Well, here we are at the beginning of the summer. As promised, Liz and I have started brainstorming and writing for this blog. Our skills might have gotten a little dusty (or at least, my writing style might start to sounds a little too much like a theological research project when I’m tired :-) but we are looking forward to bringing our thoughts and discussion to you all. As we get a feel for writing and posting again, we’ll let you know about some of our ideas for the future. But for now, I’m beginning with post that includes the topics of ministry, family, friends, feelings and marriage. It is my public thank-you note.
Two weeks ago I graduated with my Master of Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary. After a long six year process, with some pauses along the way to begin a new job, join the Air Force, and have a few kids, I finally turned in my thesis and walked the platform to receive my diploma. In the days following graduation I found that I was both exceedingly exhausted and exceedingly relieved. My thesis paper had proved especially difficult to finish and it had made my everyday life challenging. The balance of working both at my church and the Air Force, loving my family adequately, and completing my school work proved elusive at my best and seemingly impossible at my worst. Looking back, I’m astounded at God’s abounding grace and help as I slogged through this past year and a half. (It’s a good thing he has an infinite supply or we’d all be in trouble).
Of course, many times God’s provision of “grace and help in time of need” comes through people mirroring God’s heart by showing undeserved and sacrificial love. I have been the recipient of this kind of care and love as many have invested themselves in me and my project along the way. I am very grateful for you! I think of friends near and far who have not ceased to pray and encourage me. Some pushed me toward writing more and some made it their goal to pull me away now and then when it looked like I needed refreshment and encouragement (with a particular shout-out to my bible study and ABF!) My supervisors at work were very gracious as I, not infrequently, showed up to meetings bleary-eyed and nearing thesis-induced catatonia. I know my pastors were praying for me and one of them in particular was consistently there for me with wise counsel to shepherd me through the spiritual dangers and roadblocks I met along the way (pride, fear, laziness… I tell you, ThM’s can bring out the worst in people). So I want to publicly thank you, Troy, for your friendship and spiritual care. You showed the concern of friend with the care of a pastor. Then there are my siblings who never doubted my ability to finish for a second (no, I’d seriously call up and they’d always expect that I’d have it done—crazies!) and my parents who remain fervent in their prayers for me, as they have my whole life. Through them I gained my passion for the Lord, his word, and (not inconsequentially) a love for exposition and exegesis. An honorable mention must go out to my in-laws as well. They’ve been praying for me for about 15 years now—having a vested interest in my family no doubt :-). Even my children, a precious gift which I don’t deserve, would always pray that “Papa’s paper and test would be done” (I don’t think they cared about how good it was at all:-).
But there is one person without whom I would have quit years ago. Someone who always believed that I could, would, and should finish (a belief that was sometimes quite annoying—if I could’ve claimed inability then that would have been a load off ye olde conscience!). She never stopped exposing and challenging my unbelief when I was down emotionally or encouraging my faith when I was hopeful. She kept sacrificing her possessions—money for each semester of continuation fees, time spent with her as opposed to schoolwork (especially my distractedness—my “being there, but not there”)—and my assistance for the daily grind of chores and difficulties of life (and children!)
I’m not sure how to thank you, Love. So I wrote this and hopefully you’ll get an inkling of how I think and feel about you (things I say all too infrequently):
Liz, you have proclaimed me your “beloved and friend” (Song of Solomon 5:16) in so many ways. You have no idea how wonderfully strange those words and actions are to me. They constantly catch me unawares. It seems like my brain stops functioning in that moment and though I always want to say something profound, I usually just fall back on a simple, “I love you, too.” Over the past 15 years, you’ve sacrificed for me over and again. We’ve been together since the days of my BMus all the way to the ThM! I am surprised and delighted by your extravagant, yet down to earth and consistent love. I accept it not as one who deserves it, but as one who freely has been given more than he would ever dare ask of anyone. Thank you for picturing the love of Jesus so powerfully and patiently. And since there is no way to give you back all that you’ve sacrificed these past 15 years (not that you would ever ask), I reaffirm the only thing I have that you might accept—”my love for you, my precious Liz.”