Happy 25th Anniversary to my wife, Adrienne. Over 30 years ago God knit our hearts and lives together as teenagers, and 25 years ago we married, both with the desire to live for God and serve him with our lives. That commitment has taken us to three states and four ministry positions in our married lives. We have been richly blessed with a multitude of friendships that remain dear to us to this day. We have been blessed to minister in a variety of ways, from pastoring people to training pastors. Our ambitions were never grand—simply serve in whatever way God called us. We have seen the joy of leading people to Christ, discipling them to maturity, and counseling people with the result that their lives were changed. We have walked ahead of other couples and helped them find the joyful marriage we experience. We have seen our children grow to be a source of great joy to us. What a pleasure it has been to lose our lives for the sake of Christ that we might gain it in the next life.
But it has not come without costs. We thought we were sacrificing and suffering in the first 15 years, but we had no idea what the last 10 years would bring. It seems now that the first 15 years were a piece of cake in comparison. When I was diagnosed with kidney disease 9 years ago, I saw you die a thousand times as you learned to embrace uncertainty as your daily companion, knowing that would be your lot for the rest of your life. A few years before I had been denied life insurance coverage in any significant amount, and you knew that you would never feel financially secure again. And right on the heels of my diagnosis, my mother, who was your best friend, was fatally injured in a car accident while she was on her way to pick you up to go shopping on Easter weekend. That was the second best friend of yours who died on Easter weekend in four years. And two years later, on Easter weekend, your father died suddenly of a heart attack.
All this was happening while you saw my health decline, little by little, until a few weeks after our 20th anniversary when you had to rush me to the hospital with dangerously high blood pressure and shortness of breath. At that time it was confirmed that the last healthy tissue of my one working kidney was failing and I would need a transplant soon, or face dialysis. Again, the prospect of crippling illness and a precarious future was staring you in the face. I saw you daily strain to maintain hope and stave off anxiety. You wept more times than I can count, while trying to maintain a brave face for me. You saw me diminish to the point that climbing a flight of stairs was an effort that exhausted me. The medical costs skyrocketed, and we found ourselves wondering how we would be able to afford medicine I could not live without. If it were not for the generosity of faithful friends we would have been ruined.
A few years before, you had left your beloved calling of teaching elementary school to enter the corporate world, so we could have reliable health insurance and so you could supplement our income to afford my medications. God placed you in a job where you spent your entire day alone in a lobby answering the phone. You went from a very fruitful ministry with schoolchildren and their parents to isolation and loneliness in a job that was far beneath your abilities. You wept frequently and I angrily shouted out to God, Job-like, to make sense out of this for me. I was broken with sadness without relief knowing that you were doing this for me, and there was nothing I could do to change any of it. You worked then, as you do now, with minimal time off, so you rarely ever get a break from the monotony of your job. As a result, your work has only permitted us to go on one family vacation in the past six years, and on that one it rained every day except one. These years have been exhausting in so many ways, yet you have endured them with much dignity. You have never once complained about my condition, but have continually repeated your love for me. And you bravely face the prospect that this will be your lot in life for good.
The last few months before transplant were a roller coaster of hope and disappointment as neither of my sisters proved to be a match for me. And then the sun of God’s blessing peeked through the dark clouds, and a match was found. Tom’s eagerness to undergo risky surgery for me brought comfort to your heart in a way that not much in the years prior had. On our 21st anniversary you kissed me goodbye with tears in your eyes as they wheeled me into surgery. And then you waited, hour after hour, until the nurse emerged and told you everything went smoothly and the surgery had been a success. Once again your burden as the wife of an ill man was borne and overcome. But the happiness was short-lived as the following weeks required multiple trips to the hospital, including middle-of-the-night rushes into the city to the Emergency Department. You endured these constant uncertainties with all the strength you could muster sometimes barely making it through each day. Sometimes, with no sleep at all, you would rise at dawn and go to work, knowing that it might happen again the next night.
And now four years later you continue to support and stand by me. No one knows of the regular scares that still arise quite often where something goes wrong in my body, and it’s off to the doctor or hospital again. When people ask me how I am doing, I always say, “fine,” because I don’t want to talk about every incident, and I don’t want pity. So, as a man, I just live with it and don’t think about it much. But you bear each incident intensely. You still die inside every time something is not right with my body. You have had to attend a thousand funerals for me in your mind, and a thousand futures without me. The stark reality of it all never leaves your mind, and many people don’t know the fear you bravely battle every day.
Each of these deaths has dealt you an emotional and physical blow that have given you a sobriety and sadness that often overtakes you, even when you are smiling. While they have each wrought in both of us a greater longing for heaven and appreciation for each moment of joy, they have taken a toll. Neither of us is carefree anymore. Neither can avoid the pangs of fear that stab when someone we love is late to a gathering or an appointed conversation. Yet, these losses have also wrought within us many blessings. The uncertainty of life has taught us not to let conflict simmer. We have learned to cherish the happy times with greater savor. We have learned to cling to our Savior who suffered faithfully and finally for us. We have come to develop an urgency for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others, knowing that He is the need of everyone, and that the time is short. We have learned that this light and momentary affliction is working in us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. You care for me with such fierce love and watchfulness. You always place my interests before your own. You sacrifice so much—much more than I could ever do in return. I am blessed to have you as my wife.
These years have been hard, but they have shown me your commitment to our marriage under extreme circumstances. They have proven that you meant what you said 25 years ago when you vowed, “for better, for worse, in sickness and health, for richer, for poorer, ‘til death do us part.” They have brought incredible joy amidst the sorrow. So, happy 25th anniversary, my love! May I learn to love you with the deep and abiding love that you have so faithfully shown me these last 25 years! May God give us 25 more, with even greater joy for his glory!