Unconditional Love

This was written by Robertson McQuilkin six years after stepping down as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary to care for his wife, Muriel, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Seventeen summers ago, Muriel and I began our journey into the twilight. It’s midnight now, at least for her, and sometimes I wonder when dawn will break. Even the dread of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t supposed to attack so early and torment so long. Yet, in her silent world, Muriel is so content, so lovable. If Jesus took her home, how I would miss her gentle, sweet presence. Yes, there are times when I get irritated, but not often. It doesn’t make much sense to get angry. And besides, perhaps the Lord has been answering the prayer of my youth to mellow my spirit.

Once, though, I completely lost it. In the days when Muriel could still stand and walk and we had not resorted to diapers, sometimes there were “accidents.” I was on my knees beside her, trying to clean up the mess as she stood, confused, by the toilet. It would have been easier if she weren’t so insistent on helping. I got more and more frustrated. Suddenly, to make her stand still, I slapped her calf–as if that would do any good. It wasn’t a hard slap, but she was startled. I was, too. Never in our forty-four years of marriage had I ever so much as touched her in anger or in rebuke of any kind. Never, wasn’t even tempted, in fact. But, now, when she needed me most…

Sobbing, I pled with her to forgive me–no matter that she didn’t understand words any better than she could speak them. So I turned to the Lord to tell Him how sorry I was. It took me days to get over it. Maybe God bottled those tears to quench the fires that might ignite again someday.

Recently, a student wife asked me, “Don’t you ever get tired?”

“Tired? Every night. That’s why I go to bed.”

“No, I mean tired of…” and she tilted her head toward Muriel, who sat silently in her wheelchair, her vacant eyes saying, “No one at home just now.” I responded to Cindi’s question, “Why no, I don’t get tired. I love to care for her. She’s my precious…”

Love is said to evaporate if the relationship is not mutual, if it’s not physical, if the other person does not communicate, or if one party doesn’t carry his or her share of the load. When I hear the litany of essentials for a happy marriage, I count off what my beloved can no longer contribute, and then I contemplate how truly mysterious love is.

What some people find so hard to understand is that loving Muriel isn’t hard. They wonder about my former loves–like my work. “Don’t you miss being president?” a student asked as we sat in our little garden. I told him I’d never thought about it, but, on reflection, no. As exhilarating as my work had been, I enjoyed learning to cook and keep house. No, I’d never looked back.

But that night I did reflect on his question and turned it to the Lord. “Father, I like this assignment, and I have no regrets. But if a coach puts a man on the bench, he must not want him in the game. You needn’t tell me, of course, but I’d like to know–why didn’t you keep me in the game?

I didn’t sleep well that night and awoke contemplating the puzzle. Muriel was still mobile at that time, so we set out on our morning walk around the block. She wasn’t too sure on her feet, so we went slowly and held hands as we always do. This day I heard footsteps behind me and looked back to see the familiar form of a local derelict behind us. He staggered past us, then turned and looked us up and down. “Tha’s good. I likes ’it,” he said. Tha’s real good. I likes it.” He turned and headed back down the street, mumbling to himself over and over, “Tha’s good. I likes it.”

When Muriel and I reached our little garden and sat down, his words came back to me. Then the realization hit me; the Lord had spoken through an inebriated old derelict. “It is you who is whispering to my spirit, ‘I likes it, tha’s good.’” I said aloud. “I may be on the bench, but if you like it and say it’s good, that’s all that counts…”

I think my life is happier than the lives of 95 percent of the people on planet Earth.

I Love You, Do You Love Me?

In 1976, I was in the sixth grade at Billy Mitchell Elementary School.  Sitting across the room from me was this really cute blonde. To make sure she knew of my feelings, I pulled out a piece of paper and wrote her a note: “I Love You, Do You Love Me?” Then I drew two squares and wrote the words “Yes or No please check one” underneath.   I folded the paper up and with all the secrecy of an international spy I had my friends in the class pass the note all the way around the room to my hopeful sweetheart.

My heart raced as she opened the note and read it. My curiosity grew as she took out a pencil, checked one of the boxes, smiled at me, and then started the note on its long journey back. With the exception of a few glances at the teacher to make sure she didn’t see the note, I never took my eyes off the eminent correspondence. As the answer to my question finally reached me, my hands were shaking, my heart was pounding, and I was sweating like I had just come off the playground at recess. I was a nervous wreck! In fact, I was almost too apprehensive to read her response.

Why was I so unnerved? I had been brave in sharing my feelings with someone, but now a tidal wave of fear of rejection was cascading over me. It was like I had taken my heart out of my chest, placed it into her hands, and hoped that she would reciprocate my affections. I didn’t want my heart to be rejected.

God did the same thing when He created humanity to have a love relationship with Him; however, they rejected His love to fulfill their own desires. They found greater pleasure in creation than they did in their relationship with the Creator. This rejection separated the creation from the Creator. He gave them His law to show their need for a Savior, but they turned the law into a measuring stick to show how righteous and holy they were.  They compared themselves to others who were not measuring up in obedience to the rules. Once again they had missed God’s intended purpose—a relationship with Him.

God sent His Son Jesus, in the form of man, from heaven to earth. He tried to show them just how much He loved, cherished, and desired a relationship with them. He healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and taught them about Himself through the life of Jesus. He literally took out His heart and presented it to them and said, “I Love You, Do You Love Me, Yes or No?” Not only did they reject His love, they took His heart, beat it, spit upon it, and nailed it to a cross until it was dead.

