Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: YOUTH (04/04/19)
- TITLE: Looking Back to Move Forward
By Linda Berg
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She was the last teenager to climb out of bed this morning. Our other four girls were already busy in the preparations for breakfast.
I walked over to her and gave her a side squeeze.
“Ten o’clock,” I responded.
Smiling sheepishly at me, “What can I do to help?"
“Would you set the table, please? There will be Pa, me, you five girls and Mr. Bill.”
“Set for eight?” she inquired.
As the girls continued to work on their breakfast activities my mind wondered back to Mr. Bill. My husband and I had only known him for a little over three years. We met him at the new church we were attending. At the time we were newly employed house parents for a children’s orphanage. We had visited several churches in our new community and this church seemed to be a good bible teaching, God and people loving church. It appeared to also be a good “fit” for our teenage girls.
We weren’t there very long before we sat under Mr. Bill’s teaching in an adult class. He had been a preacher of the gospel since he was a young man. Now with his age in the 70’s, he didn’t preach full time but taught Sunday morning classes and preached frequently during Sunday evening services. We always attended those evening services, even though there were other small groups meeting within our church family at various homes.
You see, our girls, they listened well to Mr. Bill. His preaching was straight from God’s Word. For unaware teenagers of all things “God,” he reached those girls. He gave practical information that helped them understand a relationship with God was possible. Even when they often felt unlovable or unworthy.
Often when piling into the van to head home after the evening service, they asked one question after another about the truth of Mr. Bill’s message. Some of our deepest conversations, while there as the girl’s house parent's.
We learned a lot about Mr. Bill as the months passed. He had married a beautiful, talented, well-educated young woman many years prior. Her name was Janice. She was a good helpmate to him in ministry as well as accomplished in her own right.
“Ma, Mr. Bill just pulled into our driveway.”
We welcomed Mr. Bill into our kitchen, made some small talk and then sat at the table. After praying and eating, Mr. Bill began to speak.
We had asked Mr. Bill to come and share a meal with us but more importantly to share his “love” story with these young girls needing an accurate and God-honoring example of love and marriage.
For the next 45 minutes, he gave us the story of his life. He shared the early years of young love. Telling us of his pursuit of Janice. He was bright eyed and exhilarated in the telling. The girls giggled at various parts of his story.
Sharing many treasured thoughts about his Janice, his words reminded me of the scripture that says, “rejoice in the wife of your youth,” as his face lit up with delight. The story moved from those early days of developing love to college days, the arrival of two daughters, ministries across the southeast part of our country. He shared the truth both the joys and challenges.
Then his tone changed as he shared of the moment, they received Janice’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
Explaining the disease and it’s slow, gradual loses for the one diagnosed, he shared how with each loss his wife experienced in her ability to function, physically, mentally, emotionally, he took on more and more roles of caregiving. The girls sat with rapt attention as he gave us a firsthand glimpse into the horror of Alzheimer’s.
His eyes watered. Then he detailed what it felt like to have her alive but to gradually not know him. To lose her.
“At one point, though I was her caregiver, every day tending to her needs, she no longer knew me - friendship, affection, intimacy was all gone. But I loved her still.”
It was quiet around the table as the reality of what real life, lived out in the day to day of a lifetime of commitment to marriage looked like.
Thank you, Mr. Bill, for love lived well.
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