Have you heard the latest comments from Reverend Pat Robertson? When asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from Alzheimer’s, he offered the following thoughts:
“This is the woman…that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years and suddenly that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”
Woah. Get a cotton swab. Surely we heard that wrong. But after a quick YouTube search, we realized those words were exactly how Rev. Robertson said them. We aren’t going to pile on Pat here; the media, both secular and faith-based, is taking good care of that.
* * *
We will celebrate seven years of marriage this October, and our marriage has already endured a handful of difficult transitions. There was our first miscarriage in 2007. The birth of our daughter Lucy in 2008. The sudden and shocking death of Lisa’s father two years ago. There are more life events we could highlight; there will continue to be more.
It’s been said that a healthy marriage involves building “multiple marriages” with the same spouse. The transitions we’ve gone through required us to enter a different lifecycle, a new phase of marriage. Life events occur and we are quickly reminded that change is certain. Our ability to adapt within a new martial lifecycle is essential. Sometimes we adapt well, some transitions we are still working out.
Unlike the man Robertson was advising, many spouses report feeling a level of fidelity never experienced before when caring for a spouse with an incurable neurological disorder or debilitating physical condition. Perhaps this is part of what it means to “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). We don’t just get to put down our crosses. We must ask Jesus for help carrying it.
If we are indeed part of the body of Christ, it is commanded, not suggested, to be Christ to one another. How is abandoning someone we have loved in their greatest hour of need doing that? Being part of the body of Christ can be messy business, and we should expect it. We are commanded to wash each other’s feet just as He has done for us (John 13:14-15). Think of what feet endured in Jesus’ time. People wore sandals and walked everywhere. They were considered to be the dirtiest part of the body and washing them was considered to be the lowliest of tasks. However, the feet are as necessary as every other part of the body. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I do not need you’” (1 Cor 12:21).
Marriage isn’t just an institution. It’s a sacrament that actually gives the grace to carry it out. If you keep Christ at the center of your marriage, He will command your fidelity to it. You can call on Him to help humble yourself to do the dirty, messy work of washing your spouse’s feet. Please don’t forget that Jesus’ first public miracle was at a wedding where He turned 180 gallons of foot-washing water into the best wine (John 2:1-12). Jesus will abundantly bless your fidelity in lovingly shepherding your spouse from this world to the next.