They would have been married for exactly 30 years this week. But that's not the way it turned out. She died about six months ago after a four-year battle with cancer.
During that struggle, he did everything he could for her. He sought out experimental treatments, smarter doctors, more advanced technology and any other option he could think of to take care of his wife and chase this horrid disease away from her for good. But it didn't work. After every operation, after every round of chemotherapy or radiation, the cancer always came back. He couldn't keep it away from her.
With all her heart, the girl wanted to be a cheerleader. In the months preceeding her big move to junior high, she would practice at every opportunity. Mom would help her practice, encourage her, and videotape her so she could learn from her mistakes. She had provided her daughter with dance lessons and gymnastics to help give her the necessary skills to become a cheerleader. But after tryouts were over and the cheerleading squad was chosen, her name wasn't on the list. The girl's heart was broken, and there was nothing her mother could do to lessen the pain. She had given all she could to help her daughter's dream come true, and it wasn't enough. Now, in the fallout of not achieving her dream, Mom still couldn't protect her daughter from the pain.
Like the two true-life examples above, I am also a lousy protector. No matter how I try, I cannot erase pain, nor can I prevent it. And because of that, I often wonder what in the world I'm doing.
My wife is hurting right now. She was deserted by a person she thought was a close friend. Personally, I had been leary of this friendship, but I wasn't going to stand in the way. I thought it would turn out badly, and I warned my wife of what I thought would happen.
I was wrong and right all at once. It didn't happen the way I thought it would, but it doesn't matter now. The friendship is gone. My wife is hurt. I can do nothing about it.
It's the middle of the night as I type this. I can't sleep, knowing that my beloved is in emotional pain and I'm helpless to make her feel any better at all. There have been many times that I have caused her pain personally. Somehow those times are easier for me to take. I can easily blame myself and try to make things right. But this is different. I can't rightfully say that I haven't added to my wife's pain this time out either. In trying to help and in trying to understand, I probably just make things worse. I am a lousy protector.
But it occurred to me that the old stereotype of the husband and father being the protector of the family is somewhat off-base. I know that the man trying to keep cancer from his ailing wife and the mother trying to head off her daughter's bitter disappointment are never going to succeed if the cancer is too far along and the daughter just isn't good enough to be a cheerleader. And I've realized that I cannot keep my wife from hurt when she is depending on a friend who isn't dependable.
While I try to do my best to protect my wife and my kids from every possible disappointment and danger, bad things continue to happen. Ah, but it seems that my job isn't necessarily to keep my family safe from all harm. After all, the sinful world is going to bite us all. Instead my job is a bit different.
In all of my studies in Scripture, theology, and the like, I've noticed that the best people still aren't completely protected from harm or from wrong. Noah was laughed at, David was mocked by his own wife, and Paul was beaten more often than a second-place racehorse. Even Jesus was not shielded from harm.
It's the same with us. I noted that Amy (of humble musing fame) posted a nice refutation of Word of Faith theology the other day. I've done my own railings against this false teaching as well. You see, God doesn't keep us from all harm any more than He kept His own Son away from all harm. So is God a lousy protector too?
Perhaps. But only because that's not His emphasis. While He can prevent hardship and pain, He seems to prefer helping us through it. He didn't keep David from the Valley of the Shadow of Death, He walked beside Him so that David would fear no evil. He did not make Paul an instant hit with the Pharisees, He strengthened him in the struggle.
So it's probably not my main function to keep my wife away from all pain. That's good because I'm failing miserably there. But I have an important calling -- to help her through that pain and disappointment, just as the husband was there to comfort his afflicted wife and the mother was there to dry her daughter's tears. That's a tough calling because it doesn't seem like I'm making any progress. It seems like my words of understanding just fall to the ground like cement blocks crushing her toes. But I keep trying, following the example of my heavenly Father.
I am certainly a lousy protector, but I want to be a better comforter.