There's this little story in the first chapter of John that captivates me: Meeting friends for the first time, asking good questions, giving invitations. It's a story of fulfilled anticipation. Two disciples of John the Baptist, Andrew and, I've deduced, John himself accept their new teacher's invitation to come and see. The next five words pour out all of the fulfillment of their time together: "And they came and saw." This speaks a spiritual totality that can't be put into words. It was finished right then and there for Andrew and John. They knew. They believed. They stayed. And the simplest detail comes from John at this point where he notes down for us the time of day as if to say: This day will remain in my memory forever. This is when my life changed.
I've had those moments so many times. Years ago when I was engaged to my husband I made him an over-sized card for Valentine's day designed with several dates on the front. He received it and he asked me what all of the dates were, smiling because he knew a few of them. This was our first date, the first night you kissed me. This was the first time you said, "I love you." And the first time I said it to you. And many more life-changing moments and conversations we had had. I had marked the days and the moments when I could see my life moving in a new direction. John does the same thing here. I am warmed to think of this old man looking back with such fondness as if to say, "This was the day and the very hour when I knew my savior loved me." Forever branding himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved as if he still stood in awe of it after all these years.
Today marks another of those moments. Four years ago today, we received a phone call that changed our lives forever. My husband, away at a pastor's conference, was on the other end of the line when I picked up and he immediately breathed out, "I got it." I knew precisely what he meant but I made him say it again to elongate the moment. I got it meant that he had been asked to come to our current church to serve as their core teaching pastor. Our years of waiting were over.
I remember the darkness of the night outside lit up by our kitchen light and those bright blue turquoise kitchen walls. I remember the cold, bumpy feel of the tile as I slid down the wall to rest on the floor, gazing out that darkened window as if I expected fireworks to go off in the night. I remember his pause, his shaky laugh, our several exclamations, each one timidly expressed, repressed for years within our chests:
"He heard us!"
"This is the day!"
Grateful the children were already in bed I asked a flood of questions as I listened to his retelling of his conversation with the elders and who exactly had voiced the invitation and how that had mattered. And we used the words "redeemed" and "not for nothing" and "we get to." I marked that sacred moment with a poem that night, one I'd been saving for months for the very time when it seemed that heaven's ears had at last responded with heaven's hands and said, "Here you go. Enjoy." That night God sat back and laughed with us in our joy and came out from behind his long darkened door and held his arms open wide and said, "I never forgot you. Not for one day." And I gathered myself into him and wept. I knew. I believed.
After four hundred years of God's silence with his people, John had to feel the same kinds of things in that 10th hour. God does love. God does hear. God even comes down to change our circumstance. What I mark on this day in February is a complete and utter assurance that God is love. If I ever seem to forget, or sense that it's unimportant or feel defeated, today always comes around to remind me that he loves me, that he loves my husband, that he hears the most urgent cries of despair even if they've been going on for years, that he really does have good things in hand for just the time we're ready to receive them.
His love is now so deeply ingrained in me from that moment four years ago, dark night on the floor of my rented kitchen, that I will never be afraid to risk, to hand everything back to him, to do the hard things, to look a little crazy. He said: come and see even when you walk through darkness to do so. I came. I saw. I stayed.