My best friend? My wife. One who really cares about me. Who asks how my day was and really wants to know...
Jan and I are different. She tells the story of some time early in our marriage when she asked if I'd help with something or other. I said 'no'. I have some urgent study to do. I'd put sermon preparation or a writing assignment far ahead of fixing something around the house, or realigning physical objects in another configuration. With Jan, my hunch is that if on the Wednesday before the Sunday she's due to preach she can think of a reason to make pumpkin soup instead of reading a commentary on Hosea, she'll head for the kitchen.
I remember Barry Jones, Australia's highest-profile 'public' intellectual being asked 'What do you hate doing?' His response: 'Nothing, except moving physical objects - including myself - around the earth!' I can resonate with that.
A few times Jan and I have led Marriage Enrichment seminars. From the feedback, they're always appreciated.
Here's the letter I've read to her in front of those people:
A Love-letter to my Spouse
My Darling Jan,
I am continually grateful that you're my wife. What a privileged man I am. We've had 39 and a half (now, as I write in 2010, *51*) years of happiness: in fact as we said to each other the other night, we've spent two-thirds of our lives together! You are the mother of our four wonderful children - and you've been a wonderful mum. Our love for each other has grown over the years; from romantic love to a mix of romantic and realistic love.
I thank God for
* Our courtship: they were a wonderful couple of years
* The fact that we were both virgins when we married
* Your willingness to go through the physical pain of giving birth to our four children, and your willingness to be sometimes father and mother to them, especially when they were little
* Your giving up your job for us to move to Canada
* The unexpected gifts you have given me - like the pocket watch a couple of weeks ago
* The fact that we can both get irritable - you with the computer, me with slow people
* Our holidays, where we walk together or sit and read in some of the most beautiful parts of the world
* The ease with which we can make decisions about our life together and our family
* Our new flat: we have never enjoyed living anywhere as much as we enjoy living here
* The enjoyment of lying in each others' arms and talking together - and of course
* Our sexual life: it's getting better with each passing year!
I love and admire you for...
* Your desire to do God's will
* Your honesty and integrity: you are more willing than I am to admit a mistake
* Your commitment to our family - our children and our grandchildren
* The way you have overcome being the victim of an abusive and angry father. I love the way you have tried to separate me from your father - particularly when I come on strong or am overbearing…
* Your care of me - meals, clothes: you are a wonderful home-maker
* Studying and equipping yourself for Christian ministry: doing two degrees in midlife is a great achievement
…and there are lots of other things
Please forgive me for...
* Having too great a commitment to ministry outside our home, which I now see was at the expense of our family - particularly in the case of our eldest two children
* Not helping more with the children when they were little - especially when they cried in the night.
* The times I was angry with you, and hurt you deeply, and for not expressing my displeasure more gently - and for not understanding better, particularly early in our marriage, what having an angry father was like for you
* Not helping more in the home
* Putting you down when I thought you should have known something
* Not being more patient when fixing computer problems - expecting you to remember ten complex things in one bang!
I pledge/promise before God that
* I will try to listen to your heart, your feelings
* I will try to be more domesticated
My prayer for you - and for us - is...
* That we shall find our significance in God, rather than in our training or accomplishments or anything else that humans prize
* That in the last few years of our pastoral ministries we will grow together in our knowledge of and love for God and in reaching out to others effectively
* That your beautiful desire to please others and be their servant will not diminish, but will also be tempered by a willingness to be served sometimes… that you will be more free to ask me to serve you
* That in our semi-retirement which is coming up we shall have a ministry together of encouragement to others - perhaps a ministry to pastors and leaders
I love you!