To my husband, on our anniversary:
Is there any way that I can write what I want to say to you? I’m going to try, because that’s just what I do, but before I do I want to tell you a story. It’s a story in progress, right now, right here, in Panera as I sit here.
Just over from my table is a man – probably in his 70s, dressed in the casual clothes of a comfortable retirement: an abstract floral shirt, khaki shorts, bright white tennis shoes, gray athletic socks. He sits with his book, a commentary on the biblical letter to the Hebrews, and a cup of coffee his wife just brought to him. As she sets the cup on his table and moves away, he gazes at her with soft, loving, happy eyes.
They aren’t sitting together, though. He sits at a lone table for one, across from his gray-haired bride of many years. She sits alone, too, stirring her coffee until it’s sweet and cool enough for her liking. What caught my eye about her, though, is what she pulled from her bag. A laptop and a small notebook now sit next to her coffee cup, and she sits focused on her computer screen, fingers dancing over the keyboard as she remains oblivious to her husband’s adoring gazes.
He brought her here – the car keys sit on his table, not hers – and he sits patiently passing the time while she does whatever it is that she is doing. His support of her endeavors is implicit and clear. He wants her to do whatever it is she is doing, and he sees it as part of his purpose to make that possible for her.
This, to me, is a picture of us. That is what you are to me. I don’t know their story, but as one who is observing it nearby, I am touched by the quiet service he does for her. I don’t pretend that there isn’t a back story to what I am seeing at this adjacent table, but what I do see is both familiar and idyllic. It is what I would have dreamed for myself had I ever thought it to be possible, and it is what I see in my everyday now that God has brought me you.
I don’t know how I could ever – ever – begin to express the appreciation I have and am developing for you. Over the past eight years, you have stood by me, gently pressing your hand into the small of my back as you guide me not where you want me to go, but where you believe our God has asked me to go. You have stood at the back of the church on Saturday evenings, watching me rehearse sermons again and again for the next morning, willing to do what it takes for me to feel comfortable in this place onstage where God has led me. You have released me countless times to the coffee-drinking crowd at Panera, willingly picking up the slack at home when my laptop has gone neglected for too long. You have gone to endless means to raise money for my different trips and conferences, never once saying how it should be your turn to get away for a couple of days. You have sat with me as I have panicked over everything and nothing at all. You have come to understand things about mental health that you never k we you didn’t know. You have done so much that I can’t come close to recounting it here.
Honestly, it seems unfair. This calling God has given me is not an individual calling. When He called me to write and speak, setting my tongue and my fingers ablaze with a message that must be shared, He called both of us. This is you and it’s me. It’s me and it’s you. It’s both of us, working in tandem to get wherever it is that God has in mind for us to go. But sometimes it seems like I get the glamorous and the fun parts while you get the grunt work.
Sometimes I want to shout from the stage, “God has brought me here, certainly, but I WOULD NOT BE HERE without that man back there.” I want to give you full credit for all that you have done to encourage and support me. It is beyond reason, and I am grateful. Yes, this is the work of the Lord in my life, but I cannot exclude you from the acknowledgements. I cannot, and I won’t.
So today, as we celebrate the first eight years of our married life together, I want to say, purely and simply, thank you. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your support. Thank you for seeing things in me that I don’t see in myself, and for believing that God sees even greater things in me. Thank you for the life you make possible through your dedication to Jesus. Thank you for loving me and our daughter in a way that makes us more and more the people God designed us to be. Thank you for who you are, and for the ways that you inspire me to be a better wife and mama. Thank you for sticking around when this calling seems more burden than blessing, and thank you for listening when I am freaking out about the direction of my sermons. Thank you for not missing a beat before agreeing whenever I come to you with my latest idea. Thank you for supplying me with the techno-gadgets I need to do what I do and do it well. Thank you for believing in me…..but even more for believing in God.
And thank you for what you’re likely thinking as you read this. You’re probably thinking two things: 1)”I haven’t don’t anything special,” and 2)”I wish she hadn’t written this where everyone we know will read it.”
Those two thoughts are so representative of the man that you are – the man who I am so blessed to have married – and today I wanted to give you some public praise. Jesus is my rock, but you are the tether that keeps me tied to Him. I am thankful, today and always, that God saw fit to bring us together. I am thankful that this picture I see here in Panera, man and wife side by side doing what they do, could well be a picture of us. I pray that one day, when we are old and gray, we can inspire a similar thought in a similar young couple. I imagine that there will be a lot of similarities where reach that point. I can promise you, though, that I won’t bring you coffee when we go to Panera. I’ll pack you a Diet Mountain Dew in my bag, and I’ll take on anyone who gets onto you for drinking it there. “Do you know who he is?” I’ll ask. “HE is the reason I have been here all these years!”
I love you, today and always. Happy anniversary.