The picture was taken in an old, run-down part of Hartford, Connecticut around January 10, 1971--39 years ago. Jean and I had our nice little wedding in Kenmore, NY, and had taken a short wedding trip to Toronto and Montreal. Yes, in January! It was all we had time for, all we could afford.
A line from an old Jefferson Airplane song goes, "City streets in the dead of winter, stop your minds with dirty snow." Amen.
That's what comes to mind as I look at this scene from old Hartford. Dirty snow, a building being demolished in the background, trashy looking signs. This was on Asylum Street. Too much of this scenery and you'd need an asylum!
The wedding and trip were over. Now came the nitty-gritty tension and uncertainty of preparing for the realities ahead. We were in this part of town to buy the largest, cheapest trunk we could find. An old luggage store filled the bill. Nearby, a second-hand store had a little Singer Featherweight portable sewing machine, cutest little machine ever built. We would fit that, some melmac tableware, some silverware, some cookware and a few basic wedding gifts and tools into the trunk and then drive it to Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts to be shipped to Turkey. This was my "hold baggage" that required a copy of my orders for shipment.
I was headed for a destination known as TUSLOG Det. 94, Karamursel, Turkey. Somehow, I would find a place for us to live in a very strange land and culture. Somehow, at some point, Jean would join me. Somehow we would begin our life together. Somehow, it would work.
The separation, from January 14 to April 2, 1971, encompassed more days than the total number of days we had seen each other face-to-face in our entire lives. Somehow we had to keep our fledgling love alive in that interval and build from there once we were together again. Somehow. We had no idea how, but somehow. No e-mail, facebook or tweets. Just letters, stamps and APO New York, NY 09324. Somehow. . .
By all reasonable standards, our marriage should have ended in total disaster about 6 months in.
Yesterday we celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary.
I love how the Gospel According to St. John begins. No star, no manger. No shepherds, angels, wise men, Herods or Quirinius, the governor of Syria. No baby, no Mary, no Silent Night greeting cards.
John has the perspective of a century of reflection on the impact of Jesus, the Messiah. For John, the story can't possibly begin with the birth. It is the eternal story so it begins where Genesis does: in the beginning. Creation. All things are involved in this story. It is timeless.
Over and over again, John's gospel works to a theme: Come and see! Come and see the One sent by God and what He has done. In order to see, one needs light. According to Genesis 1:3, the creation of light was the first improvement God made in the dark and watery chaos of creation. "The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world..."
But. . . Messiah was sent to his own who did not receive him. They put him to death. And what does God do? Pack his toys and go home? No, God pours himself out and adopts everyone through faith as his own children. That's what John says. Way too much in these 18 verses to unpack, but here are a few of the timeless truths in the beginning of John's gospel and its timeless beginnings in creation:
1. Messiah is pre-existent, eternal with God.
2. Messiah is the agent of creation.
3. Out of chaos, God makes order.
4. Out of darkness, God brings light.
5. Out of death, God brings eternal and timeless life.
6. Out of junk and impossibilities, God makes possibilities and wondrous things.
7. Out of rejection, God brings adoption and acceptance, literally a new identity as children of God through faith in Messiah, the Word.
By all reasonable standards, Jean and I should not be a couple today, certainly not a couple who considers themselves supremely blessed. But we are. By all reasonable standards, we should not be alive today. We nearly died of carbon monoxide poisoning in our first month of life together in Turkey. It was the night we were to leave for Ephesus. We will never forget.
But here we are. Come and see! Thanks be to God!
PS. That run-down area of Hartford? Completely rebuilt and beautiful today. Kinda like a God thing, isn't it?