Friday, February 4, 2011

These Are the Good Old Days

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1)

Back in 1976 I enrolled as a freshman at Stetson University over in DeLand (FL). I was a foreign exchange student with a vague idea that, maybe, I wanted a college education. Stetson was willing to overlook the fact that I'd failed high school in England in consideration of my "savant" facility with a soccer ball. They took me in based on the following criteria:
  • I was a really, really good soccer player.
  • My former principal wrote a letter saying that, while he had no actual evidence in hand, he believed I most likely had the intelligence to at least give college a try.
  • I took the SAT and did fairly well.
  • I was a really, really good soccer player...
So I settled in, played lots of soccer (that's me on the program cover from '79) learned how to study, survived the fall semester, and enjoyed my first Florida winter. I shared a ramshackle house with 10 wanna-be Baptist ministers, one recovering former ultra-conservative, and "Moose" - a completely awesome Muslim grad student from the Sudan.

Then, one day early in February, the lobby phone rang.

It was Rebekah Alexander. We'd met a few times around campus, and once I'd even walked her home and offered her a piece of pumpkin pie. "Hey," she asked, "a bunch of us are going to the basketball game Friday. Would you like to come?"

She only had to ask me out the one time. 

Some people are amazed that we remember and celebrate our first date. But I can't think of a more appropriate day to get excited about! Talk about a day that changed my life in unimaginable ways!

Of course I didn't know, in those early days when I was rapidly falling for absolutely the most beautiful woman on campus, that one day soon I'd be introduced as, "This is our pastor's wi-.... Oops - err - this is our pastor and her Derek... No, that's not right - this is Derek - he's married to our minister."

Since then we have - in a deliberate and proactive fashion - lived a life together defined by celebration. Celebrating the anniversary of our first date fits our MO (modus operandi) as a couple. 

After a few weeks, when it became evident that this relationship had some potential beyond a few dates, we started shoving dimes and quarters into a piggy-bank (except is was a brown ceramic frog). We decided to go out on the proceeds if we were still dating after a year. If there was $5, we'd go for a hamburger.

By Feb 4, 1978, we had well over $50! I made reservations at "Maison et Jardin" in Orlando and we borrowed a car. My menu had prices and hers didn't, so you know we used the entire contents of the frog! We haven't missed a Feb Four since.

Our commitment to celebrate at every possible opportunity has helped put a positive slant on everything that's happened since our August 1979 wedding. There are always two options in every marriage:
  1.  To focus on what is wrong and interpret everything else through that muddied lens...
  2.  To celebrate what's right and, as the hymn puts it, "Live into Hope"...
It's a choice that also has powerful applications to ministry.

Okay, Derek, don't go all "Captain Sunshine" on us:
Don't misunderstand, I'm not talking about Pollyanna, ignoring problems that need to be addressed or the kind of serial denial that leaves no room for growth. What I'm referencing is the deliberate decision Rebekah and I constantly make (sometimes several times a day) to shift the balance of power toward what is positive.

There's a kind of momentum that accompanies such a shift. Why not increase the odds by leaning toward the light?

Life is undeniably difficult at times. Leading a church is no different, it's an experience fraught with challenge and difficulty. Being married is often a minefield of stress and overwhelm. Parenting can - and should - drive all of us to our knees. Struggle is the nature of life.

Light may be stronger than darkness, but sometimes it's incumbent on us to at least reach out and flick the switch.

That's one reason we celebrate. It's our way of affirming the light. Today is the 34th anniversary of that - fateful - first date. 

Carly Simon said it best. "These are the good old days." That would be today, 34 years in and - constantly - humbly - making the choice to celebrate.

- DEREK (The Preacher's Husband)


  1. Awesome story and congrats to you both. My take-away is, "Thank goodness for basketball". No? My wife approached me first, too, so we can both be thankful for that!

  2. Struggle is the nature of life, you are correct. Sometimes it's hard to remember that the light wins over darkness, but I cling to that fact. You (both) are a blessing to us all. I thank God for the gifts that you bring us and the friendship that you offer. Your relationship causes me to take heart, and know that God has a wonderful plan for us all.