Grace, we hear the word in church, at mealtime and when something unexpected and undeserved happens. I have defined it for years as “unmerited favor”. I have known for quite sometime that it is what God extended to us, “while we were yet, sinners”
New International Version (NIV)
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
But what does this look like on a daily basis and do we truly extend this to those around us, as we are called to do?
I do not have to look very far, in my life to remember the most poignant example of grace I have ever experienced, in human flesh. It is the story of my boyfriend John and I.
Our story begins in the most unlikely way and like this: In 2007 I had a very regular boyfriend (who became husband #2 John Smith). We had been dating off & on since the fall of 2003. I say off & on because this was a tumultuous relationship and we had significant “off times” when John Smith would become angry or upset about something and he would call off our relationship. It was during one of these times, I met a guy named John Bibby online and we starting “hanging out”. He was handsome, fun, very smart etc. but my heart was still wrapped up with John Smith. John Bibby was a good distraction for me and was “never going to be a serious relationship”. After all, he was nearly 10 years younger than me and I was seriously bound to John Smith.
Over the course of the next 18 months, when I was tossed aside, I would call John Bibby and we had some really good times, great conversations etc. John Bibby also really bonded with my son Tucker. They used to hang out and do things together, even without me. John and Tucker really enjoyed hanging out and Tucker really needed a positive male role model. John Bibby was always respectful, thoughtful, helpful, kind, resourceful etc. On an intellectual level, I knew he was everything I was supposed to want in a partner. We really got along well……we never fussed with one another. Never!! But regardless of all this great stuff…..I was stuck on John Smith. As soon as the phone call came from him, I would toss John Bibby aside and run back into my unhealthy relationship with John Smith.
In late 2008, John Smith and I were off again. John Bibby and I were spending time together again. Now, John Bibby has never been married or had any kids of his own, and one day I discussed the fact with John Bibby that I probably would like to get married again someday. Some time in the beginning of February we had this discussion and I asked John Bibby if he thought he would ever consider being married. Then I asked the question that lives in infamy. Did he ever think he could consider me for a marriage partner? His answer showed a lot of wisdom. He said that if I could stay in a relationship with him for more that 6-12 months and I would stop running away, yes he would consider it.
Now get this folks………within a week of that conversation, John Smith asked me to marry him and I agreed. I tossed John Bibby aside one final time, without much explanation except this: I knew there was something wrong with me. I told John Bibby through tears, one final time that I was back with John Smith and I would not be contacting him again. I could hear the complete and utter confusion and devastation I was causing him. As I hung up the phone, I was aware that I had just pushed away the one man who had been absolutely wonderful to me for the final time.
John Bibby emailed me about 2 weeks later and begged me to continue his relationship with Tucker. I was now married and I sent back a 2 word reply, in all caps…….it said NO CONTACT!! That was the last time I heard from John Bibby.
Fast forward to the beginning of November 2009: I am about 12 weeks into my cancer journey. John Smith has bailed on the marriage and I am living in Melbourne, in a hotel room with my 17-year-old son Tucker. I am trying to figure out where we are going to live, where I am going to get treatment etc. I am in the midst of trying to get this huge puzzle put together of our life. I was really concerned about Tucker, he was a senior at Viera High School and I could tell, he was really concerned about our life. I just needed some space too……mentally just so I could cry, scream, think and pray. I was not finding that space with Tucker there. I was trying to put a good face on things and keep him from worrying. That was not working out so well. Then one day in my prayers about Tucker and our situation, I thought about John Bibby. I knew he probably hated me (and rightfully so) but I knew he still loved Tucker. I thought about calling him for probably about a week before I got the guts to actually reach out and do it. My first attempt was actually an IM on Yahoo but he ignored it, thinking it was a bot and not really me. I thought he was ignoring it because he hated me but I tried again. This time he acknowledged the IM and said if it was really me, call him. I no longer had his number so I asked him to send me his number. He did so reluctantly, still thinking it was not really me. Once I had his number, I stared at it for 3 days before I got up the guts to call it.
