So here I am, in my fiftieth year of life, and about to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. I don’t know if it is required of me to get a little introspective and take stock, but I find it happening anyway. While in the midst of one of those times a few nights ago, a certain awareness settled into my soul that has become a defining moment for me. But let me set the proverbial stage before I tell you what it was.
When I was a little boy, and on into my young man years, I became increasingly aware of the evolution of the vision that I had for my life. I began to think about what I wanted. For example, ever since I was about ten years old, I knew that I wanted to marry a tall woman. This is thanks, in large part, to both Julie Newmar, TV’s Catwoman in the 1960s Batman series, and Lynda Carter ,TV’s Wonder Woman in the 1970s. My wife, who is a beautifully statuesque 5’9”, is well aware of my crushes on these women, and she sends them her thanks.
Some of my fondest memories are set in the tall pines and musty underbrush of Lake Martin in east central Alabama. I can still hear the splashes of my siblings and me jumping off the hot pier, soles of our burning feet instantly cooled by the deep green water. I sat with my mother in the evenings, listening to choruses of bullfrogs and catching fireflies in a jar. My brothers and I would sleep in the bunks on the screened-in-porch and wake to the gentle lapping of waves on the shore and the distant thrum of outboard motors taking generations of anglers to the best spots for wide-mouth bass. Because of those seasons, I knew that I always wanted to live on a lake, to look out at the still water and watch as the rain moved across it like a curtain
I watched as my parents loved each other for 50 years. My mother adored my father, and my father honored her, protected her, and showed this future husband how to love a wife. I knew that one day, what I wanted was a wife, a friend, my heart’s missing piece. I wanted someone to laugh at my jokes and make me laugh at hers, someone to pull close, to take vacations with, to talk with, to kiss constantly, and to sit with in comfortable silence. Someone to put her hand on my leg as I drive, to listen as I vent, to comfort me when I cry, and to let me be strong for her when she is afraid.
I envisioned in those early years what my children might be like. I hoped to one day have children that loved me with all their hearts, respected me as the Alpha dog, who wanted to be with me, listened to my wisdom, and missed me if I had to be gone. I saw us living in a modest home characterized more by the warm color of love and peace in the air than by the square footage. I looked forward to the day when I would drive up to the house on a warm late Spring evening and see “The Wizard of Oz” playing on the television through the front window.
When I was fifteen, I sensed a call from the Lord to preach the gospel. I grew up in a life-changing church under great preaching and loving people, and I hoped that someday I would pastor a church like that. I hoped that the people who called me pastor would love me like I had had been loved, would want to come to church, and would recognize in my ministry the love of the Father and the goodness of life in His embrace.
When I was about twelve years old, I knew I wanted to write. I used to write little “books” about the gospel, pecked out on our old manual typewriter, drawing and coloring the cover art myself. Then I would staple the pages together and ask my Mom if she would take me up to the church so I could give them to one of our pastors. She always did.
My first book is now on its way to wide release. The publisher is developing the cover art and I await the first edit to be sent to me for review. The second book has been proposed and accepted, and the third is marinating in my mind and spirit.
Tonight, I sat out on the deck in backyard, a deck that overlooks a small but peaceful lake. Even though we are in the city, my yard is bordered by trees on both sides, so that all other houses are hidden from my view. I hear those same familiar bullfrog songs while fish jump and ducks silently glide across. And sometimes, I see the rain moving across it like a curtain.
In a few weeks, Mary Ann and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage. Even in my best visions, I had no idea that I could still be this in love after so long. She is the love of my life. Our marriage is all I had hoped, and more than I was even aware was possible. Our four incredible children are all beautiful, brilliant, healthy, fun to be around, kind to others, and in love with Jesus. We all laugh together often, we cry together sometimes, and we talk about everything we can think of. They all love to read and watch movies. Definitely my children.
Our house is not new, but not old. It isn’t big, but it isn’t small either. What it is, though, is filled with the warm colors of love and peace. And sometimes, I can catch a glimpse of the Wizard of Oz playing on the TV through the front window as I drive up.
So here is the great awareness, the revelation, if you will, that gently settled into my soul as I sat on the deck a few nights ago: Here I am, about to turn fifty, and I do, in fact, have all that I ever wanted. I still have dreams and goals, but right now, in this moment of eternity, I am truly content. I don’t need a younger wife, smarter children, a bigger house, a higher salary, a more “important” church. I have everything I ever wanted, right here, right now.
So, someone do me a favor: I don’t know if I will go to be with the Lord tomorrow, or fifty years from now, but whenever I do, if people gather to remember me, would someone please remind them that at least once in my life, for however brief the moment, I finally came to know what this Scripture means: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6