NOTE: Updated March 10, 2017. My (step) dad passed away from complications related to Alzheimer’s on March 4, 2017. Up until his last day, my mom served and loved him so well. I’m so encouraged by my mom and her example of how to love your spouse.
As I’ve shared on my blog before, my dad passed away from heart disease when I was six years old. My brother was three and a half at the time, and he and I grew up in a single-parent home with our mom. A few years later, my mom remarried, and we became a blended/stepfamily. My mom and step-dad have been married now for over 30 years.
My step-dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease a few years ago. I’m not going to lie or sugar coat it – as many of you know, Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. It’s horrible for the individual and brutal on the rest of the family and loved ones. Over the years we’ve watched my step-dad progressively decline in verbal and cognitive function. This disease has been a huge challenge to my mom, as she has had to make many sacrifices to love and care for my dad. She can’t travel, can’t go for walks with friends around the neighborhood, and can’t even leave the house alone. He needs 24 hours/day care and supervision.
Confessions From a Marriage Nerd
Shifting gears for a moment… I love to read marriage books. You might say I’m a marriage nerd. I read books, articles, and blog posts and listen to podcasts about relationships. If a new marriage book comes out by an author I like, I’m sure I’ll read it. I’m working on my own marriage book, and many of the posts on my blog are about marriage.
But, the best marriage book I’ve ever read can’t even touch the lessons I see in real life in other couples. For example, I’ve learned how to pray by watching my friends Jim and Judy. I’ve learned the value of fun from my friends Tim and Emily. And, I’ve learned how to date and pursue my wife from my friends John and Pam. Much of the good in my marriage comes from watching and learning from other married couples around me. I know Tim Challies shared a similar sentiment on his blog last year (Before You Read Another Book on Marriage)
The best lessons I’ve learned about selfless service and sacrificial marital love come from watching the ways my mom loves my step-dad. She changes his diapers, cooks all his meals, bathes him, drives him to doctor’s appointments, and so much more. Meanwhile, he can do nothing for her in return. He can’t cook, do laundry, or even verbalize his thanks to her. She loves without any hope or expectation that her sacrifice and selfless care will be reciprocated in any way.
A Reflection of God’s Love For Us
As I watch my mom love my step-dad so selflessly and sacrificially, I can’t help but think of the ways God loves us. His love for us is the perfect model for how to love without any expectation that it will be reciprocated. He gives and gives and gives, and knows we can’t return the favor. God knows we can never repay Him or show him the proper gratitude. Thankfully His love is not contingent upon our proper or worthy response.
I’m thankful for all the couples who I’ve learned from over the years. My marriage wouldn’t be where it is right now without the influence of godly men and women in my life. Yet, the best picture of love I’ll see isn’t at my church or even in Dallas. Rather, it’s the picture of sacrificial love I’ve seen for years in the way my mom loves my step-dad. It’s the type of love I hope to emulate in the ways I care for and serve Kristen.
More than likely you’re not walking through the same circumstances as my mom and step-dad. But, there are still many ways for you to love and serve your spouse in practical ways. If you have a baby, you can be the one to take the lead in changing diapers. If you’ve got a toddler who cries at 3:00 am, you can be the one to take one for the team and console him. Or, maybe it’s just as simple as finding out the chores your spouse dislikes and doing them with a joyful and content heart.
What are you learning about marriage right now? Who are you spending time with who can help you grow in your marriage?