Friday, 13 May 2011

Till Death do us part

Dr. Robertson McQuilkin was the president of the Columbia Bible College.  Unfortunately his wife, Muriel, suffered from Alzheimer's disease.  In March 1990 Dr. McQuilkin announced his resignation in a letter with these words:
My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about eight years.  So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at CBC.  But 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.  Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me.  So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full time.
Perhaps it would help you to understand if I shared with you what I shared at the time of the announcement of my resignation in chapel.  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 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 wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration.  I do not have to care for her, I get to!  It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.

Kent Hughes, who includes this letter in his book The Disciplines of a Godly Man writes:
The following month Barbara and I had a brief visit with the McQuilkins and witnessed Dr. McQuilkin's gentle, loving way with his dear wife, who understood little of what was going on.  The memory of our visit is one of lingering beauty.
Such beautiful Christlike love did not just happen!  It came from the inner resolve of a young husband who had determined forty-two years before to live under the authority of God's directives regarding how a godly man must love his wife - as spelled out in Ephesians 5.  They are directives every Christian man ought to be familiar with, must understand, and, I think, even commit to memory - as I myself have.  They are the foundational discipline of marriage - the bases for holy matrimonial sweat.

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