March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, and while it is not a Baptist distinctive, it is a memorable day for my wife, Anne, and myself. I proposed to her on that day, and she accepted.
In Ireland, Patrick is regarded as a saint, although he was never canonized by the Catholic Church. He has been called the Apostle of Ireland because of his missionary work there in the fifth century.
St. Patrick’s Day in America is marked by traditions different from those observed in Ireland. In America, we seem to think that cabbage and corned beef is the food we should eat on that day. However, in Ireland, the food consumed is a wide variety of meats, vegetables and desserts. In both countries, St. Patrick’s Day is a secular time marked by parades, food, the wearing of green (the color of the shamrock), and drinking.
There is a legend that St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leafed clover, to explain to people the concept of the Trinity (using the three leaves and one stem as a symbol). The shamrock is the national flower of Ireland, and it (or a shamrock pin) is often worn on the holiday.
All of that is irrelevant and unimportant to my wife and me. St. Patrick’s Day is special to us because it is our engagement day: March 17, 1977. Later that same year, on Aug. 19, we were married. It has been a great journey that began with both of us, even before we knew each other, praying to God for a mate and for direction in how to serve Him. I was pastoring my first church (and was serving as that young church’s first pastor), and Anne was teaching high school math. God, in His providence, answered our prayers and brought us together. She has continued to be my helpmate and my rock.
A few weeks ago, I was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. It was news I did not want to hear. Neither did Anne. Again, we prayed and sought direction. She has been relentless in questioning doctors and following up to make sure we got test results back as soon as possible. Our 50th wedding anniversary is in 2027, and I hope and pray that I will be here to celebrate it with her.
March 17 is special for us — not because it is St. Patrick’s Day, but because, on that day, we began a journey that continues to this day. Our nearly 42 years together have been graced with so many blessings. At the top of the list are three daughters, three sons-in-law, and four wonderful grandchildren. We have learned much together and, by God’s grace, will continue to learn more about Him and love Him better until He calls us home.
Anne and I have pleasant thoughts when we think about St. Patrick’s Day, because that’s when a bond was established between us, and with God, and that bond has endured. When a life-threatening disease crosses your path, it gets your attention. It also compels you to focus more intently on the matchless God you know. That is where we are today.
St. Patrick’s Day is something small, but God is amazingly large. He makes the impossible, possible. He alone deserves our worship and praise. March 17 is just another day on the calendar, but Anne and I will recognize it not as a holiday but will recall, with thankful hearts, the fact that God led us to each other.
All God’s children share the same amazing comfort of His presence. He has promised us, “I will never desert you, nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). As my speech professor in college used to remind us: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life!”