Saturday, June 30, is our 57th wedding anniversary. It’s a bittersweet, reflective time!
Linda has reached the stage in her disease that she rarely acknowledges my presence. I’m not sure that she now knows who I am. After being married for 57 years, expressions of love and affection go largely unacknowledged.
Several times throughout the day, I stand or sit beside her bed, take her hand, caress her face and hair, and kiss her on the forehead or cheek. I feed her, brush her teeth, watch her sleep.
Often in the quiet of the early morning, I sit in silence beside her bed and wonder: Does it matter to her that I am here? Who am I to her now? What is going on in her mind? Why does my presence sometimes seem to agitate her? Why does she often say “quit” when she is touched?
Those are painful questions for which there are no clear answers. But I have come to this conclusion: When in doubt, love! I don’t always know how best to express that love, whether leaving her alone is sometimes the loving act. But withdrawing love is not an option.
It’s not because I promised 57 years ago that I would love her in “sickness and in health.” I don’t love her out of a sense of duty. Loving her brings joy, meaning, fulfillment to my own life. Neither do I consider her a “burden.” Just her being is a gift! I love her now as she is, as I loved her as the gorgeous and vibrant young woman I married.
There’s a mystery in all this! Linda continues to teach me a lot about life and what it means to love in this broken and confused/confusing world.
Political chaos, corruption in high and low places, mass shootings, normalized hate-filled rhetoric, disrespect for others, cruel separation of migrant children from families, scorn for the poor, widespread racism, arrogant nationalism, . . .! Feels like the nation has lost its mind!
And my own beloved denomination which I have served since my teenage years is tragically divided over homosexuality and threatens to split as we did over slavery in the nineteenth century. To do so, will damage our witness to God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ and simply mirror the brokenness in our nation. Feels like the church has lost its mission!
I don’t know the best way forward for our nation. Political parties have conflicting agendas and visions. Compromise and the common good are being sacrificed on the altar of personal power and partisan agendas. I know that we as citizens can’t withdraw from the process, even if we feel our vote and advocacy make no differences. Love demands that we stay engaged!
Neither do I know the best way forward for The United Methodist Church. Some caucus groups are drawing lines in the sand and maneuvering politically to win votes, all in the name of faithfulness to truth and doctrine. I realize that whatever is done will be rationalized as devotion to God and our Wesleyan tradition. But I think John Wesley had it right, “All schism is a failure to love!” At least, least us confess our failure to love!
I sometimes feel overwhelmed! Grief and loss are constant companions. So much is beyond my control. My life partner seldom knows me. The future looms ominous. Some problems seem unsolvable. The nation totters. The denomination falters. Doubts arise.
Yet, I am learning from a love honed over more than 57 years this practice: When in doubt, love!
So, I will continue to love Linda even if she doesn’t recognize me or acknowledge my presence.
I will stay engaged on behalf of justice, compassion, and hospitality in our land and love those whose political views are contrary to mine, even if it seems to make no visible difference.
And, I will continue to serve the church whatever institution emerges and whatever forms my service takes, even if I don’t see any results.
After all, love will win! God IS love! The pivotal victory has already been won in the Crucified and Risen Christ.
Amid personal suffering, political corruption and violence, and rigid religious threats, Jesus LOVED and prayed, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”
When in doubt, we will love as Christ loves us!