One of my favorite movies as a kid was “Oliver!” I love the scene when Nancy sings to Oliver that she would do anything for him; paint her face bright blue, catch a kangaroo, go to Timbuktu and back again! Now, that’s real love!
When I was on staff at the church, I cherished Saturday mornings as I was at church Saturday afternoons and most of the day on Sunday. On one particular weekend, we had a women’s retreat Saturday morning but I didn’t plan on attending until the leader called me and asked if I could come and fill in as a small group leader. One of the leader’s had called in sick and they really needed my help. So, I went.
At this point in my journey with Dan, we weren’t dating and I had pulled away a bit as I had seen him with someone else at church and felt he wasn’t available to me. But, the attraction was still there, no matter how far I removed myself.
The small group leader I was replacing was leading a group of married women, none of whom I knew. Yeah! I got to be the only single woman in the group! Once again, I was the fifth wheel it seemed, until we started to share with each other. For some reason I felt safe enough with these women to share with them that I was attracted to someone but we weren’t dating. Now, I had helped Dan with his resume as he was thinking about looking for another job as his job at the church didn’t pay much. I also knew his educational background and knew that he probably would not make oodles of money. I knew that if we married, I would mostly likely need to keep on working, which I didn’t mind it would just be nice sometimes to have the option not to.
I shared with the group that even though Dan and I weren’t dating, he carried things for me when I was walking through the church, opened doors, and basically treated me with the utmost respect, and unless he was trying real hard to impress me, I realized that this is just who he is. It was one of the many things that drew me to him. One of the ladies in the group told me that her husband made very good money, enough that she had no need to work, could stay at home with her kids, and lived a very comfortable life. “Debbie, I’d give anything if my husband would do those things for me! I’d give up all the money and comfort if he would treat me like that!” My eyes were opened that day to a very important and deep truth.
I though back on my time with Fiance #2 and that he didn’t hold doors open for me, never offered to carry things for me and basically didn’t treat me with much respect. The question I had to ask myself was, why would I continue in a relationship with someone who didn’t do those small acts out of respect for me.
For 14 years I worked at senior homes as an activity director, and I saw up close marriages that had lasted the test of time. When you live in a retirement home, your apartment is the same size as everyone else’s, you have the same cleaning service each week, you eat at the same dining room, and attend the same activities. At that point, the money really doesn’t matter. The kids are gone, you aren’t able to travel like you used to, and you spend about 24 hours a day with the person you committed to years ago. And what matters? Respect and true caring. I remember one resident in particular who could be very unkind in the way she talked about her husband. She would talk about how slowly he walked, or how stupid he looked. She showed no respect at all for him in the way she talked about or to him. Her husband was one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest men I had met. I felt so horrible for him. He didn’t deserve to be treated that way. She had no idea how good she had it until a few weeks after he passed away, she came to me in tears, wailing, asking, “Debbie, what am I going to do without him??” I really couldn’t answer her at that point with any kind words, except to say I was sorry for her loss. My hope was that if I was blessed enough to marry someone as kind as her husband, that I would realize the gift I had been given and cherish him more than any other part of my life.
Respect, mutual respect, is so essential to a good, no, a great marriage. After talking to that woman in the small group on that Saturday morning, I knew that it was Dan’s heart and character that would endure through time, not his paycheck. When we stand before God, He will not ask how big our bank account was, how much our house was worth, what kind of car we drove, or what brand of clothing we wore. He will look at our acts of kindness toward each other. He will look at our character as He is more concerned with our character than our comfort. The question is, am I willing to do anything for the man God gifts to me? Would I go to Timbuktu and back again for him? Would I paint my face bright blue for him? Would you?