Chances are, you’ve heard the latest nonsense to drip from the mouth of Pat Roberston…It’s not the first wacky think he’s ever said, but this is the first comment of his I feel compelled to add my own words to. There’s a bit of a personal twinge here – his words on divorcing a spouse because “Alzheimer’s is a kind of death” and “I can understand wanting to move on if he needs companionship” hit a nerve with me, and it’s not just because of the obvious theological errors and abuse of covenant.
(There are some other great blogs on this subject, by some great folks. Check them out, too:
Time for a story….
In summer of 2007, I took a job waiting tables at a hotel in the DFW metroplex. I wasn’t really a good waiter, but they were opening the hotel soon and at least needed some people who could carry a tray and talk to people. Bam. Enter me.
I came to enjoy the job, and become much better at waiting tables – quite the ideal college student gig. Along my years of working there (I still occasionally pick up a shift once in a while), and as it would be in any local restaurant, I began to get to know the regulars. Those clients that would come in at the same time every month, order the same thing, and ask for the same server. After about 2 years, I had gotten in to a pretty good routine and had several customers that I would see quite often and enjoyed interacting with. One couple in particular stands out in my mind: James and Lisa (names changed). An older couple, and quite possibly the sweetest elderly I’ve ever known (aside from my grandparents, of course). They came in several times a week, always had the same thing to eat, and the same smile on their faces. They came to be like another set of grandparents to me – faithful to God, and to each other. He was 69, she was 66 – and they had been together since high school, married right after.
You know how old people have this aroma – it smells like someone bottled liquid sweetness and smiles, and made a cologne out of it. That was what James smelled like every single time – they were the perfect picture of a what a young man attending Bible College needed to look up to.
I began to notice something after four or five consecutive times of being their server…something was a little off with Lisa. She would ask my name every time I saw her – it was as though she was meeting me for the very first time, every time. The hostess at the restaurant happened to be a family friend to James, and she relayed to me at one point that Lisa had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s only a year or so previously, and her condition was worsening rapidly.
One occasion particularly stands out to me: where the sacrificial love needed to deal with this really hit me in the gut. I was serving James and Lisa for breakfast, and the moment they walked in I began getting “the usual” ready for them. A few moments went by, and James got up to use the restroom, leaving Lisa with her breakfast. I swung by the table to refill the coffee, and Lisa gestured for me to come close, as if she wanted to tell me something quietly. “Yes ma’am?” I asked.
“I just have a question…who is this man sitting at breakfast with me?”
It took me a second to respond. What do I say to that? They’d been married for 60+ years…and she had no recollection of who he even was. I tried not to sound taken aback. “Um, Lisa… that’s James…your husband.”
“Oh” she responded with a smile. “Well, he’s very handsome!”
She truly had zero knowledge of the man. I filled the mug and walked away from the table…stunned. My respect for the selfless love James had been giving intensified…I had to hear his story.
We met several times for lunch, and he confided in me some of his 69 year journey.
I could write articles for years from some of those conversations.
“Yes, it’s hard. I wake up some mornings really struggling with it. Like you wouldn’t believe. Sometimes, I’ll be helping her get dressed, and she’ll suddenly start screaming like she’s being attacked. She just…blanks, forgets, and gets scared. Of me, Luke! Of her husband of six decades. Without the grace of God, I don’t know how’d I’d do it.”
I couldn’t imagine. He continued.
“But you know what? Sometimes, she remembers. Sometimes, I get the right dinner, put on the right music, light some candles…and it all comes back. We’ll hold each other close, and dance – right there in our living room. Sometimes…I get to see Lisa again. In those moments, I want to hold her close and never let go. I never want to “lose” her again.
All those years ago, I said my vows to have and to hold to that beautiful young lady in a farm wedding in Arkansas…and she’s even more beautiful and I’m even more in love. This evil, destructive disease doesn’t change any of that. God’s faithful, and He gives me enough grace and help for each day.”
James spent every resource he had on research and medicine to help end the disease in his wife, and in others. It was insanely inspiring, especially for a young student pursuing marriage.
I wish I could end this writing differently.
James and Lisa fought Alzheimer’s until it took her life in the spring of this year. I had the honor of attending the memorial service – it packed out one of the local DFW churches…well over 1500 people there. The love that these two shared with each other, and with their families, was so thick in the room you could swim in it.
Alzheimer’s changed their lives, no question. But James never took it as an excuse, or way out, or looked for someone to affirm a desire to leave.
I’m thankful that Jesus treats His Church like James treated Lisa – and not like Pat Robertson suggested on TV. I see Jesus in James: I look back to that conversation with James about Lisa, and I see myself treating Jesus that forgetfully. Acting like He doesn’t exist. Running from Him. Not knowing Who He is.
And even though he’s often wrong and not many true Christians really listen to him anymore anyway, I wish Robertson would have sat down for breakfast with my friend James before saying anything about Alzheimer’s and divorce.
“If today’s evangelical church were personified as an ordinary man, we would find him flabby and out of shape.”
These are the types of thoughts and strong statements that Ronnie Floyd makes to believers in this powerful wake up call of a book; a much needed write to today’s lethargic approach to evanglism.
I received a free copy of this book via BookSneeze.com – and have enjoyed every page. It’s a powerfully written book – Floyd makes his case not only as a passionate pastor, but a good writer. He crosses denominational boundaries and gets to the core of evangelism and the Great Commission in a desperate and urgent plea to fellow Christians and Pastors. A+!
All views and opinions articulated are my own. I did not pledge a positive evaluation.
I was given a digital copy of “With” by Skye Jethani to review, from Booksneeze.com, and was initially impressed with the overall idea. Skye writes that for far too long we’ve limited our relationship with God to four categories – Under, For, From, or Over; each with their own good or bad qualities. Instead, we need to learn to do life WITH God – a full on, healthy, living breathing relationship, same as we do life WITH loved ones and family. I really love the concept, and wholeheartedly agree with his thoughts on the subject, but I feel as though it was poorly executed. The writing style seemed very straightfoward, and not very “book-ish” – at times, I felt as though I were reading a series of tweets about the subject – very broken up and simple sentences, when I was hoping for a very deep and complex writing style. Some may enjoy that, but I felt it wasn’t as engaging – as though it didn’t take much thought to actually write, although the actual idea is very good.
I first read Wild at Heart about 6 years ago, and it deeply affected my life as a teenager, trying to figure out manhood and what it meant to really be a man of God. This book brought back memories of the first time I read it, in a nicer presentation, and some newer and updated content revisions. It really takes an in-depth look at the emotions (yes, men do have them) and energies that drive a man to do what he does – I felt like I was reading a biography of my soul. Love this book, and have given several copies away to other young men of the faith that I do life with.