"Thank you all for coming," I said. The class members began to leave and make their way to the Sanctuary for the morning Worship Service, leaving my wife and myself to collect our thoughts and materials.
"Good lesson today." The tone in my voice suggests a response of assurance, and my wife knows this, after all, we go through the same thing every Sunday.
"It was a good lesson. Will you stop worrying about it?"
I grabbed my Bible and my brief case and followed her towards Children's Church, where we drop off our 'stuff' and then head to the Sanctuary. "Okay, okay. It's just that I..."
"I know it's just that you...but you're doing a great job. God is using you in this class. Let Him every once in awhile."
I smile. "I'll try. It's just so hard to imagine where I am now compared to where I was then."
She gives me that smile that belongs, at least in my heart, to me and me alone. "I know. But you were, and you are. Enjoy it will you?"
I smile again, and put my arm around her, as my mind drifts back to the where I was then...
Where I Was Then...
By the time I awoke, my wife and my child were gone.
Slowly I crawled out of bed, struggling to make it to the bathroom, knowing I was going to be sick to my stomach.
Where could my wife be? And where is my daughter?
The note on the nightstand told me all I needed to know.
"We're at a Motel. We're both okay. Call me when you see this note."
She left? When? What did I do?
Lord, what have I done?
It took a minute or two to punch the numbers in the telephone. After a few rings (it was around two-o'clock in the morning) the Hotel operator answered the phone. He rang the room for me. My wife answered on the first ring.
"Will you come home?" I cried.
She was home in twenty minutes.
After putting our daughter to bed, I asked the question that I had to ask, though not sure I wanted to hear the answer.
"Why did you leave? What did I do?" I hesitated. "Did I hurt you?" She shook her head.
I couldn't bring myself to ask the next question. She didn't make me. "You didn't hurt her either."
Thank You, God.
She looked at me with a look I'll never forget. "You just...you scared me. I don't know that you would've done anything, I just couldn't take a chance."
And then she did something that I grew quite used to - she forgave me.
I've often wondered why she never gave up on me. I know I would have. But she never did.
There were those who told her she should, on both sides of the family. There were those who called her an enabler. But through it all, she stayed with me, almost until 'death do you part.'
When I finally landed in the emergency room at the hospital, and then was admitted to ICU - she was there.
When the doctors told me that I had cirrhosis of the liver and that I might die - she was there.
And then a few months later, as I walked down the isle of our church and rededicated my life to the Lord - she was there.
She's been with me through it all.
I'm often referred to as a 'miracle,' and I believe that is true. I know that there is no way I would have survived had it not been for the mighty hand of God on my life.
But I also know that the miracle I experienced was not of the invisible kind.
No. My miracle is my wife.
The u-turn for me - from a full-blown alcoholic to a ten years sober Sunday School Teacher maybe that was the easy part. I think the hard part was the choices my wife had to make through the years of my alcoholism, building up to my stay at the hospital and my eventual healing. The choices she made could not have been easy, and yet, when I ask her about it, she tells me she never really had any choice at all.
An Agape Love...
I don't know what the face of Jesus will look like on that day; as the song says "I Can Only Imagine," but I do know this: that I have seen and continue to see - close up - what the love of Jesus looks like. It is called agape love. It is a love that is unconditional, selfless...a 1st Corinthians 13 kind of love.
And I see it everyday - in my wife.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NLT)