He held my hand, the one without the IV attached to it, warming it in his big, gentle palms. I was the only chemotherapy patient receiving treatment in the small room, so we could speak and act freely. I shivered, so he brought me a blanket. When I wept he did not turn away, waiting in caring silence.
“Why are you here?” I asked him through my tears.
“Because I love you and want to be with you through whatever comes.”
“I don’t understand. You could choose from any number of healthy women with a normal life expectancy. I have cancer. Why take the chance of marrying me when I could be gone within the year?”
“I don’t think I am taking a chance. We know God is in this so why would it be taking a chance to be together, for as long or as little time as He gives us?”
I shook my head in wonder at such love.
When we first met, I told Garth about my recent diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The survival rate stood at 40 to 50 percent at that time. It was important that I be transparent from the start so if it was too much for him, he could bow out. After a divorce, he spent six years raising his children before considering remarriage. I seemed a poor choice for a wife in light of my prognosis, however, with God writing this story, His choice became clear. I soon realized that God had gifted this man with an altruistic character, and I was the beneficiary of it.
Our wedding took place in between my chemotherapy treatments. In spite of weakness and fatigue, joy gave me the energy to enjoy our celebration to its fullest. That day happened 20 years ago, 19 of which I have been in remission from lymphoma. I tell Garth often that he is essential to my well-being. His cherishing love and care are key elements to my ongoing good health. My husband’s selfless love in the face of death speaks volumes to me about its true nature. It is a beautiful picture of Christ’s sacrificial love.
The apostle Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives so deeply, purely and sacrificially that it can only be understood when compared to the love Christ has for His bride, the church. A husband should care for his wife as if his life depended on it, the same way he cares for his own body, loving and protecting his wife as if she were his very heart. (Eph. 5:25-33)
Every day I experience the love of Christ through the love of my husband. Having escaped a previous marriage scarred by emotional abuse and neglect, I thank God for how He has redeemed those painful years by gifting me with a marriage as He designed it to be. To take for granted the myriad of small acts of love my husband does for me throughout each day would be to miss the greater reason behind them, his love for Jesus.
Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving. (1 Cor. 13: 4-8 Passion Translation)
When Garth was praying about re-marrying, a friend asked him what he was looking for in a wife. He said, “A woman who loves the Lord and a partner to help in the ministry He’s given me.” The friend replied, “Perhaps you are to be a partner to help in the ministry the Lord has given her.”
Garth’s encouragement and belief in the calling of God on my life speaks volumes about his love. He has suffered late, scrambled-together dinners when I’ve lost track of time while in the writing zone. Because my work space is in our open concept living/dining room, he’s missed his favourite TV programs so I can write in peace and quiet. As my “in-house pastor”, he critiques my writing for theological and doctrinal accuracy. He has taken time off work to drive me to speaking engagements at women’s luncheons, waiting patiently in a coffee shop until I’m done. His support gives me wings to fly and confidence to pursue the ministry God has given me. I love doing what God has created me to do. With the encouragement and support of my husband, I am finally free to pursue my calling.
We have come a long way since the days of chemotherapy treatments, poor prognoses and an uncertain future. Garth and I enjoy growing old together where we acknowledge every day as a gift from the Lord. Most of all, I want to use this gift of time to thank Him for showering me with His love through the man who loves me so well.
More of Valerie's work can be read on her blog:https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com/