Message summary: Carrying out our promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer till death do us part” is the greatest demonstration of one whose love has matured from that of romantic love to that of a tested abiding love. Think about that this Valentine’s Day!
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“So she became his wife, and he loved her” (Genesis 24:67).
Today is Valentine’s Day when we celebrate romantic love. There’s no shortage of photos and stories of young love, couples in the springtime of their relationship; vibrant, strong, and attractive.
For several weeks we’ve been inundated with ads for flowers, candy, teddy bears and jewelry; tangible expressions of our love for each other. I remember well the first years of my relationship with Brooksyne and the romance that drew us together and eventually the maturing love that has kept us together resulting in our 42 years of marriage.
Today we want to share a story that goes beyond that of initial romance to one of abiding love expressed in a very tangible way:
Bill Fernan is one of many treasured friends we’ve known through our journey of life. He and his wife, Lenore, lived in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania in a spacious farmhouse with a large barn behind it. He was a retired engineer (at one time the chief engineer for a large corporation) and inventor who was always designing something new and original. We were amazed the day he showed us his own nautilus type fitness center he’d designed and built using bricks as weights. When we tried it out we were impressed by the heavy amount of weight the bricks weighed when we tried to lift them. Nearly eighty years of age, he was a thin man but strong, because he worked out on a daily basis. Brooksyne made frequent visits to see Bill who made custom mats and beautiful wooden frames in a room off his large barn. She and Bill did a little bartering; he’d make mats and frames for her cross stitching projects and she’d do calligraphy for select pictures he was framing.
Later in life Lenore had a debilitating stroke and instead of admitting her to the nursing home Bill chose to lovingly care for her at home as long as he was able. That’s why he had built the nautilus so he could gain enough strength to lift her, turn her over, change her (this was before adult diapers), feed her, and every three or four hours day and night, Bill would gently turn her over so she wouldn’t get bed sores.
Several years later when he was finally forced to place her in a nursing home Bill told us he would still awaken each night at the hour he was accustomed to turning her. While we were living in Massachusetts we received word that our greatly respected friend, Bill Fernan, had passed away. He was in his mid-eighties at the time of his death. His wife was still living and being cared for in a nursing home until she passed away a year later. What a loving legacy Bill left for his children, in the way we are to lovingly devote ourselves to our spouses not just in their youth but “till death do us part”.
Let’s consider another enduring love story over 4,000 years old. According to our western customs Isaac had a most unusual courtship. His was clearly an arranged marriage, dutifully executed by Abraham’s faithful servant, and thoroughly recorded in Genesis 24 (which happens to be the longest chapter in Genesis.) Isaac had just met Rebekah on the occasion of our daily verse and I’m intrigued by the phrase “he loved her”.
This is the first time this expression is found in Scripture and indeed Isaac and Rebekah began a long and eventful life together marked by lasting marital love. Although we don’t know how old Rebekah was when she died, we are told that Isaac married at 40 and lived until he was 180! Scripture records that they were buried together.
Isaac’s love for Rebekah is further demonstrated when he prays for her on the occasion of her barrenness (Genesis 25:21).
In a rather interesting and perhaps overlooked detail Scripture records the two expressing their love for one another in a passionate embrace (26:8). (The KJV uses the word “sporting”, the NIV “caressing”.)
Still later we find the aging couple agonizing over the bad decisions their children had made (26:35, 27:46). That’s sure a timeless agony parents of all generations continue to deal with. We often pray with broken-hearted parents concerning poor choices made by their child(ren).
Like any marriage there was some conflict in Isaac and Rebekah’s home and much overcoming, yet their marriage endured the storms of life. They surely had many of the same challenges married couples face today. They likely differed in their interests, personalities and temperament. They dealt with infertility, sibling rivalry, favoritism and grief over their son Esau’s marriages. Our last glimpse into Rebekah’s life shows her and Isaac heartbroken as they send their son Jacob off to get a wife from her relative’s clan hoping for the best.
What do you mentally picture when it comes to marital love? The passion of newlyweds, a young couple as they push their newborn baby in a stroller, a middle-aged couple like us still holding hands in public or an 80-year-old as he regularly turns his invalid wife to prevent bedsores?
Look at the daily verse. Do you remember the words to a song, “Put a little love in your heart and the world will be a better place!” What would our present world look like if husbands and wives everywhere genuinely loved their spouses with an enduring and sacrificial love like Bill Fernan demonstrated to his wife, Lenore? Flowers, jewelry, and candies are nice gifts that warmly say “I’m thinking of you this Valentine’s Day.”
But carrying out our promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer till death do us part” is the greatest demonstration of one whose love has matured from that of romantic love to that of a tested, abiding love. Think about that this Valentine’s Day!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, Your love for us is most visible in the great sacrifice You made in giving us Your only Son to die for our sins. John writes, “God is love” and it is Your love for us that shows us how to love one another. The love we have for our spouse doesn’t always bring about a warm, fuzzy feeling but at times is costly requiring great sacrifice. Help us to take our vows seriously and carry out that which we promise so that our tested love becomes an enduring love. As we do so, we honor the sacrament of marriage that You ordained, we honor our spouse, we are an example to others especially our children, and we fulfill the Scriptural command to be faithful to our mate. Amen.
More photos from our drive through Lancaster and Lebanon counties yesterday morning.