A couple in their 70s sat directly in front of me in church, his arm protectively circling her petite shoulders as they shared intimate looks and warm smiles.
So sweet. So obviously smitten. I later learned their names are Bill and Sandi. They’ve been married for decades.
But something seemed…well, different, about them. What was it?
It was only then that I noticed the wheelchair. And the contracted fingers of Sandi’s right hand resting in her lap. And her leg brace. My years as an occupational therapist clued me in that Sandi had experienced a stroke (CVA) with residual hemiparesis of her right side.
Noooo. My heart lurched for her. I knew all too well the indescribable struggles inherent in life after a stroke. And a stroke like Sandi’s that affects the brain’s left hemisphere likely results in sensory deficits and speech problems too.
When the congregation rose for the first song, Sandi tried to stand but gracefully fell back into the wheelchair. Bill casually assisted her to her feet, making no big deal about it. Sandi smiled lovingly at him and swayed slightly before extending her left hand to share the songbook as they lifted their voices together, his stabilizing arm discreetly at her waist.
Suddenly, Sandi’s cardigan, which was elegantly draped over her shoulders in cape fashion, slid off her shoulder. Bill deftly reached out in a smooth move and reconciled the prodigal sweater with Sandi’s shoulder using subtle skill evidently honed by practice.
Throughout the remainder of the service, I watched Bill gently retrieve and replace that errant sweater on Sandi’s shoulder six times. Something about that simple act of willingly and unobtrusively responding to her unspoken need, even for something as small as this—no, especially for something as small as this—totally spoke to me.
It said love. Real love. Forever love. He was watching out for her. He literally and figuratively had her back.
In this age of a horrendous 50 percent divorce rate that has already affected or at some point in time will rip the soul of far too many people, this sweater kind of love must be celebrated. Applauded. Admired.
It’s the same kind of love Christ has for us, his bride (the church), that’s so well expressed in Ephesians 3:19 (NLT): “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
And you’ll know without a doubt that you’re sweater-loved.