“I, Jill, take you, Randy…
“I, Jill, take you, Randy, for my lawful husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
What sacred words these are.
I remember being a young woman, dating Randy for many years and still not feeling mature enough to make that life long decision to be dedicated to someone for the rest of my life. Am I ready? I don’t feel grown up enough to decide for the rest of my life! Then this one day, while sitting next to him at a home bible study, I had this thought…
Don’t laugh. This is the honest to goodness real deal.
I want to be the person that changes Randy’s diaper with honor and dignity.
Ok, you can laugh a little. You can even psychoanalyze me. But it was honestly the turning point in our 6 years of dating that helped me know I was ready for these sacred marriage vows, “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
It helped me know I wasn’t getting married for only what I would GET from Randy, but for what I could GIVE to Randy even when he could give nothing to me in return. That’s a pretty heavy thought for a 20 something year old. That’s pretty major for a normally self centered-youngest born. It’s easier said than done, but it was a good start. It helped me know I wanted to be with him until we were old and gray. I just didn’t think we were that old yet….
I have some heroes in mind when I think about actually living this respectful and selfless kind of love.
My neighbor Barbara: Her husband has been big and strong my whole life. He caught 2 year old me when I was falling down the stairs. He used to tell me to put my two pointer fingers together and then he’d hold them in his fist and tell me I was in “Hungarian Hand Cuffs.” He did the same to my boys but used masking tape instead. He used to fix cars and yell at us when we drove too fast. The years of hard labor and bypass surgeries have weighed on him. He’s got some dementia and shaky hands now. He jokes around less and less but still manages to eek out a smile and a word or two. Even though they are mostly home bound together, she has a smile on her face. Even though he might fling his cereal across the kitchen floor by accident, she says, “How can I get mad at him?!” And then she pats him on the cheek and looks at him with a twinkle in her eye. She still looks at him like she’s in love. She’s my hero.
My Uncle Bob: He joyfully nursed his wife after multiple complications from strokes and head injury, always believing, always hoping in her recovery even after she couldn’t talk to him anymore. He went to her nursing home every day and cheered her on. He took her back home insisting he could do it on his own and continued to cheer her on. She was like his little Doll and he was gonna take care of her. He did it with love and honor until the Lord took him home.
Almost 17 years into our marriage and I am extra thankful for their example and the turning point in my own thinking. I am thankful for more than two reasons.
The first, it helps me to sit with Randy while he lays nauseous and in pain. Brain surgery is gnarly. It gives me a commitment and a determination to stay by his side and protect his dignity. I have to be quiet and I can’t touch him. It makes his nausea worse. That’s hard for me. I want to climb in the bed and cuddle. I’m just sitting here in the quiet hospital room listening to him snore, or moan, or ask for ice chips. I help him close his eye lid that gets stuck open and push buttons he cannot see. When he was 33 he would rather not think about a day like today, but I think today he’s particularly thankful he already knew I’d be right here. Truth be told, he had to wipe my bottom first! After Ian was born I was quite useless and in tremendous pain. He hasn’t needed that help from me yet, but I’m so ready to do it with honor and respect! Being cared for with honor during such a vulnerable time is one way a marriage can experience nakedness without shame.
The second, I’m thankful that my kids have grown up hearing about Mommy’s silly litmus test. When Ian grew weaker in the hospital and could barely stand he asked me, “Mom, you know how you said you would wipe Daddy’s bottom? Would you do that for me too if I can’t do it for myself anymore?”
Selah… I just need a moment of silence.
“With Honor, Ian.”
It brings tears to my eyes again to remember those days and weeks in the hospital that were so difficult for Ian. It emboldens my heart to practice this selfless service with dignity and honor for these people God has given me. It makes me hunger for all marriages and relationships to be lived in dignity. Hospital life can be very undignifying as our bodies are more like specimens for measurements, or our faculties are lost. All modesty seems to go out the window. I’m so grateful that Ian knew being cared for in his weakness is an act of love and respect not humiliation or burden.
“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16
I can see why this can happen when we are loved with honor during the hard times. It’s the kind of love Jesus loved us with. He came to serve not be served (Matt. 20:28). With this kind of example there is hope for renewal on the inside. Though our outer self is drooping from muscle weakness, though we walk slower each day, though our hands grow shakier and our minds a little slower, our inner self can be renewed through this kind of devotion… “to have and to hold in richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until only death should separate us.”
Everyone is dying. With Jesus’s service and sacrifice you can hear….
You are valued. You are honored. You are respected.