Thursday, February 24, 2005

DO YOU? by Keith Harris

I do not know Robertson McQuilkin but his story has touched my life in ways that I could not ever have imagined. I first heard Mr. McQuilkin while traveling to a weekend getaway to Myrtle Beach with my wife. The story was told on a Family Life Today broadcast highlighting their “I Still Do” marriage conferences.

McQuilkin married the former Muriel Webendorfer in 1948. Muriel was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1981 and became increasingly dependent on Robertson. The dependence of his wife forced a decision on Robertson in 1990. McQuilkin knew that his wife needed him full time while at the same time his ministry needed him full time as well. Since returning to the United States in 1968 from a 12 year mission assignment in Japan, McQuilkin had worked as president of Columbia Bible College. Yet he says the choice between caring for his wife or stepping down from the work he loved was easy. Here is what McQuilkin wrote in a letter to Columbia Bible College:

…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 that 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.

Oh what a commitment that these days seem like foolishness to some of us. This man gave up his career to care for his wife until her death in 2003. This is the sacrifice we sign up for when we say I do. The marriage vow is not to be entered into lightly but reverently. This is what most puzzles me about the Terry Schiavo story so much. Beyond the right to life issue, which is of the most importance, where is our commitment to the duty to care for those that we have vowed to love? Where is the sense that the vows that we make before God are to be honored?

The host of the radio show said that the first time he read this story to his wife they where both in tears and his wife asked him “will you love me like that”. While I am not by any means the perfect husband I am committed to love my wife like that till death do us part.

The story touched my heart back in 2000 and has even more meaning to me now that I have watched my father care for my mother for the past two years since she too has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He struggles from day to day taking care of her but I can see that there is no quit in him, it will be until death do them part.

If the Schindler family looses the battle to keep their daughter alive or, as I pray, God intervenes and stops them from removing the feeding tube, what then shall we do?

What we should do is change the norm of it all being about me by modeling that which is the right way to care for our loved ones, “Choose Life”. Robertson McQuilkin and my dad have modeled it for me now it’s our turn to model it for others.

When I first heard the story of Robertson and Muriel McQuilkin I wanted to be a man like Robertson, but God has worked it out and shown me that what I suspected all along is true I want to be just like my daddy too.

So those of you who are married stop right where you are call her/him and tell them how much you love them and renew your commitment to do so till death do you part.

The post above with links and quotes are taken from a article “Till Death Do us Part” by David Boehi. Used with the permission of FamilyLife A division of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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