It just dawned on me that I let June 10th come and go without taking a moment to let you know how much I appreciate you. I swore to myself if would be an anniversary I’d never overlook… and here I am, having to acknowledge it slipped right by me. I won’t trouble you with the excuses, though.
We’ve been together since the start, haven’t we? You were there when I was a kid–always by my side. I didn’t pay you as much attention as you paid me, but there was always a comfort in knowing that you were right there. I could call on you any time of day or night, and you’d be right there, without fail.
Then I became a teenager and we got more serious. I could see how much you meant to my life, but I had a hard time letting you in on those secrets. It’s as if I thought I could keep my innermost thoughts hidden away from the one who knew me better than anyone else.
I had some rough times back then. I started struggling with depression in early adolescence and it just kept escalating throughout junior high and high school. By the time I was sixteen I had been contemplating suicide for so long that it was inevitable that I make an attempt… and I did.
And you were there.
I wouldn’t let you too close to me that day. I didn’t want anyone to tell me how much they loved me or wanted me to stick around… I just wanted people to see the pain, to know that there was something deeply wrong going on in my life… to know that I needed help.
You stood patiently beside me the whole time. Even when I didn’t want to see you there, I knew you were. No matter how hard I tried to push you away, you refused to budge.
When the moment was right, when the healing had come and new life was beginning to take root in this old-before-her-time soul, you told me you wanted us to be closer. You told me you wanted us to walk together for the rest of forever. And I said that sounded pretty good.
But by my late teens I was beginning to wonder if I was simply too young to be settling down with the likes of you–so soon anyway. So I rebelled a bit against you. I tried to make you hate me. I tried to make you lose faith in me. I tried to make you reconsider the commitment you had made to me. But you just kept on hanging on, patiently waiting for me to come to my senses.
There were times when I was unfaithful to you–I’d rush off to try some new fad, or I’d think the grass was greener somewhere else. And in the end, I’d have to realize that the happiest moments of my life were with you, and even the unhappy ones were more bearable when I was with you, and I’d come crawling back with this self-indulgent attitude of entitlement. I just expected you to take me back.
I’d tell you I was sorry, but you’d just smile and wipe the tears away and tell me that I was already forgiven.
I just kept trying to drag you along on every half-baked, selfish dream I had. I kept telling you that I knew best how our relationship should go. You’d tell me what you needed from me, and I’d go off and do things my way instead. I got us into some real messes, didn’t I? There were a lot of tears for the both of us during those years between my late teens and mid-twenties.
And still you were there.
When I finally stopped telling you what to do and started listening to you, things really started to turn around.
You were with me when I left home to go so far away to attend seminary.
You were with me when I had to learn to share the pew with people I didn’t want to share it with.
When I was jealous that other people loved you as much as I seemed to, I wanted to keep you all to myself–to tell them they didn’t really know you like I did, that they just weren’t good enough for you.
And you just smiled at me with that patient way you have and shook your head and told me you would never abandon me, so I didn’t need to hide you away or hoard you.
You loved people I couldn’t imagine loving… and through you I began to learn to love more deeply. I started to see the beauty in others in whole new ways. I began to see their worth and their value. I began to see them through your eyes.
We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I am far better off for having known you. You’ve done most of the work in this relationship. I’ve caused most of the trouble.
And still you’re here.
This is four days late in being said, but four years ago you joined me at the altar–you were in the kind gentle hands of Bishop Grove and Bishop Swenson–hands that seemed impossibly heavy when they laid on my head. You were in the hands of mentors and colleagues as they gathered around–warm hands that held me up. You were in the blur of confusion when the Bible was thrust into my hands, in the surreal dizziness as the stole was hung around my neck. You were there when that robed crowd around me opened up and the people of the West Virginia Annual Conference stood and greeted me with warm and seemingly endless applause.
I promised you I’d walk with you for the rest of forever–and that day, before the witness of the whole church, you reminded me that you had already promised to walk with me for the rest of forever.
I haven’t been perfect these four years. I’ve made mistakes. But I have learned so much. I have grown so much. The love you taught me for your people–for all your people–has continued to grow and swell this heart and soul to proportions I never knew were possible.
Happy Anniversary, Dear Lord.
It took me a long time to get to that day–but you never left me, and I know you never will.