God often lays the sum of His amazing providences in very dismal afflictions; as the limner first puts on the dusky colors, on which he intends to draw the portraiture of some illustrious beauty.
As far as I could tell, James was in perfect health for a man of his age. He also walked the hallways of the nursing home day after day. However, he did not walk them in circles but rather made a beeline from the main entrance each morning to the room where his precious wife lay bedridden. Her once tall frame was permanently fused into a fetal position.
I was too young to understand all the dynamics present there. I didn’t know what caused her to live in a vegetative state or how long she had been that way. It was so sad. I felt reticent about even inquiring.
Only occasionally did she open her eyes. I never heard her speak a word. James spent his days there with her, speaking for her, watching over her and her care with a love I had never witnessed before. A love that made his eyes sparkle and made you want to know him. He was always joyful!
I fondly remember James and his great love for his wife of who knows how many years. And I can still see the portrait that was hung over the head of the metal bed where her frail frame rested.
If I were to guess the size of the portrait, I'd say it was 16x20. It was a black and white photograph, exquisitely hand-colored and framed beautifully in an elegant, Renaissance-style wooden frame. It was a portrait of his beloved wife when she was in her twenties. She was absolutely gorgeous – as stunning as any of the stars gracing the stage or the silver screen in her generation.
I’m pretty certain that she must have been as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. I don’t think external beauty alone could have captivated the heart of her husband for an entire lifetime. His love for her was deep and enduring, a lavish love.
As I look back over the years of life and my search for the meaning of it all, I see now that God used these things to draw me to Himself, inviting me into a life-saving relationship with Jesus Christ. My life of sin, brokenness, and despair found me in a fetal position at the foot of the cross crying out for mercy, forgiveness and help. He so graciously met me there. Experiencing His love and forgiveness for the first time left me speechless. I’m pretty sure there was a sparkle in my eyes that had never been there before either.
I will be forever grateful that the God who sees all and loved me in spite of my wickedness made a way for me to escape the punishment for my sins. I now rest under the precious, shed blood of Jesus Christ that covers those sins. He will remember them no more.
I am now covered by His righteousness: a portrait of illustrious beauty that hangs over my life and makes beauty from the ashes of it. It inspires me daily to stay the course. I will keep fighting the good fight of faith, pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
I John 3:1a