The gospel of John
John and Ruth had been married for 62 years. Their son and daughter-in-law had been friends of ours for many years. We knew their son, their grandchildren, and even recently their great-grandchildren.
We didn't know John and Ruth until they moved to Cookeville a couple of years ago and began attending our church. Ruth was in bad health so they had moved to our town to live near their son and daughter-in-law who could help care for them.
Every Sunday John would meet her at the nursing home and drive their van up close to the front door at church. I would watch them come in as John pushed Ruth's specially- designed wheelchair type apparatus. They would sit in the back so to be comfortable, have room, and not be a distraction.
I would watch as John doted on Ruth and attended to her every need. He would smile at her and touch her lovingly even though her health made it difficult if not impossible for her to respond. I was moved by his affection and love for his wife of sixty-two years. I was captivated by the dignity and grace he displayed with her.
Clearly he loved her with an everlasting love.
The other day Ruth went home to see Jesus. He too had loved her with an everlasting love.
At the funeral home I spoke to John about how much I admired him for the way he cared so much for his wife in her latter years as I had watched the two of them. "I took a vow," John told me. "In sickness and health I promised."
By the way, when John made that vow he had no idea that for 50 of their 62 years together, Ruth would suffer from multiple sclerosis.
For 50 years Ruth's health would be afflicted and ravaged by MS. And John walked through it side-by-side with her because as he said, "I took a vow."
Every day I see couples on the verge of packing it in and giving up on each other. People are losing their jobs, their retirement, their homes, their faith, and their hope. Every day, we, like so many other special needs families, struggle to cope and survive together with the unique challenges we face.
I counsel couples whose marriages are on the brink after only a few years together all the time. I see so many couples who just can't commit to or grasp the idea of dying to themselves. And I see the stress of raising a child with special needs tear apart or threaten to destroy marriages. And I see people just walking away.
Then every once in a while you'll meet a John and Ruth.
Sixty-two years of marriage. Fifty years of disease.
Sixty-two years of love, joy, devotion, compassion and kindness--all to the very end.
Because John "took a vow."
And that's the gospel according to John.
Thank you John. We needed that.
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