Publication: One-to-One, Winter 2009
February is, for many, the “Month of love,” highlighted by the celebration of Valentine’s Day on the fourteenth day. I like Valentine’s Day…it’s an opportunity to express my love and gratitude to my wife, Susanne, in a special and intentional way, and to be reminded that such expressions can never be offered too much. And, there is the moral and loving obligation for me to consume at least a couple of chocolate candies …in my wife’s honor, of course.
This Valentine’s Day-and every Valentine’s Day for the rest of my life-will also carry special personal significance for me, and for our whole family. In 2008, one day before Valentine’s Day, my Mom went home to be with the Lord after a lengthy battle with cancer. Mom’s life was filled with so much love, which she lavished upon all of us in our family, especially Dad, who loved her deeply and fully in return.
Dad and Mom’s love story is a beautiful one, and it has touched untold numbers of lives. Their first “official” date was on Valentine’s Day, 1958. They both grew up in godly families, and both were sensing God’s call on their lives before they met. My parents had gotten to know each other during a church revival Dad was preaching, and he needed a piano player for the meetings. Love bloomed over sodas following the evening services, and they married in 1960.
My parents not only told one another-often-of their love, but they demonstrated it constantly through unselfish acts, each constantly seeking to bless the other. Their love spilled over onto us as their children and to so many others who have related as natural and spiritual family with them.
The apostle Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Corinth:
Thanks to my parents, I learned from the earliest age what love is, and saw them live Paul’s words. In fact, it was their example that God used to teach me about His own love. He showed His love to me by giving me my parents and by expressing His love through them towards me. I observed them treat one another lovingly, and also saw how they loved my sister and brother. This opened me up to receive God’s love and “prepared the way” for His voice to call me into His Kingdom.
NOT A CHORE OR A BORE
The phrase “love is a verb” applied at our house. Mom was not only a thoughtfully eloquent speaker and writer, but she was a servant of the highest order. She not only laid down her life to serve my Dad, my sister, my brother, and me-and our extended family and church members-but she loved doing so. She lived to serve and found great joy in it; it was not a chore or a bore, but a delight to her. Her meals were made with love, the home was clean and bright, she constantly taught us how to be good servants and good stewards, how to pray and play, and how to honor our Dad and most of all, God.
She was an avid reader, and instilled in us a love of reading. As a child, I remember her reading to me from “Treasure Island,” “Robinson Crusoe,” “Paddy the Beaver,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” and of course, the Bible. When I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart, it was Mom who first knelt with me and prayed beside me. She laughed with me, cried with me, played with me, and gave me a good switching if I got out of line. That’s love!
Likewise, Dad served Mom and our family in so many ways. The world knows my father as a pastor, author, and teacher who pioneered in the Charismatic Movement. But in our family, we’ve always known him as a tireless champion for us, who has always-in every case-sought God’s will and God’s best for each of us. He was always affectionate with Mom, though never in a way that we as children would find “yucky”… but it was genuine. It was plain to us that they were each other’s best friend, and woe be to the individual-including one of us kids-if we ever tried to come in-between or divide them. It wasn’t going to happen. They were always on the same page; the world might come against them, but they stood together and saw the world’s schemes come to naught.
Dad is always encouraging, teaching, exhorting, serving, challenging, coaching, and stretching those he loves. If love believes all things, as Paul says, then we can say we’ve seen Dad believe-and help us believe – that all things are possible in God. And, those who know him know there’s never been a more generous man, though so much of his giving and serving has been “behind the scenes.”
Another facet of his life has been his loyal and faithful commitment to those he pastors, no matter what they may face. Thank God, he’s not only been that way with church folks, but it always started at home. I’ve seen a lot of religious phonies in my life; so many, in fact, that I was once tempted to walk away from faith. But, the genuine integrity I’ve always witnessed in Dad’s life-and His gracious encouragement towards me-were used by God to bring me back into His purpose.
TENDERNESS & WAR
And just when we thought we had learned everything we could know about love, we witnessed Dad and Mom in the final years of her life; it may sound strange to say, but the over whelming sense I have concerning that season is gratitude for all that God allowed us to see and know, by His amazing grace. Dad set aside any agenda he could have had for work, travel, and ministry in order to completely and tenderly give himself to Mom’s care. Oftentimes, he had sleepless nights and grueling days, but he was constantly there with Mom, offering hope, and assisting her with every aspect of daily life. And, in the same measure that he demonstrated tenderness to Mom, he also demonstrated a fierce determination to serve her as she fought cancer. His willingness to war on her behalf not only added time to her life, but added life to her time. That’s love.
In a world where the vision of love is often distorted or perverted, and where it can sometimes seem that love is not real, it’s heartening to see a picture of love that, like a light, can cut through the fog of confusion and offer an example for how we can live.
Regardless of our past or our present, we can all discover opportunities now to demonstrate love through service, selflessness, loyalty, commitment, tender affection and kindness, work, and even fighting together against common enemies. It is incumbent upon those who are parents to demonstrate love-not only for the sake of those who receive this love-but for the sake of a younger generation who is watching us, reading us, learning from us, and who will one day do as we have done.
Scripture Reference: I Corinthians 13:4-8
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.