Voices
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Altar calling

A name change is God's gift for the remains of the day

Issue: "The GOP and Hispanics," May 19, 2012

When nothing else was working my true love said to me, "Andrée, ultimately I'm not that important to you." It was the last resort in a drawn out drama and it did the trick. Stunned like a wailing child by a well-placed swat, I straightened up and surveyed the new terrain.

The corollary was immediately apparent, of course—that I was not ultimately that important to him either. This partnership we were embarking on was for a little while. Steve Jobs gave death its grudging due at Stanford's graduation day in 2005: "Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. ... You are already naked."

Here is wisdom: "The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing" (1 Corinthians 7:29-30).

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David takes me by the hand and says that we can have a thing much better. Sick dependency is darkness that appears as light. Come into the truth with me, he says; the first step is the hardest one, but no one who has ventured into the land of light wants to return from whence he came. You will love me better when you love God more. Choose God over me and you will have us both; choose me over God and you'll be left with neither.

That's how David talks.

C.S. Lewis writes of the hours before his wife's death: "How long, how tranquilly, how nourishingly, we talked together that last night! And yet, not quite together. There's a limit to the 'one flesh.' You can't really share someone else's weakness, or fear or pain. ... We were setting out on different roads. This cold truth, this terrible traffic regulation ('You, Madam, to the right—you, Sir, to the left')" (A Grief Observed).

Left, right. My love and I will each go to our own reward. Assigned seating, you know.

Perspective: I am not the mother of his children. I am not his springtime romance. I am not his summer fantasy. Lord willing, I will be the friend of his old age. We will close this earthly chapter side by side. He is counselor, lover, companion, and friend. But not Counselor, Lover, Companion, and Friend.

There will be two in a field; one will be taken and the other left. Two will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other left. In our case, both will be taken (Hooray!), whether separately or together, and that's sweet. What a motley crew we will be then—David, Y, M, me, and others, all greeting one another like old pals. David said if he goes second he will say to God upon arrival, "Hey, where you got Andrée?"

Well, maybe not first thing upon arrival.

Our choir teacher in elementary school said that if you want to hit a high note, you must aim just a shade higher than the note. The Lord saw the secret desires of my heart, that all I ever wanted was a man to pull my faith upward, to stretch it just a little more. Call me Hagar: "She called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a God of seeing,' for she said, 'Truly here I have seen him who looks after me'" (Genesis 16:13).

So now I am changing my last name to Peterson for the remains of the day. And I consider myself the most blessed of women. There is a time and a season for all things, and this is my season to rejoice. We have our instructions about that: "Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise" (James 5:13).

Lewis ends his quite short book about his quite short marriage with the anecdote of Joy Davidman's last words. He writes: "She said not to me but to the chaplain, 'I am at peace with God.' She smiled, but not at me."

Email aseupeterson@worldmag.com

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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