Little did they know that this was God’s master plan since before the creation of the world. His Son would die a ransom for sin for all who would believe in Him. After three days, He arose from the dead thus making a way for the forgiveness of all humanity.  Now He is sending a love letter to you, “Do You Love Me?” What will be your reply, “Yes” or “No”?

Will you choose to accept the love of God or will you reject it? Choose today— your eternal destiny depends on your decision.

I’m No Victim

A few weeks ago my  blog post was entitled, “Unconditional Love.” It was about Robertson McQuilkin caring for his dear wife Muriel who was stricken with Alzheimer’s. It is a beautiful story of unconditional love. A love that is not dependant on what you receive but on what you can give.

For Valentine’s Day I wanted to share another short story by Dr. McQuilkin about a very special Valentine’s Day he and Muriel shared. I hope this story reminds you of your love for that special someone God has placed in your life. I hope it moves you to make Valentine’s Day extra special this year. I hope it reminds you to cherish every healthy minute you have together. And I hope it reminds you of God’s unconditional love for you.

“I’m No Victim” by Robertson McQuilkin:

Valentine’s Day was always special at our house because that was the day in 1948 Muriel accepted my marriage proposal. On the eve of Valentine’s Day in 1995 I read a statement by some specialist that Alzheimer’s is the most cruel disease of all, but that the victim is actually the caregiver. I wondered why I never felt like a victim. That night I entered in my journal: “The reason I don’t feel like a victim is—I’m not!” When others urged me to call it quits, I responded, “Do you realize how lonely I would be without her?”

After I bathed Muriel on her bed that Valentine’s eve and kissed her good night (she still enjoys two things: good food and kissing!), I whispered a prayer over her: “Dear Jesus, you love sweet Muriel more than I, so please keep my beloved through the night; may she hear the angel choirs.”

The next morning I was peddling on my Exercycle at the foot of her bed and reminiscing about some of our happy lovers’ days long gone while Muriel slowly emerged from sleep. Finally, she popped awake and, as she often does, smiled at me. Then, for the first time in months she spoke, calling out to me in a voice clear as a crystal chime, “Love … love … love.” I jumped from my cycle and ran to embrace her. “Honey, you really do love me, don’t you?” Holding me with her eyes and patting my back, she responded with the only words she could find to say yes: “I’m nice,” she said.

Those may prove to be the last words she ever spoke.

Love is something we give away, and you will never know how much your spouse needs to hear you say those three little words, “I LOVE YOU!”

You can find the complete article on Christianity Today’s website.

33 Great Date Ideas

With only a few days left before Valentine’s Day, I thought you might like a few of the date ideas from this article.

33 Great Date Ideas” by LifeWay Staff:

Dinner and a movie again? Boring! This Valentine’s Day (or anytime), get out of your dating rut with your spouse or significant other. Be creative, playful, simple, or romantic. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re talking, laughing, and celebrating life – together. And you don’t have to spend a lot of cash.

If you’re stuck for great date ideas, here are thirty-three fun ideas to get you out of the rut:

  1. Take a hike. Enjoy the beauty of God’s creation together (you can conclude with back and foot rubs).
  2. Create your own progressive dinner. Go to four different restaurants for appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert.
  3. Recreate your first date (or another special memory you share).
  4. Walk hand in hand along any kind of water – river, lake, ocean. Throw in a sunset for the perfect romantic moment.
  5. Visit a pet store and ask to hold the puppies and kittens. The experience will be warm and fuzzy, and the prices will probably discourage a purchase (unlike a trip to the pound).
  6. Eat dinner someplace new. Experiment with restaurants that serve ethnic food you’ve never tried.
  7. Go for a bike ride together.
  8. Put together a jigsaw puzzle or play a board game together.
  9. Take in a museum. Make your day of discovery relaxed and more about being together than prepping for an imaginary pop quiz.
  10. Use your imagination. Create a date for $10 or less. Try to spend that exact amount doing as many things as possible.
  11. Be a kid again – go to a playground and swing, hop on the merry-go-round, fly a kite together, feed the ducks at the lake, and go out for an ice cream cone.
  12. Rent or download your favorite romantic movie. Pop some popcorn and don’t forget to snuggle together.
  13. Go camping. If it’s too hot, create an indoor camp-out.
  14. Dream a little. Share your hopes and dreams for the future.
  15. Cook a meal together and eat it by candlelight.
  16. Go to a flea market or yard sale together, and buy each other a gift for under $5.
  17. Plan ahead. Go to a restaurant early, and ask the waiter to bring a rose to your spouse each time he visits the table when you dine there that evening.
  18. Visit a rock climbing gym. Belaying, or working the safety rope, for each other will build trust and partnership.
  19. Be spontaneous. Make no plans and just go with the flow.
  20. Road trip! Get in the car and see where the road leads you.
  21. Go canoeing or kayaking (or even paddle boating, if you prefer less speed).
  22. Get dressed up, eat at home, then go to a nice restaurant for dessert and coffee.
  23. Lie on a blanket and watch the clouds during the day or watch the stars and hold hands at night (or do both).
  24. Go on a picnic – inside, on the roof, in a park, or at a beach or lake.
  25. Grab a latte at a coffee shop and slow down and talk about life.
  26. Go to a play or a concert.
  27. Paint your own pottery. (Many towns have studios that provide the pre-formed pottery and paint, and they fire it for you.)
  28. Play in the rain together.
  29. Take some sort of lessons together. From painting lessons to horseback riding lessons, learn something together.
  30. Serve together at a local soup kitchen.
  31. Look through photo albums together (from yourselves as babies). Take turns telling stories and sharing favorite memories together.
  32. Rent a convertible and go to a drive-in movie.
  33. Be a tourist in your own town and visit those places you may never have visited.