Second Love

On June 14, 2013 I began chronicling the journey of Diane, our family and myself as Diane faced the onslaught of small cell lung cancer.  That journey ended at 11:28 p.m. on July 18, 2014 as Diane quietly slipped through the door called death, being held by Jesus all the way.  At that moment I was propelled into another journey, a journey of grief and sorrow, of aloneness, of healing and now of second love.  It is the adventure of second love that I want to share with those of you who read this blog.

This journey, this adventure began a few days after a spiritual direction session with my director, Paula Mitchel.  In that session I shared how I had come to accept my aloneness, but not only accept it, but relish the depth of relationship with Jesus that my time of aloneness was affording me.  I acknowledged that I was not sure if I even wanted to get married again, and yet…and yet deep within there was that longing of having a life partner with whom the journey and adventure could be shared.  This I also shared with Paula.

A few days later it all began very innocuously as I wanted to see the movie A Wrinkle in Time, but I did not want to see it alone so I very calmly called another member of a new ministry at Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church called Friendly Visitors. At the time we were both involved in this ministry.  Nancy Mitchel said “Yes, she would love to see the movie,” but then said “No” to an invitation to go to dinner.  That might have been the end, but it was only the beginning.

Those of you who know me, know that I tend to ask difficult questions and rather not be involved in shallow conversations, and the same is true of Nancy.  As a consequence, beginning from our second date, the depth of our conversation has been the seedbed for “second love.”  At a future time both Nancy and I would like to share with you some of the important, sometimes humorous, usually life-giving questions that we discussed in our journey into Second Love, but that will come later.

Nancy and I have much in common:  a simple life style, a love of nature and the outdoors, the thrill of new adventures and journeys and a desire to grow as people to name a few, but both the magnetic force that drew us together and the glue that binds us together is our deep love for God in Jesus Christ, our hunger to grow in him as individuals and as a couple and our eagerness to serve him by serving others.

Neither one of us were specifically looking for a life partner, but we were both open to God’s leading, and so both Nancy and I consider our relationship of love to be a gift given to us by God, who earnestly desires us to both love and be loved.  A “Second Love” is exactly that, it is the gift of being loved by another and it is the gift of being able to give love to another.

Second Love in the second half of life seems to me to be a more mature love than my first love with Diane.  Diane and I both fought to be right; we fought to do “it” our own particular way and your way was wrong.  Those things which seemed so big over forty years ago, now seem so trivial.  Furthermore, love in the second half of life seems more urgent.

We know we do not have forty plus years to experience our love together and to grow in our love.  And so, we have said to each other, “Why postpone our wedding?  Why do we need more time?”  Oh, we have made mistakes in this process.  We should have given our sons (both Nancy’s and my sons are named Andrew and Peter) more time to get to know the one we are marrying, but we will work hard at developing and maintaining our family loves.

We have been told that we are acting like fourteen year olds!  What a complement for seventy-plus-year olds!  We have also been asked if we have had our first fight or even our first major disagreement.  Those are honest questions, questions that I have often talked about in pre-marriage counseling.  So Nancy and I have worked very hard at having a “heated” disagreement and the end result is laughter.  The time will come when that might happen, and we look forward to that time when our communication practices bring us through such stormy waters.

The wedding vows which we will proclaim in a little over thirty-six hours from this writing say “In the presence of God and this community, I, Stan, take you, Nancy, to be my wife; to have and to hold from this day forward, in joy and in sorrow, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.  This is my solemn vow.”

In the second half of life each of the reverse, contrary phrases are very much a reality, and we realize this.  Yet it is the very gift of God to each of us, that gift being our love for each other encircled in the love that God has for us, that sees all the realities of life now being lived and shared with one with whom we are deeply in love.  That Second Love is PURE GIFT!

 

 

 

“Truly Known” A Sermon

May 22, 2018 John 10:11-18   “Truly Known”  (Preached at Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church, Sequim, WA)

Perhaps there is no metaphor or image of Scripture more sanitized and sentimentalized and made into a fuzzy-wuzzy nothing than Jesus as the good shepherd.  Not many of us these days have direct experience with sheep, although perhaps some of you have raised sheep in the past.  Most of us are sheep illiterate.  And yet the images of sheep and shepherd are prolific in the Scriptures:

The good shepherd

The lost sheep

The Lord is my shepherd

We are all like sheep that have gone astray

The Great Shepherd of the sheep

And to Peter:  tend and feed my sheep

We are sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves

And the political leaders of Israel where called shepherds

And they failed their calling so God took on the role of the Shepherd of Israel

Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd.  This is not a sentimentalized or sanitized image, but the word good implies that Jesus is the true, honest, valuable model for the role of the shepherd.  As the good shepherd, Jesus willingly lays down his life for the sheep. It is that attitude and action of Jesus that God wants to impress upon us this morning.   Jesus not only gave his life, laid down his life for you on the cross, but he lays down his life for us every moment of the day.  Have you thought of Jesus laying down his life for you right now?  How does Jesus do that?

