Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.Ephesians 5:25
Yesterday morning at the beginning of the worship service, the pastor announced that Robertson McQuilkin will be visiting our church one Sunday in October to bring a special message about marriage. I, of course, was elated because I know who Robertson McQuilkin is and would very much like the chance to meet him in person. However, as I thought more about the subject last night, I remembered a very special lady who was a neighbor and dedicated member of the church that I grew up in. Mrs. Shirley had multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS, and each Sunday I would watch her husband care for her as if she was the most important person in the world.
I attended church with Mrs. Shirley for eleven years. And every Sunday for those eleven years, I would watch her husband wheel her to their pew, lift her out of her wheelchair and position her comfortably on the pew, and then push her wheel chair to the front of the sanctuary before returning to her side. Then, when the service had ended, Mrs. Shirley’s husband would walk to the front of the sanctuary, bring the wheelchair back to the pew where Mrs. Shirley was sitting, place her gently in the wheelchair, and proceed to wheel her through the winding hallways of the old church building to the wheelchair accessible door where she would then wait for him to bring the car around and lift her once again out of her wheelchair and into the car.
I watched Mrs. Shirley’s husband carry out that same selfless routine every Sunday for eleven years. However, what I did not see was him lifting her out of the car when they arrived home. I did not see him prepare Sunday dinner. I did not see him feed his wife. I did not see him wash and put away the dishes. I did not see him vacuum the floors and dust the furniture. I did not see him help Mrs. Shirley into her bed at night. I did not see him prepare her breakfast and help her get dressed the next morning. I saw none of that, yet I know he did it every day for more than twenty years.
Growing up, I thought nothing of seeing Mrs. Shirley’s husband meet her every need. However, today, I look back and see one of the greatest love stories ever written. He didn’t have to wait on her like that. He could have shipped her off to a nursing home, and the society in which we now live would have supported him one hundred percent. He could have divorced Mrs. Shirley and married someone else who could wait on him, and the society in which we now live would have supported that decision one hundred percent also. However, he chose the biblical route. He chose to love Mrs. Shirley as Christ loves the church, and that meant dying to himself, putting her needs before his own.
In response to a comment made by Pat Robertson about a year or so ago concerning divorce and Alzheimer’s, Joni Eareckson Tada said the following:
At the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, we encounter thousands of couples who, despite living with serious disabling conditions, showcase the grace of God in their weakness every day. Marriage is designed to be a picture of God’s sacrificial love for us. Alzheimer’s disease is never an ‘accident’ in a marriage; it falls under the purview of God’s sovereignty. In the case of someone with Alzheimer's, this means God's unconditional and sacrificial love has an opportunity to be even more gloriously displayed in a life together!
I know what Joni said is true because I have witnessed it firsthand. Mrs. Shirley and her husband were love personified. As one lady said of her parents, “It was the ‘being there’ when nothing was left but the bad. It was one taking care of the other in the most humbling of ways. It was one depending on the other with as much faith as she had.”
I know that it was only by the grace of God that Mrs. Shirley’s husband was able to care for her in such a selfless and sacrificial way for all those years. It was that same grace that sent Jesus to that old, rugged cross to die for crimes He had not done (2 Corinthians 5:21). And if you will turn from all sin and trust Jesus Christ alone to save you, that same grace will save you today and keep you saved forever.