To celebrate our 25 years of marriage, Kathy and I bought an 2004 Chevy with a cassette player. I love it because I have hundreds of cassettes with old music. Ten years ago I went to Singapore and walked around with a Walkman. The youth never had seen a cassette player and looked at me as if I just walked out of Dickens novel. The cassettes don’t have their full sound. Much of the music has evaporated over the years but my memory replaces the gaps. What I hear with my ears and what I hear with my memory merge into a deeper sound. Scientist have proved that our mind will unconsciously fill in missing letters, breaks in lines or lost images. The lack of fidelity of the tapes creates ditches where the warm water of memory fills and soaks the music.
25 years ago, Kathy and I stepped out of the church in New Jersey and onto the mission field. We have been faithful by grace to our vow, but we know we have not been faithful to that image of a perfect couple walking out of the church. We have suffered, stressed out and sailed into calm seas together. Our bodies are not high fidelity, either. There are gaps. If our wedding picture is the song, we are the sound of an old tape. But we fill in the gaps and the music is deeper.
Sometimes the only way we really hear is by remembering. When Jesus told his disciples He was going to rise from the dead, it didn´t sink in. After He rose from the dead, they remembered His words and it was like rain sinking into parched ground. Thousands of seeds uncurled into life. Everything was now possible. Somehow what we remember and what we are living now run together and everything is clearer and deeper.
As a boy I remember thinking that the mountains in West Virginia looked like the blankets on my parent’s bed. The distance softened them with blue and plum purple. I knew that up close the mountains were rugged, broken with fallen trees, and thatched with briers, but from afar, they seemed kind. Even raging stars are sweet light years away. I used to think being close to the mountains told the hard truth about mountains, but now I think the distance reveals the mountains as they really are – benevolent.
In the moment I proposed to Kathy, we sensed we were stepping into a destiny greater than us. It was like being on a huge ship that begins to move from the dock. The ship was so big you hardly noticed the movement, but it was now sailing. We did not understand all that God was going to do; the thousands of people, the churches, the miracles, the leaders. We did not know the amazing boys we would raise. We did not see the sleepless nights, the battles, the betrayals and the skirmishes with fear. We did not see the bullrings filled, the youth on fire, and the church plants. We did not see our times of exhaustion, brokenness and loneliness. We only saw the mountains, blue and sweet. Somehow we were remembering forward. And now we are looking at the next 25 years of marriage and ministry. No signs of going back to port.
Kathy would like to celebrate in Hawaii and I would like a 7 day fishing trip. Neither are going to happen on the 16th of August. But we will sit down with some of our leaders, tell funny stories and tell how much we love each other. Then we will head home and sleep in the mountains of Medellin that once seemed so cruel to me. Maybe I´ll punch in a cassette.
By Andrew McMillan