Our first conversation was very tentative and went something like this: I said hello John, I appreciate you taking my call. I really would not blame you if you hung up on me right now but I have a problem……… I told him about my recent cancer diagnosis, my subsequent separation and my current situation. I explained to him that I was calling him to see if he would be willing to come and help me with Tucker. I told him that he did not need to even see me, I would put Tucker out on the curb to be picked up etc. Would he be willing to help me with Tucker? And I took a big gulp and waited for his response ( I was sooooo scared at this point). He said NO!!! I was just about to thank him for taking my call, hang up and ball my eyes out when he stopped me. He said, what I mean is……..I will not just hang out with Tucker, it is a package deal. I want to hang out with you too. What? Really? I then told him……”look I am shot out, I am NOT in the mood or inclined towards romance or anything like that”. Do you understand that? I then said, well, here is where I am going to be hanging out…….I am going to be getting chemo, my hair is going to be falling out. I am hanging out at the exciting Cancer Center. You understand that don’t you? I am going to be sick and sleepy and not much fun for the next year. Are you getting this? This is where you want to be? After I was so horrible to you?
He answered yes……this is where I want to be. I have been a dead man walking for the past year and I can not believe I am getting this opportunity to help you now. I guess given what I had been through with my husband, I did not dare to believe that it was true. I protected myself and my heart for quite some time. I kept waiting for John Bibby to run away like his hair was on fire, at some point. I thought well…..wait until my hair falls out, then he will leave. ………. Wait until I am very weak, helpless and no fun at all, then he will go away. It was not until nearly March of 2010 when I had thrush so bad and I gave it to John for his 40th birthday (he was sooooo sick)…I thought surely he would run away then, but he never did. He never left Tucker’s or my side for over 6 months. He cooked, he cleaned, he helped Tucker get the best grades of his academic life, he taught Tucker how to drive. He brought me food and drink when I was weak and slept for days on end. He took me to all of my appointments (and there were hundreds). He sacrificed himself financially to be there for me through it all. What do you do with a man like this? I tell you what you do………you love him back. I finally have allowed myself to have the partner I have always dreamed of.
This portrait I have just painted is the closest thing I have ever experienced God’s grace, in human form. John Bibby would have been well within his rights to tell me to “go fly a kite” when he heard from me in November 2009. No one would have condemned him if he did so…….myself included. But he was compelled by his decency and love for me to extend himself beyond what was common. This was an uncommon act of GRACE!!
I thank God for John Bibby daily. We still don’t fuss with one another. I have NO DOUBT of his love and devotion to me. And at this point, I have had the opportunity to give back to him uncommon support when he has needed it. He does not doubt my love for him either. We have weathered one of life’s most harrowing storms together, it has made our bond incredibly strong. He is my greatest supporter, in whatever I choose to do and I am his. This is the way it supposed to be. It is because of this large measure of grace I have received, that I am able to extend myself in uncommon ways.
Thank you God for your grace & mercy, it is new everyday!! Thank you for the gift of a great friend and partner……..John Bibby!!
Here is a Poem John Inspired me to write: It says it all.
A Caregivers LOVE………by Dawn Faust
LOVE sits beside me in a chemo chair
He says I am beautiful without any hair
He smiles reassuringly when I am afraid
He gives to me peace tho nothing is said.
LOVE brings me a drink
And gently kisses my cheek
He says that he loves me
And yet does not speak.
LOVE watches everyone
That works over me
My vigilant sentry
To the highest degree
LOVE brings me home
He tucks me in bed
He checks on me frequently
He kisses my head.
LOVE wakes me for food
To help keep me strong
He fusses and fetches
At times all night long.
LOVE is not angry
He is patient and kind
He is always helpful
And does not mind
LOVE continually gives
It is not a burden
It is natural, not hard
LOVE does not keep track
Of all that he’s done
All that matters to him
Is the battle be WON.
God Bless the caregivers………………LOVE = John Bibby.