It was a cool overcast May morning in 1982. A thirty-year-old pastor stood at the front of the church while the organist began to play the wedding processional. He watched the bride make her way down the center aisle on her father’s arm. He began to clear his throat in anticipation of speaking. Uncharacteristically, the normally confident cleric seemed more nervous than normal. Although he’d had been involved in several weddings in his career, this one was different. And for good reason.
Unlike previous weddings, he was not officiating this ceremony. On that particular day forty years ago, the bachelor pastor was the groom. I ought to know. I was that minister about to surrender my single status. It was a surrender ceremony for which I have no regrets.
This month my wife and I will observe our 40th wedding anniversary. In a culture when marriages don’t tend to endure as they once did, it’s a touchstone of commitment for which I’m grateful. Like other couples who reach such memorable mile markers, we will be doing something special to celebrate.
The merry month of May also includes another notable anniversary for me. This is the month I begin my 10th year working at “The Shores.” As with my marriage, my years as chaplain have flown by. When you are doing what you love while sharing life with the one you love, time has a tendency to race.
Anniversaries are milestones that invite us to consider the ongoing investments we’ve made throughout our lives in relationships and vocational pursuits. Anniversaries provide an occasion to call a temporary halt to the march of time in order to look back and look up. Anniversaries invite us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve yet to complete. They also are the perfect time to ponder what changes we’d like to make in how we approach our relationships and our work in order to achieve more meaningful results. It’s a time to mark time temporarily.
If you played a musical instrument in high school, it’s possible you were part of a marching band. If so, you likely took part in a community parade or a football halftime show. Those who have marched know the meaning of marking time. It means to keep playing your instrument and keep moving your legs all the while standing in place. It’s a chance to pause before moving forward.
Using the musical analogy, anniversaries give us a chance to polish our instruments, retune them if necessary or take them in for repair. These markers are welcomed opportunities to perfect our performance in the parade of life. Marking time means looking into the mirror, making note of what we see and doing something about it.
When I look into the bathroom mirror in the morning, I see more wrinkles and less hair. It’s humbling. But even more than that, I see a seventy-year-old man with the energy of a thirty-year-old who still struggles with an enlarged ego, underdeveloped patience and over-ambitious dreams that don’t always take my mate’s needs into consideration. I am a work in progress.
According to an ancient letter written by the follower of Jewish rabbi, wisdom consists in acting on what we see needs attention…
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. James 1:22-24
As I’ve learned over the past forty years, saying “I did” means more than simply saying “I do!”
Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.