Those who come from Italy send you greetings. – Hebrews 13:24b
I recall a fellow named Don, now many years ago, telling the congregation that he was taking his wife to Hawaii for their 30-year anniversary. I later kidded him that he had, with that remark, made himself among the men of the congregation probably the least liked man in the congregation! The women may have thought him wonderful but not the men. For there he had gone and really messed things up for the rest of us, setting a new standard by which we were sure to never quite measure up. Hawaii! Thanks a lot, Don!
And here I am in Italy! Well guys, don't blame me…it was Ruth's idea! But, yes, I complied. Indeed, I worked hard to see this become a reality for my wife. Someone asked me a few weeks ago what I most desired to see in Italy and I said that I particularly desired to see a smile on my wife's face.
You see, Ruth grew up in a pastor's home, and a poor pastor's home at that. It was during her junior high school years that her family had to leave the house and area that they really liked (in Mt. Pocono) and move to Upland, Pennsylvania. The reason? The church in Upland paid a bit more while the wealthier church in Mt. Pocono refused to increase her dad's salary. Ruth's mother worked full-time so that Ruth and her two brothers might be able to attend college. There never was extra money. And then Ruth, of all things, married a pastor. Granted, when we started out together I was a museum manager and then a real estate agent. And it was as a real estate agent that we were able to buy the very unique house that truly became our home, and the home to our five children. But even at the time of our wedding Ruth knew that there was a very good possibility she would someday become a pastor's wife.
And that, my friends, is not an easy thing to be. For over 30 years now Ruth has always had to drive to church separate from me. Never have we driven to church together on a Sunday morning. In the early years she had to get all five children ready for church and then drive separate. Now she has only herself to take care of, but I generally leave around 7 am and sometimes earlier, so she comes on her own.
For over 30 years she has been aware of the aches and pains of people's lives, even if not knowing the details. More than once she has known what it means to pack up and head home from a planned vacation because of my need to deal with a death and funeral.
Nine years ago she felt ripped away from a church body she had known for decades.
She has taught children's classes, headed up women's Bible studies, been involved in decorating, making costumes for children's plays, singing in choirs, and discipling women one-on-one. She has never received any compensation for any of this. And she has been a faithful and loving wife through it all. So when she said to me two years ago, "I would like to have us do something special for our forty year anniversary." And I said, "Like what?" And Ruth answered "I'd like to go to Italy." Who was I to say, "No, we can't afford that."
So, sorry guys, if I have now messed things up for you. But I can't put a price on any smile I see on her face here in Italy. It will be priceless.