A Landmark Anniversary And Thoughts About Marriage For People With Disabilities

Okay, so for most of you, August 24, 2002 was just an average summer Saturday. You probably can’t remember what you did that day, nor do you really care. I understand. Saturdays come and go usually without much fanfare, and 2002 was, after all, 20 years ago.

But on that Saturday, my life changed dramatically. I entered the church as a single woman, and left it as Mrs. John A. Kespert. Your average summer Saturday turned almost everything in my life upside down and inside out as I started living with a man for the first time since my father died 39 years earlier. These past 20 years have taken me in directions I couldn’t have imagined, sometimes exposing my sin and sometimes showing me the grace of the Lord in the midst of trials. I’ve seen John’s feet of clay, and I’ve seen his Christlike character.

Landmark occasions all but demand some sort of retrospective commentary. But how does a blogger sift through 20 years of memories to come up with a post that will minister to her readers?

I suppose there’s a certain novelty to our story that people find romantic and inspirational. Two Christians, living on opposite coasts, find each other online in a chat room for disabled singles. They’ve struggled with the probability that the severity of their disabilities would more than likely preclude marriage, yet each of them has always prayed for a spouse. They chat daily online and via telephone, with the lady making three annual trips from San Francisco to Boston for visits.

There were, of course, skeptics. Online dating, particularly in its early days, had an ominous reputation — everyone assumed that the person on the other computer was something akin to an axe murderer. He sent a photo of a good looking man in a wheelchair, but how did I really know it was him? Couldn’t he have sent a photo of his brother or his neighbor? And why would I leave family and a church that had loved me for 30 years to move 3000 miles away? By the way, did I know how cold New England winters could get?

Most of all, how could two severely disabled people set up a home? Who would care for our daily needs as well as our moms and sisters did? Certain family members tried to tell us how unrealistic marriage was for us because of our disabilities. They felt concern, which often morphed into fear. As clear as it was that we were so well suited for each other in every other way, the enormity of our disabilities made them worry. Marrying someone you met online was one thing; marrying when you both had such huge disabilities was quite another!

Against all these obstacles and misgivings of others, John and I took our wedding vows on that summer Saturday that, for most of you, was just another day that you’ve long since forgotten. Maybe our marriage is inspirational because of the circumstances surrounding it. Actually, even I look back and wonder how the Lord pulled it off.

But for all the ways that our marriage highlights the power and faithfulness of God, it’s not a great deal different than any good Christian marriage. Sure,we struggle with issues unique to disability, and he has to take on housekeeping tasks that ordinarily belong to a wife. By and large, however, we’re not a whole lot different than other Christian couples. I have trouble submitting to John’s authority and he — well, I’m not going to publicize his few faults. We pay rent, make grocery lists and watch movies on Friday nights. We support our church and have daily devotions. We argue and we make up. Really, we’re not that much different from most of you.

The most remarkable aspect of our marriage is how unremarkable it really is. When you look beyond the circumstances created by disability, you just see a Christian couple wanting to please the Lord as we respond to trials and blessings. Ultimately, our marriage is less about wheelchairs and Personal Care Attendants than it is about honoring the Lord by obeying His plan for wives and husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. ~~Ephesians 5:25-33 (NASB95)

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