Till Death Do Us Part?

Will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

~The Book of Common Prayer

Pat Robertson has recently come out with a statement condoning divorce if a spouse has Alzheimer's.

"It's really hurtful because they say crazy things," Robertson said. "Nevertheless, it is a terribly difficult thing for somebody. I can't fault him for wanting some kind of companionship. And if he says in a sense she is gone, he's right. It's like a walking death. Get some ethicist besides me to give you an answer because I recognize the dilemma and the last thing I'd do is condemn you for taking that kind of action."

There are, in the US, about 15 million caregivers who are serving those with Alzheimer's or other dementia related illnesses and the Alzheimer's Association has estimated that those 15 million caregivers give about 17 billion hours of unpaid care to their loved ones. It's hard, it's exhausting. The person you knew is gone. It's certainly, as Robertson said, a dilemma.

I can understand this dilemma and I can empathize with those that come to the brink of despair and see divorce as the only out. But this position makes loud and clear the common thought that marriage (and love) are conditional.

If you meet my needs I meet yours, but once mine aren't being met, I'm out of here!

It's this very thought that is corroding marriages both in the world and in church, and it's roots are born out of this lie:

Other people can meet my needs.

With that line of thinking why stop at Alzheimer's? Cancer is hard. Should people divorce spouses with cancer? Can we take it further? What about heart issues, immune diseases, mental illness, miscarriage, loss of a child, parenting issues.....not to mention the communication problems that many relationships experience on a daily basis!

When we think like this it's easy to see Robertson's reasoning. The man in question's wife is not meeting his needs for verbal, emotional, or physical companionship. She is not 'making him happy'. In fact, her disease demands her husband's full emotional and mental focus, and he's probably exhausted. He'll burn out if his sole focus is to met every one of his wife's demanding needs (and I think we've stumbled on another lie)....

I can and should meet other people's needs.

The truth for both of these lies is that God is the only one who can make meet all our needs, ours and other people's. By thinking that other people are responsible for meeting our needs and vice versa we frustrate both ourselves and our loved one, and we miss out on the abundant life that Christ offers to give us.

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. ~Phillipians 4

When we confront the lies about where our needs are met, our definition of care-taking changes. It isn't meeting every need your loved one has, it's simply choosing to love them through this season. Illness and death are a part of life we cannot outrun, in fact, it's part of His plan.

14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. ~James 4

Care taking is hard, absolutely, but just because it's hard, doesn't mean that God won't ask us to walk through it. It's an opportunity to reassess your expectations for where your needs are met, and boundaries on meeting other people's. It's an opportunity to grow in faith, to cling to the Father, to confront and examine beliefs, and most importantly to choose love, despite circumstances.

Jesus did.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13


*While I have never walked through an ill spouse, I watched my mother care take for my dad through a four year battle with cancer that he ultimately lost. Watching her love my dad, despite his illness, was the most amazing example to me of love. *

Alex is a set free, transformed, loved woman of God who enjoys writing, photography, and a good book when she has time to read and is the founder of the blog 'Journey to Beauty'. She loves her family which includes her amazing husband Kevin, her fiesty grandmother Nonna, and her two dogs and cats. She has a passion for community, and for seeing people set free to find who they're created to be. Alex attended the Boston Conservatory of music as well as Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Mo. She currently serves on staff at Gateway Church in the role of administrative assistant within Compassion Ministries and is a wiz at typing, stapling, and all things office related but most of all she gets to serve alongside a team that is slowly changing the world!


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