Think for a minute about the greatest love story you can imagine. Movies have shown us amazing romances, with gifts, fancy nights out, perfect words whispered in the perfect tone of voice. The books I read in junior high always had the man so in love that he couldn't even notice another woman, his words were always smooth and the sex was magical (yep sex books in junior high).
One of my favorite love stories though, didn't happen in a book or a movie. It didn't even happen in a romantic setting. I witnessed it in white hallways filled with the smell of urine, confused elderly people and grumpy nursing assistants. The summer I worked as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) was eye opening. I imagined that the people who worked at the nursing home were there because they wanted to serve someone. And some of them were, so sweet and respectful to the people we cared for; taking the extra time to make sure they had everything they needed, taking the time to listen. I didn't know that people who didn't care about the little old people would apply for and get a job like that. So I was shocked when I saw CNA's who were disrespectful, didn't care or were even mean to the people we were supposed to care for. Often it was just neglect; hair left unbrushed, faces unwashed. But their was one woman who lived at the home who was always well cared for. I remember the first morning she was assigned to my care. One of the more seasoned CNA's said I wasn't ready to take care of her, she would do her care with me so that I would learn to do it right. She said it wasn't that I wasn't doing a good job but this woman was special. So we went through the routine. Everything had to be just perfect. The right pillows in the right places, her hair brushed just so, her clothes arranged just right. This woman couldn't do anything for herself, and she couldn't complain if things weren't done just right. As we went about our routine the other CNA said "her husband will be here in about an hour. Everything needs to be perfect by then."
I think I was expecting a tyrant, but I recognized the man when he came because I had seen him every day I had worked so far. He was just a regular older man, soft spoken. He came every day and stayed by her side. He fed her, brushed her long hair and styled it. He would sit by her chair, his face close to hers and smile into her eyes as he talked to her. He would touch her face tenderly--his love for his wife was obvious. He was also fiercely protective. The soft spoken man disappeared if he arrived to find she hadn't been cared for like she was supposed to be. He was her voice, her advocate, her defender. It was almost puzzling, the way he loved her. She couldn't give him anything anymore. She couldn't return his tender caress, his words of love. She couldn't serve him in any way.
Ephesians 5:25-28 says "Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already "one" in marriage." (message)
I don't know if the man was following scripture or just doing what naturally came out of the love he had for his wife. But I know it impressed me. And then I forgot about it. I was 20, independent, full of plans for an amazing future. My (future) husband was going to love me but he wasn't going to need to take care of me. But 24 years later this older man keeps coming to my mind. I really think the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me of him. My awesome plans for my future haven't exactly turned out like I thought they would. And the independence I cherished has faded down to a low point lately as my health problems have brought on symptoms that make me depend on others more than I really ever wanted to. I never looked at this old couple's relationship and thought "I want that."
I'm not big on public affection either. I cringe when I see friends on facebook talking about how awesome their significant other is. I always think, "just tell them! Why are you telling all of us?" (and for everyone I just offended, truly it's not you--it's me. Keep it up if it makes you happy because it truly is my issue.) For some reason I'm not different than I was back in highschool when I was still 16 and didn't want my friends to know that I really liked Rick Knowles. But I am going to make myself (and maybe anyone like me) sick for a minute and publicly proclaim that I really like the man that I married.
Because I can see now that Rick really does love me like that old man loved his wife in the nursing home. Lately I don't carry my weight around the house, Rick works all day and then comes home and cooks. He takes me to the doctor, he takes me to the grocery store, he rubs my head and my back, he researches doctors and treatments online and most importantly he prays for me, with me, and tells me over and over that he would pick me again EVEN IF he knew all of the challenges my health would bring into our lives. He's thankful to have me in his life in whatever state I happen to be in. When we first started dating I wanted this exotic romance that would take us on adventures around the world. I wanted flowers and diamonds and fancy restaurants. Instead I see now that those things make great stories and they're probably fun but they're not really what true love is about. True love is about being there, it's about laying down your own life for someone else. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. And that's what Rick does. So next time you see him, tell him that he's a really nice (older) man and that you really respect and admire the way he loves his wife.