I graduated from seminary about a month ago, and as I sat there during the commencement proceedings, I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering back to a campfire five years ago and a conversation with a beautiful woman who would later become my wife. We were having a campout with the youth group of our church in Ohio, and most everyone had gone to their tents for the night. That was when I first told Erica that I wanted to attend seminary in Detroit. I didn’t think it would be well-received since we were both planning on attending BJ that fall, and going to Detroit would put many miles between us. However, without hesitating, Erica told me that if I perceived God to be directing my steps down that path, she was in favor. Its just a small thing, and I don’t think I really realized it at the time, but it would only be the beginning of many times that she would support the best decision over what she personally would have chosen.
I continued during that commencement service to reflect on the last four years of seminary (the married years) and have marveled at God’s gracious gift to me in her. Though I would be leaning toward hyperbole if I said that I couldn’t have done it without her, I also know I wouldn’t have strayed too far from the truth. Sometimes God gifts us with people who are always there, who lift us up when we’re tired, tell us to keep going, and help along the away. Erica is that person for me. Right away Erica bought into the reality that we were going to serve in the gospel together, that it would mean different responsibilities for each of us, and that it would take both of us cooperating. That spirit has evidenced itself in the way she has handled without complaining everything from having the roof of our apartment ripped off after a month of marriage and rain literally drench almost everything we owned, to work/school schedules that conflicted so much that we could literally go whole days without seeing each other, to simply being alone while I was holed up in my office studying. Today, I want to thank her for encouraging me to press on when I felt like quitting, for pushing me out of bed no matter how strongly I protested when the alarm went off, for making me a pot of coffee at night, and then for bringing me antacid tablets for the heartburn I got from drinking the coffee she made. I want to thank her for reading my papers and telling me they were good when they weren’t, for pulling me back from the precipice of despair just a few times, and for being a godly mother to the girl who happens to star in this blog.
As I walked across that platform on graduation night, I realized it wasn’t quite right for me to be alone at this point when she had been with me the whole way. In fact, when I took the diploma and faced the crowd while my name and future plans were read, I locked eyes with her the whole way to tell her thanks, and I think, as always, that she understood.
Happy Anniversary, Erica. Thank you.