What my parents taught me about faithfulness
My mom and dad have taught me a profound lesson on what faithfulness looks like. They celebrated 65 years of marriage before my dad’s recent passing and those years covered some very hard seasons. When I was younger, I fully expected my parents to get divorced eventually. Part of that stemmed from seeing that they didn’t spend much time together and I could often hear them fighting when they thought my brother and I were sleeping. The other reason I expected it was because most of the kids in my class were from one-parent homes. I can only recall two of my classmates whose parents were still together besides mine. When my parents did fight, I often wondered if this would be the time where they would walk away from each other.
We didn’t take many holidays together as a family, but we would go to my aunt and uncle’s cottage a fair amount in the summers. It was there that my worries of divorce were silenced. During those cottage visits, I would watch my parents dance together. Sometimes it was just our family that would have a dance night. Other times the local cottage community would have a neighbourhood dance.
Mom and Dad really enjoyed dancing together. They loved to jive, and they did it exceptionally well. There were many times that people would gather in a circle around them to watch how they did it. A spin here, grab a hand there, two steps and a dip. They never missed a beat, nor did they miss a turn. It’s like they just knew where the other would be. And the rhythm they had was so much a part of their dance. As soon as a catchy tune would begin, they just couldn’t help themselves. Their toes would start to tap, their head would move to the beat and away they would go. Watching them made me feel like getting up to dance too. They made it look so easy and the look on their faces showed just how much they loved it.
When I grew up and got married, I moved 1,800 kilometres away from where my parents lived. We took turns travelling back and forth to visit each other. At some point during every visit, furniture would be moved out of the way and a new tune would be turned on with the volume on high and the dancing would continue. It was always a highlight and they created memories that I will always cherish.
As the years passed, different health issues, along with the natural aging process, began to affect their mobility. Dad was 77 and mom was 73 the last time they were healthy enough to make the long drive out to visit us. My mom had developed arthritis, so her mobility was quite limited. We were enjoying a good visit together and I decided to see what would happen if I turned on the music. I found the latest catchy tune, turned it up, and sat back and watched. Within seconds, their bodies started to respond to the beat and their toes were tapping. Then my dad reached out his hand to my mom and said, “What do you think, hon, should we give it a try?” My mom looked at my dad and sadly said, “Aww Frankie, I just can’t do it anymore.” Then my dad took her hand and said, “We will just go slow.”
And slow it was. It was also a bit clumsy, they missed a few steps, and they couldn’t quite keep up to the beat. But it was also the most beautiful, tender dance I have ever watched them do. They still had a big smile on their faces and when they sat down (well before the song was over, I might add), they both chuckled at how out of breath they were!
By now, you are probably asking yourself how any of this could have taught me something profound about faithfulness. Here it is: That final dance between my mom and dad was the most beautiful because it wasn’t their first.
They went through many changes over their 65 years of marriage. Job changes, family growing changes, changes from being unbelievers to discovering new life in Christ together. Changes in homes, changes in interests, changes in health.
Some of those changes were filled with excitement and some were heavy with heartache. Some of those changes were their choice, and other changes were forced upon them. But one thing never changed – their partner. They remained faithful to each other in all of this.
That faithfulness didn’t always look nice and clean. They both had their struggles and areas in their life that still needed molding. So, when I witnessed that final dance with my mom and dad, I saw a lifetime of faithfulness to each other. That faithfulness created a gentle tenderness. A willingness to adjust so they could still do the dance together.
As you continue to serve, as you navigate what ministry life looks like in this crazy season of life, as you adapt, try again, then start all over, remember that this is part of faithfulness. The style of dance may have changed, your ability to keep in step may feel lacking, but your partner is the same.
This dance is reserved for one partner – our heavenly Father. It is a space that we can share with no other. And in that space, over time, trust deepens, tenderness can be counted on, strength is given, comfort is offered. It becomes more focused on the comfort of our Father who has walked with us through all life has to offer us. And as our aging bodies demand limitations, our spirits will find peace in always being able to grab onto the hand of our Heavenly Father.
Be encouraged: God has not called you to be successful in this season. He has called you to be faithful.
Pauline Doerksen and her husband, Sam, are the program directors at our Manitoba Kerith Retreats location. For more information about our retreats, visit KerithRetreats.ca.