What’s Up with Pastor Todd 5-16-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 5-16-19

We are beginning our journey together as pastor and congregation. Life has taught me something about beginnings that may seem counterintuitive to some: start with the ending. Another way to say it: begin with the end in mind.

This reminds me of a personal story:

The marriage proposal was a disaster. I went ring shopping over Christmas break. Nicole and I had been dating for three years. Both of us would be graduating from divinity school the following spring. I had the strong sense that decision time was approaching: would we stay together or go our separate ways? I wanted to stay together. I took my younger brother with me to the mall just to do some initial ring pricing. I told Brett that I planned on proposing to Nicole on Valentine’s Day.

So here’s where things went sideways. Valentine’s Day rolls around, and I haven’t quite settled on a ring. No problem. Nicole’s birthday is February 17. I’ll propose to her then. What I didn’t know was that Brett had told my dad my plan to propose on Valentine’s Day. Apparently dad immediately started spreading the news to the whole family.

Valentine’s Day evening, Nicole and I had had supper together and were studying in my studio apartment when the phone begins ringing. It’s dad.

“Congratulations,” he says.

“What are you talking about?” I reply.

“Did she say ‘Yes’?”

I take the phone into the bathroom, the only place with any privacy. I explain the situation: the new plan is to propose in three days, on Nicole’s birthday. But it was too late. The phone kept ringing and ringing as one after another family members called to congratulate me. Finally, Nicole looked up from the book she was reading and asked what was going on.

I apologized. I knelt down next to where she was lying on the folded up futon. I explained the situation. This wasn’t what I had planned, but would she marry me? She said, “Yes.” Then we discussed what that would mean. Both of us were children of divorced parents. Could we realistically promise “‘Til death parts us” knowing how fragile promises can be? And even if our marriage survived the travails of time and change, death stood at the end, the ironclad promise that is the inescapable inheritance of everything that breathes. Together we squarely faced our future. Out of that conversation this private promise arose: “Whatever happens, we do it together.” We started with the end in mind, and out of that end, we fashioned our vow.

Six months later at Church of the Three Crosses Nicole and I promised to “love and sustain” each other “as long as we both shall live.” For the past 22 years we have been faithful to that promise. I’m confident that whatever life brings our way, our promise to face it together will hold.

I realize that this might seem a little disconcerting. But as I said at the beginning, I’ve found that the most powerful bonds are built when we start with the ending. As your Transitional Senior Minister, I begin with the acknowledgment of impermanence. Every one of us is temporary. It is not up to us to decide how much time we will have. It is up to us to decide how we will use the time we’ve been given. As for me, I vow to make the most of it. What will your promise be? I hope that whatever the future brings, we will face it together.

Author: toddyonkman

I am a husband, father, author, and Designated Term Transitional Pastor of First Church of Christ in Saybrook (CT).

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