On 6 April 1974 I attended a family birthday gathering to celebrate a young woman I had met a few weeks earlier.
Our backgrounds could hardly have been more different.
I was from sturdy, some might say “stodgy”, British stock, profoundly reserved, boringly pragmatic, and deeply committed to high church Anglicanism. In my world we were trained to be obsessively punctual.
Her origins were German. Her world was flamboyantly artistic and musical, energetically and expressively emotional, and nominally Quaker. Punctuality was considered impolite.
Today is the forty-third time we will celebrate her birthday together. Forty of those celebrations have been as husband and wife. Some of the differences so noticeable at that first birthday party have diminished a bit over the years; but the beauty and wonder that this young woman embodied all those years ago have only continued to grow and deepen.
She has become the most alive, honest, grounded, spiritually mature woman I have ever been privileged to know. She has made her own way in life with a deep sense of inner direction and guidance.
She has not become famous or wealthy. To many people her life may seem uninteresting, even dull. But to see the years of her journey as lacking in excitement is to fail to look deeply enough. Beneath the surface there has been and remains, a dynamic energy at work. The richness of her interior life is the miracle of her being and the guiding force of love to which she has always given herself.
Loud accolades, glittering prizes, and public attention have never held much interest for her in all the 43 years I have known her. Rather than any dazzling company or glamorous acclaim, she prefers the quiet steadiness of moving forward faithfully wherever her spiritual journey has lead.
If you were to ask her now what motivates her life, she might reply, that she is preparing to die. This is not a morbid prophecy of early death, but merely an honest acknowledgement that at 63, the next major life event on the horizon is likely departure from this physical time-bound material realm. And she knows she has never been well-served by clinging to anything. So, the work of this part of life, is letting go more and more deeply of those attachments that bind us to this world.
Perhaps she would describe her driving force more positively as longing for that absolute freedom that Jesus promised when he declared,
you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
The guiding principle of her life, one of the things that first attracted me to her, has always been the tenacious determination to live truthfully. This determination has served her well and brought her to a place where the external manifestations of her life are an almost perfect match for the internal reality of the person she has become. There is a consistency to her that has seldom failed over 43 birthdays.
Although it will never be recognized by the world at large, it is perhaps this integration of the inner and the outer that is her shining achievement. This consistency, as much as all those other beautiful qualities of her being, is the gift most of all that has made these 43 birthdays together so rich and so rewarding, even though we still operate on slightly different schedules.
Thank you my love for the luminous being you are. Sorry for embarrassing you in this slightly public forum.