Enduring Love

This morning, I had been invited to share our "story" with a ladies bible study at a nearby church.  They had been studying "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things." from 1 Corinthians 13:7.  In particular they asked me to talk about how to love tenaciously, with endurance, as an illustration of "enduring love."  To prepare for my part of the morning, I studied the same passages the ladies had been studying.  I found the study to be challenging and convicting to my own soul as well.  Here's why.

During the teaching time, I learned that this verse, "enduring" is a military term that means to "hold the position at all costs."  This takes courage.  I confess, I do not always feel courageous.  We were asked to choose an example from Scripture who exemplified enduring love.  The obvious choice is Jesus Christ. 
  • John 3:16 - This love gave the most precious possession, God's beloved son for me.
  • Romans 5:8 - This love sacrificed (to the maximum) for undeserving me.
  • Romans 8:35, 38-39 - This love perseveres and is secure through great difficulties and can NOT be removed from me.
  • Ephesians 3:17-19 - This love surpasses knowledge and completes me.  It roots and grounds me. 
We were asked to think about loving someone who we used to be close to that is now difficult to love. Gary is not a “difficult” person to love.  Unlike some with Alz. Disease, he is not angry, or upset, or awake all night, etc. But he IS silent, and completely dependent on others for all “activities of daily living.”  He may speak only a few times in a week, and it isn’t always easy to understand what he is trying to say.  Sometimes it is challenging to love with endurance.  It's true for all of us.  It doesn't matter what the cause of the difficulty is.  It can be a wayward child, or unkind spouse, or someone who is the source of great pain.  The reasons may be different, but there are several things that may be universally true for everyone....
  • When love is not reciprocated and there’s "nothing in it for me." 
  • When there’s no feedback or encouragement to keep going.
  • When there’s no end in sight.
  • When I'm exhausted.
  • When prevented from doing what "I" want
  • When Spiritually dry.
So, how DO you love with endurance?  Well, as I said, I was convicted by Jesus' example.  I often fall short. But lately I've been learning 3 things:
  • I have to ask God to strengthen me – to understand and know His love – to love others and glorify Him (Ephesians 3:14-21) When I am facing a "giant" of a difficulty, if I try to operate in the flesh, then I respond in the flesh when things don’t work out MY way.  The solution is NOT in my ability to muster up the energy, or reorganize, or plan ahead, or anything I come up with.  Only by really learning and knowing Jesus' love better, am I able to love Gary.  
  • I have to ask others for help.  It’s impossible to do it all myself.  When I try to, I get exhausted, anxious and overwhelmed.  I struggle with wanting to be in control of how to care for Gary, and now that he is needing so much more physical care, some of which I am unable to do, so I must entrust him to others.  This is hard for me, but I see it as God graciously helping me to release him in stages.  I can love Gary best by letting others help.
  •   I have to remember that Gary is still Gary.  He has a soul that is alive and well and God is continuing to grow him.  He has emotions that feel.  I try to maintain our relationship and respect for him by spending quality time together and sharing my life with him regardless of his lack of responses. This includes asking for his forgiveness if I become impatient, and trying to make decisions in the way he would want. And sometimes, though not often, I still get a look or a touch that lets me know he loves me.
What practical things I do we do to show our love to others?  For us, beyond the daily care...well these are always fun to share.  Here's a few...
  • Photo memory books (see blog post called "No time for perfection" 
  • Bible verses on 3 X 5 cards (I write out a simple portion of a verse being preached on in church for Gary to hold and read.  I use a sharie pen and write big.  I do the same thing with songs, writing out a phrase or two.  very simple, and big)
  • Going for a drive through the mountains, or a stroll through Descanso (Botanical) Gardens, or walk around Bridgeport Lake, or a pastry at Panera Bread.
What struck me, while sharing this morning, as I looked around the room at the ladies, was the fact that everyone there, seemed to be relating, not necessarily to the Alzheimer's disease, but their OWN situations, and the people in their lives that require an ongoing strong love, in the face of difficulty, no matter the cause.  May we all look to Jesus, and beg for strength, never forgetting that He understands our weakness and wants to empower us "according to His great riches in glory." (Eph 3)