for a few days to visit Janet’s folks, as well as her sister and brother-in-law. Then, on Monday, we will head to our favorite resort, the Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, WV and spend several days there before we head back home. Back when Janet and I were married, on Aug. 24, 1973, neither of us would have ever guessed that our lives would have taken the twists and turns that have happened to us along the way. Back then, the entire family lived in the Chicago area and it never even occurred to either of us that our home base would ever change.
Now, 39 years later, my folks are both gone and Janet’s parents, vital and healthy, live in Williamsburg, VA. My two brothers are still both near Chicago and parts of both of our families have moved out of state, as far away as Oklahoma. Janet and I have three children and six grandchildren; one of our daughters has dealt with a terrible, unwanted divorce, and I have actually performed the wedding ceremonies for two of our children.
I never even thought I would ever be in ministry; in fact, I thought I would be a renowned surgeon by now… but that’s what my middle brother became. I’m just a corporate guy who spent 10 years in seminary… a regular working “stiff” as they say. All these things have crossed my mind as I sit here in the Hilton Garden Inn in Charlottesville watching the computer screen in front of me.
But more than anything, as I look back on my life with Janet, I have an overwhelming sense of peace and satisfaction. I’ve made mistakes; we all have – but as I look back over all the years, I don’t think that I could have ever envisioned God providing me a better partner. The kids and grandchildren are great – but the essence of my life, apart from God, is my commitment to Janet and her commitment to me. Everything else, and I mean everything, flows from that fundamental truth.
Without her, no kids, no grandchildren, no business success, no seminary, no God centered life… get the idea? I have learned so much from her that it boggles my mind. She has always had tremendous faith and I have been blessed by her relationship with God. When times have been tough, we have dug in and committed to get through it – together. And when things are going well, we count our blessings rather than being arrogant enough to think that we are the authors of our own success.
Interestingly, when we travel together, we would drive than fly. It gives us alone time – a chance to talk and stay in touch with one another. After all, our lives are still hectic and there are always interruptions when we are at home. So today, like every other trip by car, we start out with a kiss as we pull out of the garage and then we just let the day unfold. For example, today, with 10 hours in the car together, we listened to two podcasts from Dallas Theological Seminary, literally had the radio on for less than a minute, and we talked the rest of the time. About the kids, my clients, our retirement account, our rehearsal dinner back in ’73, how many times we have made this trip, how we enjoy each other’s company, and the fact that after all these years, we can still have a great time just being together, doing absolutely nothing…
Just being in the presence of each other is cathartic for both of us. And as I sit here tonight, both of us believe that it’s the same with our time in communion with God. Sometimes, it is just good to sit there and do nothing. God doesn’t care… We don’t have to entertain Him, or always be in a posture of prayer. Yes, we adore God, but we are also in relationship with Him. And that means that He understands it when when we are just plain still…
Tonight’s verse is from the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus is talking. He tells us in Mark 6:31, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” For Janet and me, that quiet place is, more times than not, the long drives we take together. Rest – the way we get re-charged driving in the car and doing nothing – just being in the presence of each other.
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God understands when you just sit there in silent communion. It’s perfectly alright with Him. My prayer is that during your quiet times, you will strengthen your relationship with God, just as Janet and I continue to grow our relationship after 39 years, and counting. Happy Anniversary, Janet. I love you, even more than the day we were married. And to all of you, have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…