More than 7 years ago, darling, you told me that you wanted to go to seminary. You wanted to take a break from the break-neck speed of your ministry life, to change direction towards a more intentional, thoughtful life focused on missional living. You wanted to take two years to wrestle with theology, with what you believe, you wanted to learn about our postmodern culture, about serving God in a new context and a new world. We made plans to move the east coast of the USA, and then, because Canada was singing me home, and her music wound itself around your own dreams somehow, maybe it was that mystical experience on the roof of the Delta Hotel in Calgary that one night, when you felt like you belonged north of the 49th, and we packed up everything into a U-Haul trailer and drove out for the west coast.
Those first months were our grad student life – the one that people think about when they think about grad school. You studied and learned, you were one of the oldest ones in class, one of the few with actual work experience as a pastor, I walked to work in high heels, we smoked a hookah of apple cinnamon tobacco and talked about predestination in rag-tag living rooms downtown, we drank wine at a potluck at an intentional community house with professors and married couples, we ate turkey with the American ex-pats lonely for football in November, we sat on a high rise balcony on a busy urban street in the evenings talking about Kierkegaard and , we walked to our local pub every week to share appys and a beer while we discussed what you were reading, what we were learning.
And then, surprising everyone, us most of all, there was a baby on the way.
I remember that afternoon when I came home from work, hugely pregnant, you were sitting on our couch, crying over your Bible. I remember asking you why you were crying, for heaven’s sake, and you looked up and said, It’s just so real, have you ever really read the Book of Mark? I’ve read a million times but it’s so beautiful. It’s true. And I feel like the Bible is alive for me again.
But it was so hard to finish. After Anne, you were full time care giver for her and part-time student while I worked full-time. And then there was yet another devastating miscarriage, and then we were pregnant again with our Joseph. And after he was born, you were supporting us because we both knew I couldn’t leave my babies again, you were starting over in an entirely new career. You drove a white van with phone numbers on the side, you sweated and swore and learned water and fire restoration like you had learned the book of Mark and your one indulgence was that Tim Horton’s coffee every morning. You tried to keep up with those now seemingly high-falutin’ studies but by now we were wondering what the hell we were thinking. That was the year that every one we started school with graduated, went off to pastor, to the academic life, to Oxford. You were on call, working around the clock in a February freeze-and-thaw, in a hazmat suit. I never went on campus anymore, we never went out for beer and appys to talk theology together, we rocked babies, I found God in mothering, you collapsed into bed every night like you were home from a war. You were so close to being finished, but we were so tired and while Joseph learned to crawl and Anne sported pigtails, you worked faithfully, wondering the entire time if you had dedicated your entire life to the service of God just to be hammering nails for the rest of your life. School began to mess with us, things that we thought we understood became opaque. People began to quietly whisper if we were losing our fire, if we were losing our calling? We began to see God at work and play in ten thousand places. We felt unmoored, in the desert, what are we doing exactly, people would ask us, well, what do you want to do when it’s all over? And by now we’d learned to shrug and tell them that we had no idea anymore.
We knew you wanted to pastor but we didn’t have a clue how or when that would work, because by now I wouldn’t darken the door of a church, I railed against institutional churches, I freaked out thoroughly when you began the church planting process with a conservative denomination, so you abandoned it, and you were prepared to walk away from ministry forever, for me. You learned business development, you got a new job, a promotion, you made bonus, you were wearing a tie now in the industry, but you still took extra shifts tearing out drywall just to make us an extra buck, it was always spent before you brought it home.
You loved me more than your calling to pastor, and don’t think I’ll ever forget that, darling.
I will always remember that you chose me, you put us first, every time.
And then a year ago, right about the time that Evelynn Joan was lifting her head on her own, you dug in and said you were done. My heart had turned, had fallen back in love with community and church and the Bride of Christ. You registered for that last class, you signed up with an advisor, you checked out stacks of thick academic books from the library. you went to school, now you were The Old Guy, surrounded by young kids moaning about their work load for studying. You never once smacked one of those kids, the ones there on full scholarship with visions of patched sport coasts in the Ivory Tower, you never once icily mentioned that you were working full time, going into debt, commuting two hours to school, that you had three small babies at home, that you worked in a fast-paced and exhausting industry under tremendous pressure just to come home, kiss your kids for a brief moment, launching into that thesis until well past midnight, just to get up at 6 the next morning and do it all over again, relentlessly. Your American midwestern work ethic got a work out.
I managed our entire life, I raised the tinies practically on my own, I homeschooled our daughter, I began to put down deep roots, I was so tired. My own dreams started to come true, I signed with a literary agent, began writing my book, the first one anyone was interested in reading anyway, and your eyes were full of apologies when you came home for those brief moments. But I didn’t care. I cried when you handed in your thesis. I did this for you and I would do it over again in a heart beat, in a second.
It all came down to this moment, on that Friday night, in a church in Vancouver. Your parents, my parents, my sister cracking jokes about how she was the only one wearing fuchsia and that was exactly what was wrong with seminaries “There’s not enough fuchsia at the Jesus school!” and making me laugh, dull theologians with Francis Schaeffer beards, not a single soul in that room that you started seminary alongside of all those years ago. My heart was beating too fast. You had to be there early, I left the tinies at home with their beloved Miss S.
I sneaked down the back stairs, alone, searching for you, you knew I would be coming, and then there you were, walking towards me in that long hallway, your large black academic gown billowing behind you. I burst into tears at the sight of you, and you opened up your black gown, you pulled me into it, wrapped it around me, kissed my hair, we stood there, both of us in that gown until it was time for you to go upstairs, to walk across the stage and pick up that piece of paper.
Love looks like making each other’s dreams come true and sometimes that looks like this:
When it was all over, we took pictures, we drove home, we laid in our bed that night, exhausted and quiet. In the darkness, you whispered a thank you.
I write now and then about what love looks like for us.