The funny thing about my wife (and her entire family) is that it is nearly (if not literally) impossible to get them to admit when they’ve been defeated in an argument.
Take yesterday afternoon, for example. We were coming home from my son’s house and passed by a large stand of extremely large pines. I love pine trees. There’s something nostalgic about them to me. I can remember sitting on my grandmother’s front porch in South Georgia watching them sway in the wind. When I was a kid, that’s about all that inhabited Georgia and North Florida…pines.
Anyhow, I remarked to my beloved bride, “When I die, I want you to bury me in a large stand of old growth pine trees.” She said (wrongly), “I won’t be making that decision. You’ll die first.”
“What?” I asked her, “Don’t you mean that you’ll die first?”
She snorted (as if to call me an idiot) and said, “I said what I meant.”
“But if I die first, you will have to make that decision. What you said makes no sense.”
So here’s her standard reply…”That’s what I’m talking about”
Now if you don’t know her family, you won’t know how funny that is. But trust me when I tell you that her brothers Phil and Si do it, her dad did it, and most of her nephews do it. I proved her wrong, but she still claimed that she was right. No one but she and her family could be right even when they are clearly wrong.
I give up!
It got me to thinking about how we used to live our lives together. In the old days, when arguments were really serious, her twisting reality to suit her used to bug the fool out of me. She would craft an illogical argument and then revise the history of the spat to make it sound like she’d been right all along. And when I tell you that it bugged me, I mean to say that I was as mad as fire.
One of the things I’m most thankful for is that God allowed me to see her as he wants me to see her long before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. As I’ve shared already, I began to pray that God would open my eyes and allow me to love her in the way that she was created to be loved.
I’m not saying that I’ve been all that perfect at doing it, but at least God allowed me to see my failures as a husband – that I had made our relationship more about me than about her – about pleasing God in my marriage.
And I’m glad I did – I’m glad he did. Because at this stage of the game, when she needs me most, she is confident that I will feed and clothe her. She is secure in knowing that I will protect her – that I will strive with all of my energy to make sure that her needs are met. And when she claims to be right when she is definetly wrong – well, I just think it’s cute. It makes me smile.
The odd thing is that we have an intimacy now that is indescribable. Imagine that – her short term memory is shot. She sometimes struggles to find nouns. And she rarely knows what day it is – even after I’ve told her a thousand times. But we are closer than ever before.
And one more thing I’m blessed with – I have a host of messed up, imperfect people that I’ve been fortunate enough to do life with that support us and encourage me. Almost of them are believers in Christ. I couldn’t go through this without them.
Church? I don’t get a whole lot out of the service part of it. Usually I fall asleep during the preaching – especially when I’m preaching. But the relationship part of it – the part where we are open and honest and where we bear one another’s burdens? I can’t live without that.
When Jan and I were first married (she had stars in her eyes, I can tell you) we both had a dream of impacting the lives of others with the gospel of Christ. We’ve made lots of mistakes, but I am grateful that God has allowed us to at least realize that one dream. And Jan is still at it. She doesn’t hesitate to lay down a sermon if someone needs it.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about how human suffering in the family of God ought to play out in the church. If you surveyed a thousand houses around your church and asked them, “What is it that you are struggling with?” I would bet you that not one person would say that they are struggling with theological issues or worship styles or any of the other issues that churches are talking about.
What I think you will find is that a man’s wife has dementia. Another man’s wife was unfaithful. Or a couple’s son is addicted to drugs. It’s a rough world out there, and sometimes the church is talking about other things.
God put us in this wonderful relationship that we have called “church” to hold one another up. We are here to encourage and love one another.
In fact, Jesus said that the love we have for one another is the one badge of discipleship. It sets us apart from the world.
Yesterday, I received a text from a young man that I love very much. He is an athiest. When he asked what I was up to, I told him that I was taking a lady to a recovery house in Bossier City some 90 miles away. A few minutes later he replied, “Man, if there is a heaven (and I’m skeptical), then you are a first ballot kind of guy.”
Never mind that he completely missses the point about me being a wretched man who has a relationship with God only because of God’s mercy and grace. What he was saying is that he recognized me as a follower of Christ because I was spending my Saturday doing something for somebody he considered to be unworthy.
I’m not trying to hold myself out as an example of holiness. I’m just saying that my friend saw Christ in a small, insignificant act of love that Jan and I did for someone else. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d been a little resentful about giving up my Saturday.
But I’m glad God has led me to this point. Also, I’m thankful that he put Jan in my life to teach me what it is to love. I’m not thankful that she has this horrible disease, but I do give glory to God that he is teaching me, beginning with her, to love my Forever Family in the same way that Christ loved me.
Like I said, I don’t think I could do this without that kind of love.