June 03, 2007

54 Years And Still At It

Meet Richard And Jeanette Hayward. I'm glad that I did. As I was standing in line at a Chick-Fil-A last night, I came across these two standing in front of me waiting for their food. I made a comment about him making sure he had her home by 10:00 so her dad wouldn't be mad and that started off a conversation and a blog post that I want to share with you.

These two have been married 54 years. You read that right - 54! In a world where some marriages don't make it to 6 months, this IS AN ANOMALY. THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN EVERYDAY. So when you come across something like this you take the time to investigate it and enjoy it. You see if you can learn something from it. You find out the story. Well here is their story.

They met because of a blind date. Richard actually went on a blind date with Jeanette's roommate. He didn't care for the roommate much but thought that Jeanette was kind of swell. They met in Madison, WI and he married her over 1,000 miles away in Odessa, TX. He was a chemical engineer with Phillips and that was just what they had to do. They went from there to travel the world. Bartlesville OK, Germany, Belgium, Greenville, England. Richard said that when he took early retirement, they thought of all the places they had lived and which one they liked the most and they chose Greenville.

They have 3 children and 6 grandchildren, one of whom (granddaughter) is on staff with Crusade For Christ on the campus of Virginia Tech University. I asked Richard if it had been an interesting year for her, and he said "interesting" was one word for it. Richard and Jeanette attend First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC. It sounds like a great story at this point. But one thing made it an all too real human story.

You see, Jeanette has had Alzheimers for the past 5 years. She didn't respond really well to any of the conversation that we were having, but she looked at him with a loving gaze, despite the fact that her mind was deteriorating. I asked Richard what the hardest part of her having this terrible disease is and he said "The Loneliness. It's hard watching someone you've loved for so long leave you right before your eyes".

But you could see that he loved her. And he was never going to leave her, no matter what happened. As he walked her to the car, he put his arm around her and guided her. It was a perfect picture of love, our walk with Jesus, of true Christian sacrifice.

You see, love is not about being perfect. It's not about thinking someone else has to be perfect. If you wait to love someone until you've got your stuff together, you'll never love anyone because you'll never have your stuff together. And if you only love someone as long as they have their stuff together, you'll never love anyone for 54 years because people don't stay whole their entire lives. We all go through broken times and broken roads. We all slip and fall and the greatest part about marriage (if it's to the right person) is that when you fall, you have someone to guide you and hold you.

So is our walk with Jesus. He never asked us to have our stuff together in order for Him to save us. As a matter of fact, it's in our brokenness that his salvation, mercy, and grace are made all that much more sweet. Jesus never expected you to be perfect. He knew you weren't. That's why He had to atone for your sins. He loved you despite your inperfections, hostility, and deteriorating mind and attitude.

Thank you Richard and Jeanette. Thank you Jesus for them. Thank you for our time together last night. God, grant me the strength to love (action, not verb) Jenni for 46 more years. And when one, or both of us, lose our minds, please give us the courage, love, and sacrificial spirit to keep guiding the other to the car.

In Jesus Name I Pray,

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