Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This was a question I saw in Real Simple magazine this month and unlike other questions they ask, I had an answer immediately. Obviously we can think of Christ's work on the cross as the ultimate view of love, but when I thought about what the magazine was looking for, I immediately knew.

I've probably written about it before.  In June 2006, Matt and I vowed before God and our 150 or so guests to love each other "in sickness and in health".  It's funny when you are preparing vows and thinking about them and the seriousness of them, when you read about your promise to love each other whether you're healthy or not, you consider minor illnesses like the flu or cold and you kinda get warm fuzzies thinking about how you'll get to pamper your husband-to-be with some homemade soup and some TLC.   You briefly consider the possibility of cancer or some other serious illness, but you're young, so those are fleeting thoughts that skip by without dwelling on the sadness of them but you know you are promising to stay even if that were to come about.

But we NEVER in our preparation for marriage even harbored an inkling of a thought about what would happen to us.  We got pregnant within 3 months after getting married and were so overjoyed.  Our first anniversary came and went and then we were holding our little Georgie in our arms.  All seemed fine until I got gallstones 5 weeks after birth.  That was the straw that broke the camel's back.  A camel's back we didn't know existed until then.  It was the beginning of a long spiral downward into what we now know is Advanced Lyme Disease.

It was many days of pain, misdiagnosis, another baby, confusion, more misdiagnosis, and ultimately watching my husband watch me wilt before his eyes.  I went from a healthy 135 pounds to a sickly 105 pounds.  I could see the pain in Matt's face when he looked at me helpless.  He WANTED to help me.  He didn't want to run away or run out on our marriage.  That never crossed his mind.  He was so affected with pain FOR me that he would often (and still does) just sigh and say, "I wish there was some way I could take your place."

Finally, 4 years into marriage we got an accurate diagnosis.  While the diagnosis of Advanced Lyme disease isn't grim in the sense that you are sentenced to a slow painful death, it IS grim in the fact that you are sentenced to a slow, painful recovery.  If Matt or I thought this was the easy answer to our years of frustrating misdiagnosed problems, we thought wrong.

The diagnosis came just in time.  I started having partial seizures - something that left me scared and short of breath, just watching my limbs flail and wishing so badly I could just be unconscious for them.  Matt would calmly be by my side and talk soothingly in my ear while trying to shield me from the view of our two little ones.  I was embarrassed that he had to see me that way.  Heck, he'd seen me in way more "compromising" positions that should have been embarrassing but weren't.  But I think what embarrassed me about getting so ill was that I had always prided myself on how strong I was, how much endurance I had, how I could (usually) "keep up with the boys".  And here I was not able to move on my own.  I had to have help in the bathroom!  I needed help showering!  And, gasp!, I had to be pushed around in a wheelchair oh-so-often. I mean, it all felt demeaning.

But I'll tell you what, my husband NEVER made me feel demeaned.  He helped me without a second thought, like it was his job.  He's offered help when I was about to heave, picked me up off the bathroom floor and carried the full weight of me, and he's stayed by my side as I convulsed while neither one of us felt comfortable but had no idea what to do otherwise.  He's shoved medicine in my mouth when I otherwise couldn't do it myself.  He's cut up my food because my joints hurt and he's offered to feed me when he's seen me wilted at the kitchen table before my dinner.  The thing is - it ishis job.  He promised it at our wedding.  But he has never treated it as a burden.  Will I ever get to repay him?

It's made me think if I'd be so willing to do all those things for him if he was the sick one and he was the one in my place.  Would I have?  The answer is yes, but I am selfish.  I wonder if I would have handled it with so much dignity and patience as my husband has.  It's times like this when I am reflecting that I am just dumbfounded and in awe at what a wonderful God I have, that He brought Matt and I together.  I can truly see His precise hand in the matter, knowing that I'd need this man and his humility and his servanthood in my life.

I'll tell you when I first understood the meaning of love in our marriage - - when my husband lovingly and without hesitation took on all the ugly parts of this disease that have made me physically not beautiful, emotionally not very nice (mean to him), and spiritually downtrodden.   He must truly love me and THAT gives me butterflies as I realize he is imitating our Savior which is just how he was commanded to love me in God's word at our wedding years ago.

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