Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:25-28
Right after we moved here almost two years ago we were eating out one day for lunch when an older gentleman came walking in the restaurant. It was hard not to notice him because he was pushing a woman in a reclining wheelchair in front of him. As someone held the door open for him, he smiled and pushed the woman through nonchalantly as if it was an everyday occurrence to be pushing someone around like he was.
As I looked on with curiosity my husband turned to see what was going on and said to me, “Oh, that’s Dr. Walters. He’s the retired professor from JBU I told you about. That’s his wife and she has multiple sclerosis (MS).” He proceeded to tell me that Dr. Walters took his wife with him everywhere, including to class when he would still teach on occasion.
As I watched with interest and awe I noticed that Lynda didn’t really say much, but she did constantly look up at her husband with a trusting smile and contented look of affection. He smiled right back at her, asked her what she wanted to eat and then after sitting down proceeded to feed her as he fed himself. It all seemed so normal and natural, but I couldn’t help but think how incredible the whole situation really was.
We saw the Walters out together on several other occasions after that and every time I became more inspired by Dr. Walters’ unconditional love for his wife and the way he gently took care of her every need. Despite her handicap, her inability to walk, bathe herself, get dressed on her own, etc. he looked at her with such pure love and compassion that it was enough to make me want to weep when I witnessed it. Here was this man who had chosen to LOVE his wife in the purest meaning of the word because she was his best friend and he didn’t want to do life without her. What a tremendous reflection of God’s glory and grace, which is what marriage should be about!
According to an interview he gave for an article written by JBU Alum Hannah Nielsen last summer, Dr. Walters didn’t see his situation as presenting challenges as much as opportunities to “grow and reflect Christ.” He stated, “Opportunities is a word of potentialities. There is the potential of doing that which can only be done at this moment. There is the potential of showing loving-kindness in a tangible way. There is the potential of showing Lynda that she is more important than anyone or anything which might try to intrude on this holy moment. There is the potential to die to self. There is the potential of reflecting Christ, who came, ‘not to be served, but to serve and give His life.’ There is the potential of realizing that ‘we have come to the kingdom for such a time—opportunity—as this.”
What an amazing testimony! Sadly, not long ago, Lynda went home to be with her Savior, leaving a heart-broken husband and family behind. Dr. Walters was gracious enough to share his thoughts and prayers with the JBU family as the days led up to her death. Each email was filled with loving and conflicted words that expressed his desire to keep her here but also allow her to pass on to eternity and be healed. As he poured out his anguish and despair over the loss of his wife when the final day came, I couldn’t help but think there could be no truer example of what it means for a husband to give himself up for his wife like Christ did for us. And I was so grateful I was able to catch even just a little glimpse of it.
If you need some inspiration to press on and LOVE in your marriage today, I encourage you to read more about Jim and Lynda Walters’ amazing love story with each other and Christ by clicking on this link which will take you to the special article I mentioned above. It’s a long story, but well-worth the read. Keep some tissues handy if you’re a weeper. =)