Love comes in many different shapes and forms

Published 10:08 am Friday, February 15, 2013

Column: Across the Pastor’s Desk, by the Rev. Nancy Overgaard
Chaplain at Thorne Crest Retirement Community

“We love because He first loved us.” — 1 John 4:19

It being so close to Valentine’s Day, it seems an appropriate topic for the week might be love, but what kind of love? (It also being the first week of Lent, I hesitate to focus on something other than Lent, but that will be the subject of my next article.) I often think and reflect on the title of a cantata sung by my choir during my brief stint with a choral group in Bible School. “No Greater Love,” by John W. Peterson, focuses on the greatest love ever shown, the love of God in giving his one and only son to die for our sins, and that of his son in laying down his life for ours.

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I would like to focus on a different love, today, yet one that flows directly out of his.

While serving as a pastor in upstate New York, I invited my congregation and community to a showing of the World Wide Pictures movie, “A Vow to Cherish.” If you have never seen it, I highly recommend it. On the cover of the DVD, Ramona Cramer Tucker of Today’s Christian Woman magazine is quoted as saying the movie “Paints a compelling picture of forever love.” That is an apt description. The story is that of a woman diagnosed early in life with Alzheimer’s disease, the struggle of her family to adjust to the drastic changes, and the dedication of her husband to live out his vow to love and to cherish his wife in these unforeseen circumstances.

“Why did you want us to see that movie?” one parishioner asked of me. At the time, the fee for a public presentation of the movie was nearly $100. She wondered at my judgment in making that kind of investment. At the same time, in our own congregation was a young woman who had a progressively debilitating disease of her own. My answer was that, if after seeing the movie, her husband was inspired to live out the depth of love demonstrated by the husband in the movie it was worth every dollar. Another parishioner who appreciated the movie at the time later told me it meant all the more after she learned that a close friend had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. For me, the movie models a way to proactively live out love for a relative or friend in that devastating situation or in the face of any debilitating illness.

Much as I love the movie, in some ways, I no longer need it. For, in my work as chaplain at the Thorne Crest Retirement Community, I see the same vow to cherish lived out every day by spouses one to another as they face the myriad health challenges that can confront those who live well into their 80s and 90s. From my high school days, I vaguely recall a cartoon or column that regularly featured a definition, usually humorous, of what love is. I dare say, if you are looking for a truly compelling definition of love, get to know some couples who have been married 60 or 70 years. I guarantee that a finer definition of love has never been written.

Never the less, I highly recommend the movie, “A Vow to Cherish.” May you find in it the inspiration to live out your own compelling love story!