I visited a person who was terminally ill and I asked him the perennial question:  “How are you doing?”  His reply was truthful.  He said, “When I am asked that question I usually say, ‘I’m doing ok,’ but I am really lying through my teeth.  To you, I’ll tell the truth.”  He then went on to tell me how he was progressively getting worse.

We pick and choose whom we will let into our lives, who will get the privilege of really knowing us.  Most of the businesses with which we deal, have us in their computer with some number.  We are merely social security numbers or student identification numbers, but to our Good Shepherd we are more than a number, we are intimately known.  We are known by name.

In my younger years, much younger years, even before seminary, I worked in a training program at Glendale Lutheran Church in Burien, WA.   I got to know identical twin boys.  They were in high school at the time.  One day, as these young men were leaving worship, I took the chance at calling them by name, but I missed.  One of them, angrily spoke up: “My name isn’t…..  It’s ……   Nobody knows my name.  Everybody gets it wrong.”  It is still a fear that I have, calling people by the wrong name.  

Jesus does not mess up our name, for he knows us inside and out.  Jesus lays down his life for us every day of the week, as he knows us intimately.  He knows our idiosyncrasies, our fears, our failures, our true hopes and our dreams.  He knows who we truly are, not just who we portray to the public, not just our facade that we present in order to look good.   

When I do not really understand myself, Jesus understands me.  When I put my foot in my mouth, for the millionth time, and I cannot really understand why I am so impulsive-so Peter-like- Jesus knows and still accepts me.  Jesus knows my dark side, the parts of me that are even hidden from myself. He knows my gifts and my abilities, my potential.  He knows me and still gives himself to me and for me.  That is true love.   When it says that Jesus willingly gives himself up for us, in part, at least to me, it means that he truly loves us and shows us that love by knowing us and accepting us.

It takes a great deal of work to really get to know a person.  As I did pre-marriage counseling, it dawned on me how a young couple, who spends hours and hours talking to each other, still doesn’t really know each other.  Nancy and I have spent hours talking, sharing in deep, deep ways, but to truly know each other it takes time, takes a life-time.  

Charlie Brown said, “There’s no problem so big that you can’t run from it,” but to really know each other is to stick together in all weather, in all our problems and challenges.   Margaret Mead wrote that one of the most serious things that has happened in the United States is that people “enter marriage with the idea it is terminable.”  But our Good Shepherd does not run from us when our dark side, our weaknesses and even our sin is revealed.  God knows us, and forgives us.

Now we think of the shepherd as one who cares for the sheep by bringing them to safe pastures and abundant water supplies.    Jesus, our Good Shepherd, does provide for us and protects us, but he cares for us on a much deeper level.  The following story relays part of our Shepherd’s care for us:

One day the doorbell rang and there stood a woman’s beloved brother.  It was a delightful surprise to the woman.  Her brother was an executive of an international petroleum company and he was extremely busy.  He stayed and visited for a few hours and then got up to say good-bye.  Tears began to slide down the woman’s face.  He asked her why she was crying.  “Because I simply don’t want you to go,” was her reply.  He gave a surprised look and then went to the phone and left a message for the pilot of his company’s plane.  He stayed with his sister for two days, but all the time the sister had a nagging feeling that she had caused her brother a great inconvenience.

Some time later the brother received an important award for his contributions to the oil industry.  A reporter asked him at the time, “Is this the greatest honor that you’ve received?”  

“No,” he said, “my sister gave me my greatest honor the day she cried because she didn’t want me to leave.  That’s the only time in my life anyone ever cried because they didn’t want me to leave.  It was then that I discovered the most precious gift one human being can ever bestow on another is to let a person know that he/she is really needed and loved that much.”  

Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, knows us and cares for us at the deepest, most intimate levels of our being.  He sits down and has coffee with us, walks the early morning walk with us, stays awake in the stillness of the night when we cannot sleep.  Jesus gives us of his time, his presence, his loving care, and even more than all of that he tells us that we are his beloved.

An elderly man on his golden wedding anniversary was asked, “And do you still love your wife after all those years together?”  His reply was, “Yes, sir, indeed I do.  In fact, there are times when I have a real hard job not telling her so!”  Some men have a hard time expressing love, but our Good Shepherd never tires of telling us how much he loves us.  

We are fully known, fully loved and fully cared for by Jesus, our Good Shepherd.  Take a moment, take your life-time and allowed yourself to be loved up by your Good Shepherd.