Well, it’s been a crazy week at work. But Liz finally sat me down last night and together we wrote our response to last week’s post. As usual, Liz’s response will be normal and my response will be bolded.
My section on this topic will be fairly short. The struggle that I have when sick is easily defined and has a pretty clear biblical response. Sadly. Because I kind of wish that there was some deep theological reason why I should be allowed to get annoyed at my “I-feel-like-death-and-can’t-move-off-this-couch” husband, especially if I’m also sick! But no, when I stomp around the house, thinking all kinds of malicious thoughts towards Paul I’m violating one of the clearest scriptural directives regarding love. In succinct words, God tell me that “love thinketh no evil” (I Cor 13:5 KJV). Other translations (the ones not etched in my brain) write this as “not being resentful,” “not keeping a record of wrongs,” “not brooding over insults” and “not imputing evil.” All of which are good ways to describe the way I am feeling. Taken in context, where I’m also commanded to be patient and kind, my actions aren’t exactly godly. Understandable? Absolutely. But still not right.
In Paul’s response below, he mentions his “inner lawyer.” I have a lawyer too, and she gives me lots of reasons why I am justified in feeling sorry for myself and irritated at Paul. She’s is a pretty persuasive little litigator, and when I’m not at my best, it’s very easy to listen to her. I think that’s one of the reasons that God was so concise when describing true love. He knew that we’d have to have something simple and direct to grab on to when struggling with the desire to not love.
I could mention other things that I know I’m doing wrong, not having compassion, being too self-focused, etc. But for me, I am most helped by having that umbrella reminder of what love is, and what it is not. Love does not look like a lawyer with compelling evidence for why Paul is guilty. Love looks like Jesus, who even in his greatest moment of pain and suffering remembered the condition of the people around him (John 19:25-27). The other thing Jesus (obviously) never did was brag or boast about his abilities. I am often sorely tempted to belittle Paul by reminding him of all the ways I handle illness with less drama than he does. And from a practical standpoint, this does nothing to help me, or Paul. We should be shoulder-to-shoulder facing the struggles of being sick, not lobbing verbal grenade at each other (well, mine would be verbal, Paul’s would be the silent, “I’m-not-thinking-about-anything” type : ). It might take some kind and gentle reminders, but my goal should be to encourage Paul to work with me in meeting any needs of the day.
Loving Paul might not look like waiting on him hand and foot when we both have the stomach bug, but at the very least, I can quell the ungracious thoughts and replace them (with help from the Holy Spirit : ) with compassion. Together, we should be a teaming up against the illness, not each other.
First, if I am writing for men, I need to provide an overall reason to care about reading the rest of this post. I mean, when sick, it’s easy to wonder why I should have to do anything other than lie on the couch “and heal.” And while I said that I said I felt guilty as I watched an equally sick Liz work, in all honesty, I didn’t feel that guilty.
So why does this topic even matter? Since you’ll have to apply anything I write during a time when your mind might be fogged by great discomfort, I’ll give you a short answer first. Quite simply, you promised. And not the “I promise to get milk on my way home” kind of promise. No. This was one of the promises. Made on that day that stood before your finance and made some pretty weighty declarations. When I made my to promise to love Liz “in sickness and in health” I assumed that the phrase meant “I promise to love you when you are sick and I am healthy” and that she would do the same for me. Right? But we know that real life doesn’t happen so neatly. In real life people are stressed out at the same time, have bad days at the same time, receive bad news at the same time and yes, even get the stomach bug during the same week (nay, hour!) My vow to love through all the ups and downs of life means that there were will be days when I am physically out of sorts and she is physically out of sorts but the need to love each other hasn’t just ceased. Obviously, I’ll be limited in the scope of my sacrificial love, but I can’t be content with doing nothing. (Unless, of course, laying in bed in a catatonic state is the mutually agreed upon way that we will love each other. This would be awesome, but unlikely given the three children who share our home with us.)
If remembering your wedding day doesn’t do the trick and rouse you from your bed of illness, there always Jesus. (A common phrase in our house is, “well, just love ‘em like Jesus.”) The bible records times when Jesus was tired and hungry (John 4:6-7, Mark 4:38,) and exasperated (Matt 26: 36-41) but continued to exert himself out of love for other people. When faced with the overwhelming task of feeding the crowds, the disciples saw the hassle and difficulty of the undertaking and were inclined to send the people away without trying to meet the need. Jesus however had a heart full of compassion (Matt 14:13-21).
Ok, ok. But we know that we will never have the same endurance and fortitude (“courage” for the rest of us : ) that Jesus possessed, so what are we supposed to do?
Truthfully? We’re supposed to change. Slowly, perhaps, but always in the direction of becoming more like Christ. That means that at some point we will have to love those around us even when we are physically weak. Such a task seems unattainable, especially if we’re supposed to do all this sacrificial service with a good attitude (yeah, right!), so it’s important to remember that we have the indwelling Holy Spirit transforming us from the inside out.
So when your inner lawyer tries to persuade you that caring for your sick spouse isn’t your responsibility, you need to stop listening to his arguments, no matter how convincing and remember your wedding vows. Or remember that Paul commanded you to care for your spouse like you care for your own body (which, when sick is all I care about!)(Eph 5:28). Or remember that Jesus loved the crowds when his disciples would have taken a pass. All these together means that there will be days when you have to get off the couch and serve your spouse even though you may feel like death. So maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but someday, in some flu-ridden, headache possessing, fever-fogged moment, you will act like Jesus acted. One can only hope.
Although, I’d be happy it that moment came NEXT winter.