A little more than four years ago I graduated from college and moved across the country. Shortly after settling into my first apartment and starting my first real job, I wrote what I still consider my most memorable Adventist Review article to date. It was a letter, addressed to you, that went something like this:
Dear Church Family,
I graduated from college yesterday. And it already feels different. . . . For the first time in 16 years I’m not an active part of a Christian school family anymore. And honestly, that’s a little scary. . . . I made it through school, but am I strong enough to take my exodus straight to the promised land instead of wandering around the desert? I’ve seen countless friends, rock-solid in their faith, fall away after leaving the safety of Adventist institutions of higher education. Where was the church for them?
I don’t know where I’ll be going to church, or who I’ll meet when I get there. I don’t know if my struggles will be conscious or more like some kind of spiritual cruise control. I just hope that if I slip, someone will be paying enough attention to catch me. I admit it: I need you; we need you. So don’t let my new suit and flashy tie fool you into thinking I’ve got it all figured out. Those are just graduation gifts from my parents.
A New Journey
That letter, which appeared in the August 14, 2008, issue of the Review, represented exactly how I felt at the time. I had just graduated, moved, and had no idea what to expect. Now, as I “graduate” to my next phase in life (we’ll get to that in a second), I thought it only appropriate to thank you for holding up your end of the bargain. You didn’t forget about me, or the countless other young adults who are passionate, active, dedicated members of the Adventist Church.
Sure, we had to make the choice to dive in, get involved, and focus on the positives. You met our energy with wisdom, acceptance, and love. Today I’m a leader in my local church because you empowered me to turn my vision into action and didn’t assume I had it all “figured out.” Thank you.
Now, let’s fast-forward to the present. For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived my life in four-year increments: lower grades, upper grades, high school, and finally, college. After four years of living the bachelor life of a working man, I’m about to enter the next chapter and say goodbye to the life of “fours” for good.
Within days of the printing of this article, I’m marrying the love of my life and best friend. I met Natalie about two and a half years ago. Almost instantly a bond of similar values and life aspirations united us. This might be risky to put in print, but I think I’m going to be a good husband. I do laundry and iron my own clothes, I’m pretty good with money, and I have absolutely no problem whatsoever asking for directions or calling in a plumber or mechanic (hey, I know my limitations).
Despite those endearing qualities, I know one thing for sure: I don’t have it all figured out. (You know where this is going, right?)
Dear Church Family:
On September 16, 2012, I’m going to be the happiest guy in the world, as well as a nervous wreck. As I say, “I do,” I’m going to be praying that God will empower me to truly love my wife as He has called me to . . . just as He loves His church. I can’t think of a higher standard to live up to.
As Natalie and I begin a new life together, I humbly request your support, guidance, and prayers. This world has become a minefield for marriage. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I can’t do much of anything right on my own. Sure, I might look like I have it all together in my fitted gray and black-trimmed tux. But that fancy outfit is just a two-day rental. Marriage, on the other hand, is for keeps.
Jimmy Phillips ([email protected]) writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is electronic media coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital. Visit his Web site at www.introducingthewhy.com. This article was published September 13, 2012.