The Choice to Love: A True Story

My friendship with Lisa Whittle has grown strong and tender through the years, anchored by our passion for Jesus and seeking first the Kingdom of God. Jesus Over Everything aren’t just words to her. They are the pursuit of her life. Today she shares her poignant experience watching the truth about real love change her perspective, through the service of her mother, even in the hours after her father’s death. It’s an unspeakable grace to welcome Lisa to the farm’s front porch today…

guest post by Lisa Whittle

Love…is as easy as a choice and as disciplined as an ongoing matter of prayer.

I got a front row seat to this truth being played out in my parents’ relationship, my whole life, really, but especially in my father’s latter years.

Mom always took care of Dad.

Though he was physically stronger with a bolder personality, on the inside he was intensely more fragile.

Mom’s calming spirit became necessary for life’s many twists and turns, dark valleys, missteps, and a large IRS court case and subsequent judgment against Dad that threatened to derail our family as its news was splashed all across town.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of Mom picking up after Dad, plating his dinner, finding his lost wallet as he raced out the door.

Never did she complain. Always did she take care of him.

My mother, a tiny woman, never lacked in determination. As much as she took care of my Dad, she took care of everything else too—which no one knew would prove to be a necessary skill in the years to come, with Dad’s failing health, when she would take on all the household responsibilities.

Dad ran the show, but Mom managed it. Mom did it all, for the most part.

I never doubted that she was smart or capable. But because I was a different kind of female—strong-willed, determined, non-traditional in many ways, and too modern to wait hand and foot on any man—I wondered at times if she was truly strong.

So we talked about it one day, in a rather heated discussion.

I asked her why she not only served my Dad like she did but also stayed married to him when he had put her through so much all those years, not understanding in my youth how her decisions could be anything but weak and subservient.

“I made a choice,” she said.

It was then, if for the first time, it dawned on me the why and how behind everything throughout my life, between my parents and who Mom really was at the core.

She wasn’t weak because she did those things I didn’t always understand.

She was strong because she made a choice—to love God and to love and serve my father as a result. The decision I saw lived out in front of me flowed from a bigger decision that was made first.

I knew something else about my Mom as well, watching her all those years. Her loving my Dad didn’t end with a choice.

Choice is where it started, but prayer was the continual next step to be able to pull it off, especially when things were the hardest.

It wasn’t about having brute, willed strength. It was about having deep, inner strength that makes a choice to love and then supports it with an ongoing prayer life.

There is no other way to live out that kind of love.

Let me just tell you what kind of love it turned out to be.

The last year of Dad’s life, after multiple misdiagnosis and finally being correctly diagnosed with PSP (progressive supranuclear palsy)—a rare brain disorder—when he could no longer walk, Mom would summon her stubborn will and God-given strength and implement unorthodox ways to maneuver my much bigger dad into a wheelchair and take him wherever he wanted and needed to go.

It was never easy, but Mom loved Dad, so she did it with joy.

She was his nurse, in every sense that last year of life, doing all the nursing things—things a couple never really intend to do when in their youth they become lifelong partners. Never was her strength more evident.

And then, finally, it was Dad’s last day here.

My husband, Scotty, and I had gone to my parents’ home that beautiful Sunday morning of his passing.

We gathered with Mom for prayer, and we all said good-bye, watched him leave earth, and then waited for the funeral home to take him away.

The hospice nurse (my beautiful sister-in-law, Lynda) was standing nearby when I heard my mother ask, “May I change his socks?”

An audible hush fell in what was otherwise a room buzzing with activity. The moment, undoubtedly holy.

Mom added, before Lynda could say a word, “I’ve been changing his socks for almost a year now, and I’d like to do it one more time.”

Reminiscent of so many times before…never did she complain. Always did she take care of him.

We watched while my mother changed my father’s socks for the very last time, witnessing her last choice to love someone she’d chosen to love over and over again.

I’ve seen love be strong.

I’ve seen it be stronger than anything else, even death.

We don’t always make it easy for people to love us, yet we aren’t exempt from it when someone makes it hard on us.

Jesus modeled the choice to love without the loved party being deserving, a concept most disagreeable with our flesh.

How do we possibly do this, you ask?

First, I will tell you that real love is stronger than you think.

My mom showed me that.

Then I will tell you that it is a choice carried out by prayer, over and over again, for God to help us.

Love is stronger than fear, betrayal, anger, resentment, doubt, disappointment, and judgment because we chose God and God is love—the ultimate love.

It’s ours if we want it, choose it, and pray to live it, every day.

When someone is unlovable and we love that person anyway, we are shadowing God.

This is what being a Jesus follower means.

We may think loving someone is about them. But, ultimately, it’s about Him.

 

Jesus is everything: it is the heart, passion, and leadership approach of author and speaker Lisa Whittle. Lisa is the author of seven books, and her wit and bold bottom-line approach has made her a sought-after Bible teacher. She is also the creator of a companion video Bible study for Jesus Over Everything. A pastor’s daughter and longtime ministry leader in issues relevant to the church, Lisa is the founder of Ministry Strong, co-founder of Called Creatives Community, and the popular Jesus Over Everything podcast. Her love runs deep to see people pursue Jesus for life, grow deep roots of faith, and walk strong in the midst of a world that so often seems to have gone crazy. Lisa will also be hosting a Jesus Over Everything Online Bible study beginning April 6.

Life doesn’t have to be so complicated. We all want to live simpler lives and to put Jesus first – and we struggle with both. While we are busy strategizing new ways to streamline our calendars and clean out our closets of the clutter, what really needs attention is what will give us long-term clarity and peace — the priority order of Jesus over everything in our lives. In a culture that carries the confusion of overindulgence, endless options and influencer voices, the Jesus-first life clears our minds and hearts of noise so our souls can find true meaning and rest.

In Jesus Over Everything, Lisa shares eight statements of choice to help us grow in our understanding of what it looks like to put Jesus first, whether our days hold power lunches, church meetings, Sippy cups, or all of the above. Discover the joy of choosing commitment over mood, real over pretty, steady over hype, holiness over freedom, service over spotlight, and more. 

Jesus Over Everything is a practical, compelling call to give God His rightful place in our everyday lives—so we can watch our everyday lives finally fall into place.

[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership in today’s devotion ]