Like the past several Valentines, our friends’ day won’t be chocolates and flowers. It’ll be pain pills and the flowers may have to wait for her funeral. Here is the story of a couple we have known for four decades. For years, the wife’s mind has been deteriorating with dementia and her devoted husband took care of her at home. Eventually, the strain of her care took such a toll on his health that there were weekly ER visits. It became apparent that he couldn’t continue to be her sole care provider. After finding a loving care facility for her, he would get up early every morning and drive from their country home to the city in order to feed his wife her breakfast at her care facility. He sat with her all morning even tho it pained him to see her this way. When the money for care ran out, he gently took her home, carrying the sole caregiver responsibility without complaint. He rigged up a way to lower her into the jetted bathtub to relieve her sores. She sleeps a lot now, but not always at night, yet he is right there to be her companion even when she doesn’t know it. He’s now getting a few hours off regularly thanks to some limited hired care because he’s in it for the duration and knows he needs regular breaks for refreshing. He’s living his vows without wavering. He is faithful. He loves her even tho she isn’t who she was. And even in the pain of witnessing her decline, he serves her willingly. He is faithful, steadfast, committed. He is happy he can provide for her. His care says, “I love you.”
“husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church…As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one…each man must love his wife as he loves himself.” Ephesians 5:28-29,31,33 (Quote from Genesis 2:24)
A middle-aged wife stands alone in the kitchen crying. Actually, she’s just tearing up while cutting a strong onion! She’s doing the monotonous job of chopping veggies just like she does every day at this time. Her husband will soon be home from his exhausting job and he’ll be hungry. The homey smell of good food cooking will greet him when he opens the door. She spends the extra time it takes to cook him fresh, healthy food because she is serious about his health. She dedicates a considerable part of her day to his physical well being. That healthy plate of food says, “I love you.”
“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-12
A young wife waves goodbye to her beloved. I’m being melodramatic here, but the rest of the story really happened last week. A young wife with two littles encouraged her hard-working husband to take a weekend away with his buddy and his buddy’s dad. He flew to a sunny clime and enjoyed playing golf and watching a tournament while his family was home in rainy Oregon. She had to entertain their little ones alone as well as work part-time. But there was never a hint of “Oh, poor me,” from her. Instead, there was a simple statement, “Oh, no big deal. He deserves to do something fun with how hard he works.” That gracious attitude says, “I love you.” loud and clear.
“Don’t be selfish… Be humble, thinking of others above yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God …
he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave.” Philippians 2:3-5,7
Am I suggesting that a wife should never bake a sweet treat for her husband? Of course not, but if sweets are routine and his health (weight) are suffering then love would cut back. (After Valentines! Celebrations are so important.) Am I suggesting that the only way to be a loving husband is to care for a sick wife at home? Of course not, but if that is the circumstance he finds himself in, love will motivate him to do it well. Am I suggesting that husbands take breaks at their wives’ expense? Of course not. (That couple is planning a twosome escape this coming weekend.) The point is that considering the other’s needs and doing our best to meet them is the essence of love.
We are happiest when we are loving and being loved.
The Happy plant grows in the rich soil of a loving heart.
Here are a few observations over a lifetime of watching loving couples.
Sacrifice to meet the other’s needs.
Delight in making the other happy.
Overlook faults, accepting the imperfections of the other graciously remembering their own faults.
Give the benefit of the doubt. Quick to defend and point out their good points to others.
Are quick to praise and express gratitude.
Are always respectful.
Pray for strength to care for the other.
Are committed to their only one without comparing to others.
Guard the loved one’s well-being physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally. (Physically-Healthy food and habits. Spiritually- partners in spiritual growth, service, attendance at church. Mentally- discuss ideas, read aloud, learn together. Emotionally- generously give in the areas the loved one relishes- sex, time, activities, praise, gratitude, respect.)
Graciously accept without pointing out physical or mental loss. Serve them in their weakness without looking for an out. (Rest and relief, yes. Looking for a replacement mate, no.)
Trust God to make them happy, even when their mate can’t or doesn’t. Yes, God lavishly gives us happiness. That’s the whole idea of why he asks us to do the right thing. With his constant help, we moment by moment choose to do the loving thing and in the process, God fills us with happiness in spite of negative circumstances. Every time we say, “Thank you,” to God or others, we get a little shot of gladness. Every time we take care of the other’s needs we get a glow of joy. Every time we turn our thoughts to Jesus we get a breath of Heaven’s sweet air. Happiness is a gift from God.
“you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11
We all know we should love our mates and others. But we also know we are each naturally self-centered, and easily slip into many kinds of unloving behaviors. So how do we do the loving thing? Only by being connected to the one truly loving Being in the universe. When we experience God, we feel loved and have his love to pass on to others. This makes us deeply happy even when our love for others doesn’t have the hoped-for outcome.
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:16-18
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:7-12