The Value of Growing (or, is that groaning) Old Together

Several years ago I was delighted to see an older couple slowly walking in the park holding hands. Yes, he was using a cane and she was looking rather frail and bent over a bit. Even so, I thought they looked so sweet and obviously still in love. It had long been my desire to grow old with Rick like that. Well, we made it! Rick is the one with the cane, and I am the one moving a lot slower, but we are still holding hands! However, based on my own experience, I now realize that it may not have been only love that caused the older couple to be holding hands. They may have been trying to keep each other from toppling over!

When we are first married, it sounds so romantic to grow old together. “For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, and in sickness and in health” situations appear to be in the far distant future. We certainly are not thinking of the of the worse, poorer, and sicknesses at the time. Yet, it is not just in old age that these things can occur during the life of a married couple. Life is more unpredictable than we realize and the pledges we made during our wedding ceremony should be sacred vows for all of our lives together. After all, even the young can face times when life situations are less than desirable and holding one another up is essential. Therefore, commitment to the promises we made during our wedding ceremony do not really just apply to future events for an elderly couple, they are a very present reality.

On May 2, 2016, Rick fell off a ladder and broke his hip while I helplessly watched his face. It has been a long, painful, and difficult time for him with surgery, six days in the hospital, and home-care physical therapy. He still has many months of out-patient physical therapy to go, but he is determined to become stronger than he was before the fall. He is driven to take care of me as he had before.

I have been dealing with chronic pain and illness for several years and have also not been able to do what I once did. Before Rick’s injury, he was doing many of our household chores as well as most of the driving. Although, the stress has been exhausting on both of us since the accident, by God’s grace I have been able to do what has been needed for the past two months. Well, almost everything anyway. We have had to receive some help from others and just let many other jobs go undone, but nothing of great importance has been neglected.

During this time, we reviewed my book On the Other Side of the Garden of Eden in order to correct some typos. The following paragraphs are several excerpts from the first chapter of that book.

The lyrics of a once-popular song began with the words, “Whatever happened to old-fashioned love?” In this song the singer yearns for a love that would see him through the good and the bad times; the kind of love that would last into old age—a love like his grandparents enjoyed. Occasionally, I still hear that song and my heart aches for all the modern couples who long for, but do not experience, an “old-fashioned love.”

Unwavering commitment is the glue that binds a married couple together through all the ups and downs of life. Such commitment develops the kind of love that cannot be torn apart. It is a selfless, charitable, and sacrificial gift rather than a self-centered demand to receive. The reward for those who work at developing this relationship phase is a deepened love that is worth any pain or effort to acquire.

After all the years of overcoming trials together, it is wonderful to hear him declare his love for you daily. It is delightful to kiss the bald spot on the top of his head and for him to see past your “laugh lines” and tell you he actually likes your gray hair. It is comforting to grow older together and experience a love that continues growing day by day.

It is reassuring to know that together you flow like a two-person canoe on a gentle stream, both paddling in the same direction. There is such immeasurable security in knowing that if you hit rapids, the experience of rowing as one will continue to carry you to safety.

The paragraphs above were written in 1991 when Rick and I had been married only 33 years (it is now 58 years). Those words reveal just some of the value of growing old together. Since then, like most couples, we have been through many good and bad times. We have been in our own “two-person canoe” paddling on a sometimes calm and sometimes turbulent stream for a long time.

There is so much value in spending 58 years together. Having many shared events and reminiscing over common memories of youth, music, and family often brings a smile. Witnessing one another’s spiritual growth and developing mutual values is of incalculable worth. Experiencing a strengthened commitment to each other through trials and triumphs is irreplaceable. Going with each other to doctor appointments, hospitals, and physical therapy rather than facing illness and pain alone, is incomparable. Having someone, you can trust to take care of you when you are unable to do so yourself, makes such discomfort tolerable. These are just a few of what makes growing old together of immense value.

As Rick and I have aged together, our lives have changed. I admit it is not easy to accept all of the changes. For me, it has been a time to accept that I am “old.” It is difficult when my mind tells me, “I can do that,” but my body says no, you had better not. Growing older means, I must set strict priorities and give up activities I would like to do for things that are more important. It means I must accept the way things are, not how I want them to be.  For instance, I can no longer clean my entire house—I must have help. I can no longer stand for hours in the kitchen canning, baking, and cooking. I must accept that my hands can no longer knead bread dough for ten minutes. It means I must take a nap every afternoon or involuntarily fall asleep in front of the computer, needlework, reading, or even listening to a Bible lesson on tape. How we handle these life-altering changes often reveals our strengths and weaknesses. But, more importantly, it reveals the strength or weakness of our relationship with God. This has certainly been true for me.

Nevertheless, I am just as human as my readers are. To tell the truth during my 49 years as a Christian I had experienced discontent when something didn’t go the way I wanted. Heartbreak caused me to doubt God’s goodness. Pain caused me to doubt my own spiritual position before God. Disappointment caused me to doubt God’s plan for my life. However, once the revelation of my sins caused me to turn to Him, He forgave, assured, and comforted me in spite of my temporary discontent, pain, doubt, and disappointment. And He still does! God’s grace is greater than all of life’s events and all of my sinful reactions to those events. On occasion, He has even allowed me to realize the value of not receiving what I thought I wanted. I have seen Him work “all things for good” many times, and by His grace, have grown to know and trust Him more than my own viewpoint.

I confess that during this present time of stress I have sometimes become weary, weepy, and worried. In many ways, I am writing the following information for myself as much as for anyone who may read this message. I too need a reminder of God’s goodness, power, and ability to carry me through each day—I simply need to allow Him to do so.

I know that many women besides me are troubled by the turmoil and danger in the world today. The horrible events we have witnessed over the past year or so can make any woman feel insecure and fearful. However, a study of history and the lives of our American founding fathers reveals the dangers they also lived through. The settling of the wild west was wrought with perils. Our fathers and grandfathers lived through World War I and II as well as a depression that bankrupted many people. I have seen wars most of my life. I remember drills in grade school where we had to hide under our desks in case of a bomb, or we had to rush into a restroom in case of a tornado.  Nevertheless, as those who are under God’s wings, we must not get our eyes on the dangers around us and become fearful.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

Our security is not in our rulers or in knowing what to do during a terrorist attack. Our security is God Himself. Each of the unforeseen things in life can actually be an opportunity to grow closer to Him. We need to use each day we have to gain wisdom from God’s Word and rely on Him for our present and our future. We need to be ready to apply His Word to whatever occurs. As you and I grow spiritually and trust God’s fore-knowledge, we will gain peace and security that the world cannot know or understand.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

If we come to understand God’s historical plan for mankind, we will gain hope for the future.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Yes, there is much value in a long-time marriage. Depending on each other when needing help is one benefit. But, there is even greater value in depending on God no matter what unexpected events occur in our lives.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I pray for you readers as I sign this message and I covet your prayers for my husband and me as well. To God be the Glory, now and forever, Amen (Philippians 4:20).

Virginia Ruth Fugate