What She Gave Up

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others better than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3

A week or so before our wedding, Melissa moved 700 miles south, giving up her cool Chicago apartment and a fun group of close friends.

The day we wed at a small Moravian church in rural North Carolina, Melissa willingly gave up her maiden name.  Sure, it’s part of leaving and fully cleaving, but still, she gave it up to go all-in on a new and uncertain chapter of her life with me.

One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.

Amy Carmichael

Four years after going through all the excitement and callisthenics of building our first house, Melissa encouraged me to do what had been simmering on my heart — pursuing graduate work at a conservative evangelical seminary.  With us down to one income, it was so out-of-state that our next house was 35% more expensive, 25% smaller, and 100 years older, with baby #2 on the way.  In leaving behind our first special house together, saying goodbye to neighbours who had become dear friends, and after enjoying a certain amount of life stability, Melissa gave all of that up to follow me on my next adventure, trusting God had a plan for us.

To grow in love we must go on loving and loving and giving and giving until it hurts — the way Jesus did. You must give what will cost you something.

Mother Theresa, from “Meditations from a Simple Path

Three years later, Melissa went into labour with baby #3 at 23 weeks, four days, which we were told is just short of the edge of survivability.  Some of you know that part of our story. I shared glimpses in two of my posts, Growing in Gratitude and Follow the Leader.  Elisabeth was born weighing just 1 pound, 5 1/2 ounces, yet overcame one-by-one, all of the obstacles expected of a baby of her developmental stage.  A month or so later, after contracting a post-surgical infection, Elisabeth passed into the arms of our Lord, not having enough strength left to fight her last battle.  On that day, and on the day of Elisabeth’s memorial service, Melissa gave up a piece of her self.

Love gives. Giving is to love what eating is to hunger. God so loved the world that he gave.”

John Ortberg, from “Love Beyond Reason”

In the years since, Melissa has given up job promotions that would have involved time away from family.  She has given up countless restful sleeps so that her “mother’s ears” could be attentive to her children’s restless nights.  Anyone who knows both of us knows that Melissa has surely given up a lot of stability and calmness to be married to me.

Many have given up more, but Melissa has given much.

I love how God uses the biblical languages to demonstrate His concepts, and to underline what’s important to Him.  One of the many Hebrew words for love, transliterated “ahavah”, has the verb to give, or “hav” imbedded in it.  Giving is central to legitimate loving.  Genuine love isn’t something that you fall into or out of, and it’s not a feeling — it’s a condition that you create when you give.

Sometimes, like my good wife, it’s demonstrated even by what one gives up.

This year, Mother’s Day and Melissa’s birthday fell on adjacent days.  I’m hoping this article honours the selfless woman of character who wasn’t sure what she was getting into with me, but still stepped forward in faith.  To this day, she continues to give and give, and sometimes to give up, in order to honour me, our family and her Saviour.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”

Proverbs 31:28

Blessings on your home,

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