Wednesday, April 15, 2015

“The only way love can last a lifetime is if it's unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.” ― Stephen Kendrick

All of my adult life (so far) I have been overweight, fat.  It’s not something I chose to be, and I led a very active life for many years and dieted over and over, but nothing seemed to change my shape except severe illness.  I have always been ashamed of it and have kept out of the public eye as much as possible.  My parents continually shamed me and harped at me to lose weight every single time I saw them.  Our family (my parents and siblings) like many families sent Christmas letters every year for decades.  Some years back, my brother collected about seventeen consecutive letters and put them a book for each of us.  In every single letter, there was a derogatory comment about my weight.  Nothing unkind was ever said about any other member of the family and many laudatory things were recorded, but for at least those seventeen years, every person who received our Christmas letter heard that I was fat and not doing anything about it.  Like all people with physical limitations, I have done the best I could, tried to dress to minimize it, never went swimming or shirtless, and until living here in equatorial Africa, never even wore shorts.  Naturally, depression was also a constant companion, like pancakes and syrup, fat and feeling down just went together.  I struggled on and never let it keep me from doing what I wanted to do with my life.  The reason I am still alive and kicking today, having not taken my own life as I felt like doing many, many times, is because of one person.  My wife has always loved me just the way I am and has never stopped for almost fifty years.  When she saw the picture at the right taken just yesterday, she said, “You are still an incredibly handsome man!”  Very rarely, one of my children or my wife gets a brief glimpse of my naked body as I move from the bath to the closet.  My children holler that they have been scarred for life.  My beloved wife whistles and says with a wink, “Thank you for that.”  Now, I know what I look like with no clothes on.  We do have mirrors that don’t lie (happily they don’t laugh either), but my wife sees me with eyes that see well past the physical and see instead the kind of man I have been, the kind of father I have been, the kind of pastor I have been, the kind of missionary I have been, and the kind of a gentle, generous man I have always been and still am (her words, not mine).  I could never have done the good things I’ve accomplished or still hope to do more without those eyes of hers that never see the fat man in front of her but rather the love and kindness he represents.  It is not chance that has kept us together for almost fifty years (come June 5th—in less than two months), it is her unconditional love that has kept her from ever telling me what to eat, what not to eat, how unhealthy I am, or how much better I would feel if I would just lose some weight.  She loves me for who I am and has never tried to influence my diet or lifestyle.  With more wives (and husbands) like her the world would have far fewer suicides and would need a lot less Prozac.  She also loves me for loving her, our children, grandchildren, and almost every person we have ever known.  She says, “How can you not love someone who loves others so much he has dedicated his life to them?”  If God sends angels to take care of those He loves so that they will serve Him faithfully, then Karen is my angel—and angels never care how much you weigh.  I can never adequately tell her how much her caring and loving without nagging or even gently suggesting has made a difference in my life, but I wouldn’t be here if she didn’t see me through her loving, caring, and uncritical eyes.  God bless her and all those like her who make our world a kinder place in which to live.
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