“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;
26 That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-28)
Ruth Lorraine Parker, (Ruthi). Pictured above. When I first laid eyes on this very young Junior High girl, the furthest things from my mind were marriage and a forever best friend. In fact, it would be many, many, years after before any of those thoughts would be entertained at all. Moreover, most of my High School years failed to change my directions of thought toward her and the future. But, those were years I had little awareness of God, as well. Let me share what God was apparently doing in years leading up to revelation.
God has been so very good and gracious to me by His bringing her into my life. There can be no doubt God prepared Ruthi for me at least when I was two, but in His heart and mind it was long before we two were ever conceived, let alone born. I find it truly amazing, and humbling, how He caused my dad to move our whole family from Missouri to California when I was 12 so our paths would eventually cross.
Dad came home from work one day and announced to mom and us kids that we were moving to California. He had quit his job and secured an auctioneer to make an offer on all but the clothes on our backs, so to speak. The auctioneer came by that afternoon and gave dad $75 for all that we had. California, here we come. (A sad part of this transition, which I try to not dwell on, was the man who took dad’s place on the job he quit, died doing that job on the first day). We landed a few days later in Bakersfield, more specifically in Oildale. That was the end of January 1960.
Even more wonderful is the thought that when my dad moved us out of Oildale later that year, where Ruthi was living, to South Bakersfield and different school systems, God moved us right back in less than a year two blocks from where she lived. Later, God had connected me in a friendship with her older brother, so that I would have access to her very home. One of my fond memories is when we boys would play football in Ruthi’s mom and dad’s big front yard, while she and her girlfriends would watch. I was more motivated to catch passes because young girls were there looking on.
After graduation from High School, I enlisted in the United States Air force. I was on a weekend pass back in Oildale over a New Year’s weekend, and I had an unplanned outing with Ruthi and her brother which ended with an innocent goodbye kiss on the porch steps. That kiss changed my heart and mind. In that moment I became twitterpated. That was New Year’s Day 1966.
We became sort of pen pals in something we thought might be love.
By the summer of 1966, I had orders to report to Vietnam. This young lad that I was, at just 19, concluded on my own that my life was probably over. With that in mind, I began withdrawing from friends, family, and the one who had my heart. It was not long before even the letter writing came to a standstill.
Surprise! Somehow, by the grace of the God I did not yet know, I returned from Vietnam. I have forever been both grateful for this blessing and guilty because many did not return.
For nearly a year after returning stateside, I had self-induced insomnia because every night I had the same horrendous dream as I slept. The images of war made worse by the unconscious mind became my nightly theatre. Consequently, I worked very hard to not allow myself to sleep.
At some point unknown to me, the dreams disappeared and rest finally came. It was during this respite I remembered a love lost. Somehow I figured out how to locate where Ruthi was living and I once again began to write. This time I tried to keep my writing style more in line as an old friend. She, too, was willing and eager to take this position. We continued this low keyed correspondence until I was discharged in October of 1969.
At this time I was living in Huntington Beach, California, and Ruthi was living with her brother and his wife in the city of Tustin, not far from me. It was not long before we were spending a lot of time together. This thrilled me to no end. By the fall of 1970, I was convinced I wanted to marry her. I worked up enough courage to propose marriage to her one night, and to me surprise and great sorrow she turned me down. In my heart I took that to mean we were breaking up. I did not know how to act or respond. On my job with GTE, I was becoming more useless each day. Finally, during a lunch hour a week or so later I rode my motorcycle out on Huntington Beach pier and cried out to the God I did not yet know begging Him to let me have her as my wife.
The next weekend I was invited to something her brother and his wife was doing and Ruthi was also there. In a quiet moment together, she softly said, “Remember that question you asked me before? Would you ask it again?”
By February 20, 1971, we were man and wife.
I wish I could tell you that it has been a great life from that day forward. Our first year was hard. Some because of finances, some because of immaturity on my part, some because of a miscarriage of a pregnancy we both deeply wanted which I am convinced my burst of uncontrolled anger caused. Maybe a little because a few of our family members seemed relieved that we had lost that child.
I found out that love was hard to build on and maintain, but I could not figure out why. And the answers to my many questions were slowly revealed to me a few years later when God finally captured my heart and life. I was saved on a Wednesday night and Ruthi was saved on Friday of that same week. We both were in church that very Sunday and have missed very few church services since that year.
God revealed to me why love was so hard for me to grow. It was because I loved Ruthi more for me than for her. It was a selfish love that I was struggling through.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.”
There it was. These words knocked the wind out of my sails. I was dead in the water. This was my revelation. There is my answer. My love was not a giving love. I was not giving myself to and for her as Christ gave Himself for the Church.
The light came on! A believer cannot truly love Christ until he first dies to self. In that willingness to die to self, I was free to finally love Ruthi with a Christ like love, one of which I cannot do without Him. For He said in John 15, “Without Me, ye can do nothing!”
I work very hard to show Ruthi selfless love, and I enjoy that work very much. I know I must improve on this each day even as my sanctification grows each day. It is not enough to love her privately with this kind of love, but I must also love her before the world with this Christ like love. It is my goal to make her known to the world as the woman I love with all that I am, because she is. I want our kids and grandkids, our friends and our church to see the joy we have in each other. I want them to see this kind of love exists to those who are in Christ. Ruthi is my love gift from my loving heavenly Father, and I will always cherish her.
Ephesians 5 also says this:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
For the wife who is being loved by her husband as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, it is no big deal to live up to this command of submission. However, a key verse in this believing relationship is verse 21 where it says we all are to be mutually submissive one to another.
My last words are to my special gift of God to me, my Sweet Ruthi:
My sweet, I want to share with you, that you have made my life so much more worthwhile. I have grown as a person because you are in it, and I am a more loving person because I have watched and learned from you, as we both have learned from our LORD. We were blessed to have the kids we have, and continue to enjoy. When the LORD saved us and called us in a new direction in life, you never hesitated to follow His lead. We have had many challenges, but you have been a great partner all the way through. I am certain our LORD has a special reward for you, as you surely have earned one being my life partner. I love you with an undying love!
|Tribune Content Agency
How can we escape the results of marriage being redefined?
Jan 19, 2019
|From the writings of the Rev. Billy GrahamQ: While some progress is being made in our nation to turn from its devastating decisions to ignore God, how can we escape the results of our own sinful choices, like allowing marriage to be redefined? — D.C.
A: The most precious human institution is marriage between a man and a woman, which has come under brutal attack. Our nation has wandered further down the moral ladder. Millions of babies have been aborted while the government pays money we don’t have to save the whales. We are outraged at violence, one against another, while we pay money to be entertained by glorifying violence.
There was a time when other nations looked up to the United States and desired to emulate what made America great. It wasn’t prosperity and living the American dream that made America great but reverence for God and living according to His Word. The results were untold blessings. God used America to spread the Gospel to the world. Now we see many of its citizens shaking their fists in the face of Almighty God.
How can we rise from the dark night and change from bleak existence into the light of hope for a better life? The answer is found in the Bible that warns of the reality that a day of doom is coming for many. It is not a fictional tale. It is a faithful truth. Jesus told us that He would be coming back in great glory. For those who follow Him it will be a glorious day indeed. For those who defy His law and reject His sacrifice, eternal darkness will prevail. But still there is hope for the lost souls. Let’s pray for them. Let’s hold up God’s standard in our society and be examples of God’s Light in the midst of a lost world.
(This column is based on the words and writings of the late Rev. Billy Graham.)
(c)2019 BILLY GRAHAM DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.