I work at Elmbrook Church and I was reading through some of our new material that we are using in our Life Group Bible Studies. While I was reading from our new “Rooted and Released Study Guide,” I read this passage:
In 1990, Robertson McQuilkin, the president of Columbia Bible College, knew he needed to make a decision about his career. The school needed him 100 percent, and his wife, Muriel, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease almost ten years earlier, now needed him 100 percent. In the end, Robertson said, “The choice to step down from my position was an easy one for me to make.” Perhaps the best explanation can be found in the letter he wrote to the Columbia Bible College constituency to explain his decision:
...recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just “discontent.” She is filled with fear—even terror—that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time...
The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel “in sickness and in health…till death do us part.” So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of her debt.
Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more: I love Muriel. She is a delight to me—her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of what wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I don’t have to care for her. I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.
What an amazing thing to do for someone else: to sacrifice yourself and your desires to better love someone else. Robertson gave up his career to care for his wife and with a joyful attitude about it to boot! Robertson said that this decision was an easy one to make. If I were to put myself in his shoes and were faced with the decision to care for a person I love dearly as they slowly regress into oblivion or to distance myself and focus my mind elsewhere, I must say that some distance from that pain would be easier. So why is it that Robertson said caring for his wife would be easier?
1 John 4:16 says, “God is love.” 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” These passages ensure that we are capable of love because God’s love preceded us. Before iPhones, before ice cream, before social media, before your boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend, before you or me, before the world… God loved. He created us with the ability to love Him in return, which made Him love us exponentially more than He already did (which was already more than you or I could ever imagine). If that’s hard to comprehend, think about it this way… I love my dog and I love my mom. My dog arguably loves me, but she will also wag her tail and get excited for any random stranger with a working hand to pet her and a treat in hand. My mom on the other hand, loves my sisters and I with a completely different love. Yes, she loves her friends, but given the choice between all her friends or me, I know she would choose me every time. So even though I love my dog, Bella, a ton, I would pick my mom over her because my mom can express her love to me in a multitude of ways and I can do the same for her. It is a love without conditions. Now imagine that in the context of God. Our love cannot even compare to the unique love He feels for each an every person. In fact, He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us in the most painful way possible. That day on the cross is when sacrificial love began. That is why Robertson could say with utmost confidence that caring for his wife was the easier choice…because his life was rooted in the One who gave him the capability to love sacrificially in the first place. God.
As Elmbrook Church begins our series entitled “Rooted and Released,” I am reminded of how much fuller my life is when I root myself in God first and foremost. When I allow myself to be in awe daily of his goodness, I allow myself the desire to be more like Him…the desire to root myself in Him first and let everything else come second. Twelve days into the New Year of 2016, I have decided on a resolution that I know I can complete: to daily root myself in the Lord. Whether that be through worship or reading my Bible or listening and reflecting on a sermon, I choose to daily be rooted in Him.