Monday, March 03, 2008

A Sunday in the Life of Reading

After returning from church today, I stayed home and read, pretty much the whole day. I don't do this enough. But this is what was read:

1. Two chapters on Francis A. Schaeffer, True Spirituality.
2. Two chapters from Alister McGrath, Christianity's Dangerous Idea
3. A chapter from Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism.
4. One chapter from Dworkin, Artificial Happiness.
5. Two chapters from James Beilby, ed., Faith and Clarity: Philosophical Contributions to Christian Theology.
6. Two chapters from Francis Collins, The Language of God.

The total is about 217 pages, and I am not a very fast reader. Try it yourself some day when you have the time.


Paul D. Adams said...

I did not read. I watch a movie on this Sunday entitled "Away from Her." Indulge me for a moment.

The movie started out as an endearing story of a man who was deeply in love with his wife
of 44 years. He was so in love with her that he could not imagine being "away from her."
Even though his wife's Alzheimer's had taken away her memory of their 44-year marriage
and she fell for another man with the same illness. Yet, the husband was intent of not
being "away from her," or so it seemed. Sadly, near the end, he ended up being away from her in both body and in soul.

It seemed as though the movie was trying to draw me in to sympathize more with him than
with Alzheimer's. Naturally, we can and should all sympathize with the psychologically
complex issues surrounding Alzheimer's and the grief felt by those whose loved ones are
stricken with this insidious disease. But I found myself less enlightened about the
disease and more perplexed over the real meaning of unconditional love and life-long
commitment to a spouse.

At one point in the movie I was hopeful when a frustrated, young punked out girl visiting
her relative in the Alzheimer's ward found herself sitting next to the husband who had
been abandoned. As she looked over at him, he said to the young girl that he was merely
there watching his wife because he wanted to be with her. The punked out girl said,
surprisingly, that she "should be so lucky as to have someone who could not stand being
away from her." I really was hopeful that the movie would continue offering the husband's
character as faithful and persistent in loving his wife unconditionally. Without
question, this kind of fortitude in our oaths of marriage is what God requires for
everyone and what each human soul longs to experience; unconditional love and commitment.

At one point, the husband suspected that his wife was feigning her disease as a kind of
punishment for his past infidelity. This makes sense as the remorse he felt and the guilt
and shame for past moral failure was entirely warranted. But, even though his wife had
lost all remembrance of their marriage and had fallen for another patient, the husband
was seemingly intent on being with her through her illness and willing to work through
his shame. Sadly, however, "Away from Her" did not portray unconditional love nor honor
the moral progression that could have taken place through his repentance from past
infidelity. Instead, it took a turn in the wrong direction.

When he showed up at the door of another woman (herself stricken with grief over her
husband's Alzheimer's illness), took her out on a date, then wound up in bed with her, I
was heartbroken (actually showing up at the door was the beginning of the end).
Abandoning unconditional love and "til death do us part", my sympathies for him turned to
sadness, despair, and even anger.

After the movie was over, I asked myself: What is the extent of my love for my wife?
Would I abandon her under the same/similar conditions? What if she was stricken by
Alzheimer's and fell for another? Not only would I but could I forsake her under these

I can honestly say with complete transparency that, by God's amazing power and presence
in my life, I have never been "away from" my wife either in body or in soul, nor will
I ever in this life. "Til death do us part" means something to me. I've loved her at all
times and in all places, whether physically present with me or spiritually present to me.
Granted, I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to see her destined to
such a fate as Alzheimer's. But even more so, I cannot imagine me being "away from her"
should such a thing occur. "I am hers and she is mine"...forever in this life! (Song of
Songs 2:16). We belong to each other, not only for some 26+ years thus far, but for life.
Unless and until death does part us, nothing in heaven or earth whether physically,
emotionally, psychologically, or otherwise can and will separate us from being together
in body and soul.

Indeed, I have the perfect model and template for this unconditional love. God promises
"never will I leave you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5) and the extent of God's commitment
to us went the full distance for us being realized in death -- the death of his one and
only Begotten. Because of this supreme sacrifice of love shown to me in Christ at the
cross, I can say without reservation that I would never abandon my wife, in body or
in soul, for another. To do so spiritually is idolatry; to do so in matrimony is
adultery. Thankfully Jesus personifies God's presence with us as Emmanuel, God with us
and he promises to be with us to the end of the age. He is never away from us and I could
never be "away from" my wife.

As for the movie, I believe the wife's affliction might have excused her breach in the marriage (I'm ambiguous here), but his was inexcusable. Though he was afflicted by grief, there is no excuse for moral failure after 44 years of marriage; or even 44 days! And by God's grace we can
all experience what I hoped the movie would portray; unconditional love and commitment.
The human soul longs for life-long commitment and dedication. I praise God that he is unconditionally committed to me and to us because of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Paul - as one who lives with a severely afflicted (Alzheimers)89 yr old mother-in-law, I greatly appreciated your post. Your warning, regarding "Away from Her," provides a helpful warning. The movie is certainly not one to spend one's time with.

Most importantly, it is always good to be reminded of the unconditional nature of God's faithfulness! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The other day I got off of work and then proceeded to read about 250 pages of N.T. Wright's "New Testament and the People of God." Then I read Neil Postman's "Amusing ourselves to Death." That was a good day. Somedays my reading is limited to the Psalms as I'm a student with two brain consuming jobs, so I often don't feel at all like reading. If I could read 217 pages a day I'd be so happy.

Today I'm sick and I can't sustain any thoughts long term so the best I've done is read some blogs.

Paul D. Adams said...

Thanks, Pat. May you continue to unconditionally love others for God's glory. It is truly divine when we do. "The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered." Pr. 11:25

"In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Enjoy the blessing from the giving!

BJS said...

Paul and Soulcraft...

Well, I guess, perhaps, the point of the film (as you describe it Paul) is to show human weakness, frailty, and failure.

Yes, I'm with you Paul, it would be awesome for the film to have shown repentence and unconditional love for a wife. It IS heartbreaking that the husband failed. Of course, there is no excuse -- no doubt -- for his infedility.

But, this doesn't mean it is not a good movie or as Soulcraft put it "certainly not one to spend time with".
I disagree. The reality of the fallen world, the reality of us as fallen people, is that we utterly, often, again and again fail.
Either story the film could have told -- one of steadfast love or one of gutwrenching failure -- represents a TRUE account of the human condition down here in this brokeness. The answer is always the same: God's grace and forgiveness. So I wouldn't be so quick to discount the film. Something that tells us something true, can't be all bad.

In fact, notice Paul how the film had such a positive overall impact on you -- it forced you into a difficult and uncomfortable place where you had to analyze your own commitments and understandings of love and failure. And you've come out the other side invigorated and renewed in your love for your wife and your understanding of comitment. Excellent! Showing and understanding human failure AND showing human triumph are both true, real, and good things to do.
It is what it means to be human in this world. We are disposed royalty (to use Groothuis' Pascallian point) -- noble, yet fallen. Beautiful yet depraved.
That's what it means to be a fallen human.

Paul D. Adams said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I understood Soulcraft's note to say that, given his circumstances in living with an Alheimer's family member, that the movie was not worth his time. Of course, he can answer for himself.

Should believers watch this movie, it is a grand opportunity to point viewers in an alternative direction that, as I have outlined, portrays repentance and redemption, both in horizontal and vertical directions.