Updated: Aug 30, 2022
When I take the right road, my drive to the office at Mills Home in Thomasville goes under a canopy of trees with trunks big enough
for a group of four to six friends to join hands and encircle them. When I arrive and walk toward my office, I step over roots that reach away from the trees, tying them to the rich soil of this historic place. These towering trees and widening roots provide stability to the land and stretch far into the past to connect those of us here now with the myriad of people who came before. It’s difficult not to look up, literally and figuratively, to the saints who have gone before, with all the trees that grace this place.
Among the people inside these buildings, the same rootedness exists. Longevity permeates the space, speaking volumes of the ministry and the desire of staff members to stay connected with
the vision of “sharing hope...changing lives.” But these people, my co-laborers, also have powerful personal stories of commitment that are living testimonies to God’s goodness. Ron and Cindy
celebrated 50 years of marriage a couple of weeks ago. Jennie and Howard have a well-known love story spanning decades, as do Nancy and Donald, Wyatt and Jimmy, Carol and Jim—the names and faces go on. Our own president/CEO and his bride Catherine can count backward many years to that day they both said I do, celebrating their 55th on August 12.
When I listen to these friends talk of their relationships, their faces light up and my heart is warmed, telltale evidence that these commitments matter, bring joy, sustain them.
I look farther afield and find more longevity. Lib and Bob, Carolyn
and Harold, Maxine and Bill, and others spring to mind, more
proof of God’s good work in the hearts of His people called to a lifetime commitment to each other. Theirs are the roots that ground their families, the shelter that overspreads those for
whom they provide with love and care. Not to overplay the metaphor here, but the connection between trees with deep roots and wide canopies and committed love relationships that stand the test of time is hard to miss. Paul’s words to the Ephesians makes a similar comparison: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the
love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:17-18).
There are trees at Mills Home that become diseased and begin to fade. They are carefully tended, but with all the care in the world, sometimes trees die. While they make room for other life to spring forth, their presence is missed; the landscape’s difference is felt.
I witnessed the strength and joy of steadfast couples and the love they shared before one went on and one remained. Marian and Gerald, Becky and John, Brenda and John, Diane and Randy, all
beautiful shared stories that live on after the severing of their earthly coupleness that so defined them. The testimony of their commitments are among my most vivid story-memories: “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart...” (Eccl 3:11).
Kathy and I added another year to our shared life this week, marking our 41st anniversary. The celebration had none of
the fanfare of last year’s big 4-0, yet we had all we have ever needed. We really do cleave to each other, just as we did on that
long-ago July day when I left my parents and she left her home, supported by the roots they provided and standing unafraid under the canopy of their love. Our parents reached high numbers
of years together before one went home first, to be followed by the other later on. The examples of their commitment provide strength for our days, hopes for our tomorrows.
There is talk about the fragility of life and the uncertainty of love in today’s society, but maybe it depends on where we look. The stories I hear, the ones I am privileged to tell, speak of long-suffering, yes, but also commitment. They are not the easy lives of people with charmed existence (although those exist, too); rather, they are the overcomers who faithfully hold on, both of them, to each other, digging deep and standing firm. Like the trees I see all around me here, the people create those same life-invigorating
canopies, those same gnarled roots, God-given tenacity to stand firm: “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures” (Ps 119:90).
More trees will be planted at Mills Home, and they will join an impressive collection of venerable oaks, hollies, maples. In their turn, these new trees will shelter and inspire, adding to the story of longevity together with the people who come this way to serve.
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children