It is today two months since Avinash surprised me by asking me to marry him. I could hardly wait to hear the words out of his mouth before I said yes! In the last few months I have begun to see how deep and strong his love is for me, and am humbled and astonished as I realize it. Last August as I left home for the Big Texas City, I remember being so blessed by the love of my family and friends that I wrote in the front of my new planner “It is a great grace to be loved.” I didn’t know what kind of love awaited me in the place I would move to! In Avinash, I’m tasting that grace more and more, and mixed up in an inexplicable way is God’s grace and God’s love.
We are already experiencing some trials in our life together, but thankfully they only strengthening our relationship and causing us to become more sure in our love for each other. Despite them we are full of the optimistic “happy-ever-after” hopes of a couple in love. Yet sometimes we realize that the trials of today may not be the only ones we will face in life together. As I was thinking of the hardships that some couples face, I was reminded of two beautiful examples.
Robertson McQuilkin was the president of Columbia International University in 1990 when he had to make a decision. His wife Muriel had Alzheimer’s. She was only happy and peaceful when he was the one taking care of her (already a testimony to their trusting bond), but he could not give her full attention if he worked at the university. McQuilkin decided to resign, and he cared for Muriel for the rest of her life, nearly ten years more.
What is especially beautiful is that McQuilkin did not regard his sacrifice as a burden. He was happy to release his status as a university president and become small and unimportant to serve his wife. He delighted in her sweet spirit despite her lack of ability to interact with him as she had in the past. When she died, he wrote, “For 55 years Muriel was flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. So it’s like a ripping of my flesh and deeper—my very bones,” … “But there is also profound gratitude. For ten years I’ve delighted in recalling happy memories. I still do. No regrets. I’m grateful.” (Their story can be read here.)
In our generation is the story of Ian and Larissa. They are two strong believers, whose love story moved through the wonderful and simple progression of friendship and dating. In September of 2006 they were on the brink of engagement, when Ian was in a car accident which resulted in severe brain trauma. (Larissa tells the story on Carolyn McCulley’s blog.) Larissa chose to stay with Ian and become his primary caregiver. Ian still is confined to a wheelchair and is only able to communicate in a limited way, though he has regained some speech.
It is easy to glorify Larisssa for her sacrificial love, which she probably would not want us to do. She says on their blog that she sees Christ in Ian, that even when he was first in the hospital and totally unable to speak or signal, he communicated love to her. She sees God’s faithfulness through Ian’s faithfulness, and feels honored by his love. As they were preparing for marriage, this is what Larissa said:
Marriage is a huge decision. Every couple pursuing marriage must count the costs of a lifetime commitment. For some couples the cost can be as big as giving up a career to move to a new place, or as “small” as giving up holiday traditions to make new ones with in-laws.
The cost of our marriage seems more extreme. And it’s not a “picture perfect” wedding that it sometimes feels like the rest of the world has or will have. Ian has a brain injury. Steve [Ian's father] died from cancer. We have very little financial means. It’s a possibility we won’t be able to have children. The list of the “costs” goes on for awhile.
But all of these costs could happen in every single marriage. It’s just that we know them in advance. There are no guarantees that anyone will ever be spared of these hardships and “costs.” What’s guaranteed is that we will have troubles.
So, I guess that logically brings us to why would we get married? Well, as simple as it is, because we love each other. And we enjoy each other. And we believe that Ian was created to be my husband and me to be his helper. Our marriage will look way different than we imagined four years ago. But it must mean something that I can’t look at Ian without smiling. And that he has struggled every day for three years to get better–for me.
I’m blessed to know other marriages that also show this selfless love, often shown through health problems, though of course there are many kinds of hardships couples must face. Their examples of faithfulness give me confidence. Your faithfulness now, dearest, gives me confidence. Above our hopes of a peaceful life, we believe that no matter whatever is in the unknown, the grace of God’s love mediated and mingled with our own can sustain us.