Passing by an elderly friend, I placed my hand on her bent back and glanced back to give her a quick greeting. I thought she was just leaning over the table at which her husband was seated, speaking quietly with him. Startled, she glanced up to return my smile ---
then she went back to tying her husband's shoe.
And I'm still thinking about that.
This particular elder has been present in my life since I was very young. She taught my youth group Sunday school class. Typical teen, I didn't hear very much of what she said in that class, since I was absolutely absorbed in studying everyone else. But I did hear enough to register that this was a Godly woman, well-versed in the scriptures. She never yelled at us, even when we richly deserved it, and always seemed to be softly chuckling instead, just a little bit. I didn't get to enjoy her company during my baby-bearing years, but was so happy to see her when we started attending the same church about twelve years ago. She proved to be the very same person - a consistency which I appreciate more and more - kind and wise, unafraid and full of faith, bold and gentle at the same time. As an adult actually listening to her teach, I am amazed at her deep and wide understanding of God's word. Knowing her now (and then) as a Church Mother, I've benefitted from her timely words and forgiving nature. I know no one is perfect, but truly, she's a long-time example to me of a Great Woman of Faith.
But nothing I've seen, heard or received from her stands above that speaking glimpse of her as she bent to tie her husband's shoe. Aha! True Love! Not the Valentine Day kind of sticky-sweet emotion, nor a hot flash of desire ... but His example followed as Servant.
Most of us women have been in the uncomfortable position of incapacity - NEEDFUL of personal care that we were unable to provide for ourselves, right? Just childbirth will put you there - an epidural will take you there very quickly. Numb from the waist down? You're gonna need some help with that. In dealing with long term illness, I've found myself in that unenviable, needful spot more times than I can count, in which I've had to ask for help opening a jar, lifting a gallon of milk, getting my socks on; simply standing was a challenge in the not-so-long-ago past.
Quickly you find out who loves you when you need help tying your own shoe in the midst of a crowd of people who are moving along at a pace you cannot keep. And it's offered, even before you can ask. Sometimes even before you realize the need, it's being met! This kind of special love, Servant Love, is one of the true gems you might discover in the darkness of illness. Not that you would wish yourself there, but it's to be found nowhere else. A precious treasure, never taken for granted, something to be marveled over again and again.
On Valentine's Day, I can know that this woman's husband has the opportunity to enjoy a rare and extravagant gift. She's giving him the gift of True Love in the simple acts of service - like tying his shoe. Her love and devotion was obvious to all in that pinpoint-peephole lesson, taking less than 2 seconds, fortifying my resolutions to press forward, in True Love - serving those to whom I've given myself and those who've been given to me.
As I've been loved.
No matter what. In every circumstance.