Our journey through life is marked by milestones. This year, my progress on the road that leads to the future has been slowed a bit by acknowledging several such milestones. For one thing, 2021 has been the year of anniversaries.
My maternal grandparents were married 100 years ago this year. Both my parents and my wife’s parents were married 70 years ago. My middle daughter and her husband recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.
On a personal note, I began my divinity studies 45 years ago. This summer, I celebrate 16 years as the faith and values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter as well as eight years as the full-time chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores.
Anniversaries are noteworthy. Like milestones on a highway, they provide perspective. They invite us to slow down and reflect on the past. Looking back allows us the means to recall God’s hand in our lives. I like to think of such glances in the rearview mirror as “dusting for divine fingerprints.”
My friend SQuire Rushnell is a fellow detective. This former network television executive, who now writes books and produces movies for the Hallmark Channel, first coined the word “Godwinks.” For SQuire, the thought of the almighty “winking in our direction” captures the creator’s joy in aligning the circumstances of our lives in delightfully unexpected ways.
Since being introduced to the term “Godwinks,” I’ve been more apt to recognize them. But I’ve also discovered that God’s hand in my life is easier seen after the fact when I’ve taken time to look back.
Anniversaries give us permission to call a timeout and savor the special moments of our past as we relive them in slow motion. When viewed intentionally, anniversaries frame the yesterdays of our lives with purpose and meaning.
Anniversaries are also signposts that point ahead. They provide the means to look forward through the windshield. Anniversaries offer a reality check on how things are progressing when compared to an anticipated destination. In most jobs, performance reviews occur on the anniversary of being hired or the anniversary of a new budget cycle. In keeping with yearly evaluations, goals are tweaked, abandoned or rewritten. Such revising of goals applies to marriages, too.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve led couples through a renewal of wedding vows on the occasion of their anniversary. This special ritual refocuses a commitment. It serves to reboot the operating system of a relationship for whom worn out routines have resulted in undesired drag. It’s a way of joyfully re-upping for the long haul. It’s a time for couples to recommit so as to eventually reach the desired port of “’til death us do part.”
But anniversaries are also rest stops on the highway of life. They give us cause to stop, stretch our legs and smell the roses. They are occasions to press the pause button, pull out all the stops and celebrate in the moment. Anniversaries call attention to the fact that we need to take time to count our blessings.
I love that Family Circus cartoon strip in which Bil Keane reminds us of a timeless truth: Yesterday is the past. Tomorrow’s the future. But today is a gift. That’s why it’s called “the present.”
As one who finds great satisfaction in marking milestones historically and personally, I love anniversaries. I enjoy finding reasons to have a good time. I love to party.
This month will find me partying in Southern California. There’s a family reunion in the works. My wife’s relatives are converging on the family homestead, traveling from the four corners of the country. Not only are my in-laws celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this year, they each have earned 90 candles on their birthday cakes.
But I won’t be the resident pastor at this Steven Family Reunion. If there is a renewal of wedding vows, officiating that ceremony will likely fall to my brother-in-law (a pastor from Florida). My role will be that of volunteer fire marshal, keeping miniature flames on two cakes in check. And having a good time!
Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.