Monday, October 13, 2014

The Crucible and the Covenant

Love, remember, is proven by the sacrifice it makes.

-Robertson McQuilkin

 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

John 15:13

Two men, a crucible, and a covenant.

Two men, both in their 80's now, one ready to live, the other trying to beat death.

The first man, Robertson McQuilkin. 

I just finished reading his short autobiography addressing the time that he took care of his failing wife, Muriel. 

She was diagnosed with Alzheimers. In her 50's. 

And he cared for her over the span of 25 years, from the onset of the disease until she died. 

Sacrificially cared for her, though he would never call it a sacrifice. 

And he eventually resigned from his position as President of Columbia Bible College to become her complete caregiver. 

A marriage in a crucible. A man whose wife would never be the same, who would never be able to fulfill his needs in the same way that she had before.

And he chose to stay. Chose to surrender. Chose to give and give and give because the love of the Giving-Christ filled him. 


Another man. 

Wife diagnosed with a debilitating illness, her body becoming more and more crippled as the years passed. 

Eventually she needed a wheelchair. 

And that was just the last straw. 

So he left her. 

Divorced her; he's with a much younger woman now--

And before she died, she still used to ask about him, ask how he was. 

He was still in her heart, the one who broke it--

When the crucible shattered, overburdened with heat.

And a heart, broken, lay among the shards of clay.

A man with feet of clay . . .

Broke the covenant.

And I found myself asking the other day, What holds a marriage together? What holds a marriage together in a crucible?

The logical answer--the covenant--the covenant forged, the covenant spoken and witnessed and signed and consummated. 

What holds a marriage together? The covenant, and then something deeper, still, I think--

And that is covenant love. 

The love that mirrors Jesus' love for us, the kind of love that McQuilkin had for his wife, the love that gives and gives and gives, for the joy that is the reward. 

Jesus gave. 

And His covenant love washed over us. 

Because the covenant without love is just a legal transaction-seed, and love is the lifting of that seed into the flower of beauty and grace. 

Covenant love -- and what is perceived as bondage ultimately brings freedom, the bondage of love. 

McQuilkin said, in an interview--
Ours is a day of passionate pursuit of self fulfillment. And the folk wisdom of  twentieth-century America holds that fulfillment can be found only in freedom. So, if some responsibility or commitment, some relationship or value shackles, you have a moral obligation to yourself to break free. 

But it's a fantasy. That doorway to freedom and fulfillment may turn out to be the doorway to a stronger imprisonment. I've watched in sadness as many friends and acquaintances march through that doorway. The new bondage may be subterranean, below the level of consciousness, even. But such a person has broken one set of shackles only to shut himself or herself off from the soaring freedom of experiencing God's highest and best. He who preserves his life, affirming himself, will lose it all, says Jesus. Only the one who can say no to self-interest for Christ and the gospel cause can ever find the treasure of true life--freedom and fulfillment in Christ. But we don't seem to get it. 

We live in an age where even high-profile evangelicals are demeaning marriage vows. In reading more about Robertson McQuilkin, I came across this article that was shared by Randy Alcorn. It contained a video clip of the influential evangelical Pat Robertson insisting that Alzheimers is a kind of "death." He implied that divorce is understandable in such a situation.  

Whatever became of the covenant?

And deeper still, what of covenant love? 

What of Jesus?

Elisabeth Elliot tells the story of a man and his wife who were having marriage difficulties. 

Desperately wanting to save her marriage, the woman finally convinced her husband to go with her to counseling. 

The Christian marriage counselor who met them and learned of the husband's desire for a divorce quipped something along the lines of "Well, I was divorced, and now I'm happily remarried!" 

As Elisabeth Elliot put it, "That was all the husband needed." He quickly pursued a divorce and that was that. 

No regard for the covenant. 

No understanding of love. 

The love that held a man named Robertson McQuilkin to his marriage vows, to his wife, to Jesus. 

An example of covenant love. 

Self-giving love. 

The love born of sacrifice,

The love that brings life. 

You might find me on these link-ups:

  Strangers and Pilgrims on EarthThe Modest MomWhat Joy is Mine, Yes They Are All Ours, Missional Call, A Mama's Story, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Time Warp Wife, Cornerstone Confessions, Mom's Morning Coffee, So Much at Home, Raising Homemakers, Hope in Every SeasonA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries, Whole-Hearted Home, A Soft Gentle Voice, My Daily Walk in His Grace, Messy Marriage, My Teacher's Name is Mama, The Charm of Home, Graced Simplicity, Children Are A Blessing, Mittenstate Sheep and Wool, Imparting Grace, Preparedness Mama, A Look at the Book, Essential Thing Devotions, Count My Blessings, Beauty Observed, Christian Mommy Blogger, Serenity You, Renewed Daily, Sunday Stillness, The Beauty in His Grip, Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom.


  1. Beautifully written. I have a covenant love with my beloved husband.....even tho our Lord took him home to Glory , we had 40 years. And we have eternity!

    1. Thank you, Trish--what a beautiful gift the Lord gave you with 40 years of covenant love. :-) It is so rare these days-the Lord bless you and make His face to shine upon you.

  2. I have a couple family members who have gone through really hard divorces in the last couple years. In one case, it was the spouse who decided she no longer wanted to be in the marriage. In another case, it was the family member who decided it was too much work. It's been so heartbreaking for all of us, watching this happen and wishing they'd all turn to Christ. Part of me becomes afraid that it's "catching" or something. Ha! Another part of me wants to be vulnerable and love and take that chance and have faith it will all work out. This was an excellent article. Thanks for linking up at the Homemaking Party. :)

    1. Thanks for hosting, Sarah--I'm really glad that you enjoyed the article. :-)

  3. Powerful and much-needed insights for our times. Thank you for sharing your poignant words!

    1. You're welcome, Jennifer; I'm glad that you enjoyed the post.:-)

  4. Good article and so true in the modern era where people don't want to work hard to maintain relationships. It is so easy to find new "friends". It takes effort, sacrifice and perseverance to keep a marriage. I think the most important though is the fear of the Lord. I know my husband promised to love me as unto the Lord and as long as that relationship to God is healthy, my marriage is healthy (and vice-versa). It is the fear and love of the Lord that keeps our covenant strong. Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays. P.S. There is a movie along these lines with Barbara Babcock, absolutely heartbreaking that you may be interested in. It is made by Billy Graham pictures I think... It really puts these thoughts into perspective.

    1. JES, thank you for sharing those thoughts--I love the way that you put it--"It is the fear and the love of the Lord that keeps our covenant strong".

      We have a copy of the movie that you mentioned! (A Vow to Cherish. I think is the name of it). It IS a very powerful film.

      Thank you so much for hosting the link-up; the Lord bless you in all of your ways . . .

  5. Beautiful! What a wonderful book to read! Thank you for sharing at Theology Thursdays FOR KIDS!!!

    1. You're welcome, Jessica! Thank you for hosting the link-up :-). Blessings to you--

  6. When my husband and I married, we vowed to love each other and stay together "forever and a day and then some, and then start all over again". We still recite that to each other to this day. Wonderful article, Bekki. Thank you. :)

    1. Oh, you're welcome, Debbie! I'm glad that you enjoyed it! :-)