I’m wearing my grandmother’s diamond earrings and a vintage gold ring of my mother-in-law’s that she designed. I’m sitting next to a table that holds a glass container filled with the dried petals from the first flowers my husband ever bought me before we were officially even dating. When did we officially start dating? He told me he wanted to pursue a relationship with me on July 29th, 2006, in the wave pool at a water park. We had met on June 25th at church. Our first kiss was August 13th. He proposed on June 4th, 2008, and we married on January 3rd, 2009 (pronounced husband and wife at 7:28 pm, to be exact). He once said we could “upgrade” my ½ carat engagement ring when we had the money. I told him I never want to—I want to always have the same ring on my finger that he held in his hand when he proposed. He paid cash for it, and it represents where we were at that time in our lives. It’s perfect for my tiny hands, and I’ll wear it for the rest of my life.
As you can see, I’m sentimental. I carry things with me—tokens of remembrance from loved ones who are gone, mementoes of my romance with my husband, important dates forever sealed in my memory. Today is a significant day.
Friday the 13th—am I superstitious? Of course not. Last year, February 13th was a Thursday. Thursday, February 13th, 2014—the day Pascal made his first post at Russell & Pascal. It was a short post. Three paragraphs. Four likes. One pingback from another blog. What’s the big deal? Why do I add the day of his first post to a running list of anniversaries?
Russell & Pascal. Pseudonyms to protect my family’s identity from my parents. I’m married to Russell, the atheist. I introduced Russell to Pascal, my former professor and a professional in a field I hope to someday call my own, on January 5th, 2013. I knew of Pascal’s faith and had reached out to him with a long letter a little over a month before, hoping he could walk with us through doubt and help us find reasons to believe again. Pascal had responded with his own long letter, and our letters continued into the spring. After Russell and Pascal met for the first time in January, they started having frequent breakfasts and became fast friends. Pascal’s story and his confident reassurance gave me hope that I could believe again. He engaged and accepted my husband in a way that no other believer has. The later spring and summer of 2014 were months of silence between our families as other priorities took precedence—but the fall months found Russell and Pascal together again over early morning breakfasts. An atheist and a Christ-follower, loving each other over breakfast burritos and migas at 6 am—the blog was born over the shared table that bridged the distance between them.
With the blog came an unspoken commitment. Russell and Pascal could have stopped having breakfast at any time, and no one would have noticed. The blog was a product of their friendship that symbolized their intent to take it deeper and make it last. The blog was Russell’s way of saying “I’m willing to talk”—for so long, he hadn’t wanted to out of fear of damaging a believer’s faith. It was Pascal’s way of saying “I’m standing by you, no matter what.” It was their way of inviting me, inviting you, to the table—to the bridge.
With his very first post on February 13th, 2014, Pascal reached out a hand to the skeptic. Together a Christ-follower and an atheist erected a public bridge over a chasm where bridges have been burned time and time again. Post by post, the bridge has been reinforced, and hundreds of people have explored it. What does “gentleness and respect” mean? No matches allowed. One year later, the bridge still stands.
That bridge means the world to me. I’m somewhere between overwhelming doubt and sure and sufficient reasons to believe, but I’m in a safe place. I’m not grasping wildly at something to hold onto. I’m not stuck in a swamp. My feet are planted alongside others who have joined me on the journey…all because two people built a bridge. They opened it to you and me a year ago today.
Go back with me another year—February 13th, 2013. I was following the reading plan in my journaling Bible (a gift from Pascal). The assigned reading for the day included Psalm 40. I read the first verses of the Psalm and wrote in the margin “Could these words be for me?” These were the words I wanted to claim on that day:
“1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.”
To be drawn up out of a pit—for my steps to be made secure. That was my sincere prayer on February 13th, 2013. On February 13th, 2014, a bridge was built. It stands today, February 13th, 2015, and I have hope that it is somehow an answer to my question—Could these words be for me? I may not have sure and sufficient reasons, but I can be sure-footed on the bridge—not stuck in a miry bog. I don’t like where I came from and I’m not sure where I’m going—but wherever I am between the two, I am held up. I am supported. I am not alone.
Pascal, my dear brother—thank you for writing your very first post about your call to the skeptic one year ago today. Russell, my beloved husband—thank you for writing him back, again and again and again. I love you both deeply, and I congratulate you on one year of writing here. I eagerly look forward to the start of a new year of gentle and respectful conversation on the bridge that will never burn.
[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, public domain]