Today’s post will make the subject uncomfortable. He might even be a little angry at me. Men and women who serve God with humility squirm when they receive praise. But I don’t care. I have to tell you his story. One of the problems with our cultural Christianity is that we too often confuse giftedness and godliness. Someone may be gifted at speaking or writing or singing and we elevate that person in our spiritual estimation. God uses gifted people to be sure. But I am learning that God can use a regular person who is truly reflecting Jesus in ways that are supernatural.
That brings me to my friend Bob. Yesterday I wrote about his beloved wife Susan finally being at rest with Jesus after a tortured battle with cancer. Susan was blessed with one of the most amazing husbands I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Bob Flickner has had a more profound impact on my walk with the Lord and on my marriage in the past three years than any person I know. And I cannot remember a single word that he has said to me about either topic. He simply showed me and others what it looks like to follow Jesus no matter what the circumstance. I like to talk and write about faith. I have been accused of being verbose in both areas. But it is easy to talk and write. What Bob has done is tough. He has lived his faith every day during an incredibly difficult trial.
Bob has been at Susan’s side throughout her entire battle with cancer. Susan developed a rare and devastating neurological disorder as a result of her cancer and Bob became her full-time caretaker for over two years. I know he got discouraged but I never heard Bob complain. He never griped about the tough hand that he and Susan had been dealt. Together they trusted God in every moment. Bob cared for Susan with a dedication and love that embarrasses me. Bob went for months sleeping only minutes at a time and yet he served and loved his wife without a whimper. I have to admit I have a hard time listening to people whining over insignificant little hassles and slights when I see what people like Bob and Susan endure with grace and dignity.
Bob had pledged to love Susan through better or worse and, unlike so many of us, he stuck to the pledge. Does the average man really understand what he is saying on the wedding day? That is a vow we make to our mates. It is not something that we hope to do or will try to do. It is a vow. Bob may not have realized the full implication when he said words like these over thirty years ago.
I, Bob, take you Susan, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
But whether he comprehended the magnitude of those words or not, Bob kept his vow. And he did it in a way that was so powerful that it has changed me. When Joni was diagnosed with cancer I had already seen what it looked like to love your wife in sickness. Bob had demonstrated what it meant to cherish your bride when things took a turn for the worse. Because of his example I was a better helpmate to Joni as she began her cancer journey. Every time that I even began to take a turn down the “Pity Path” I thought of Bob and Susan. I reflected on how much more Bob had endured as he loved Susan. And I refused to go down that path of self-pity.
I grew up in a church where the men loved to quote Ephesians to the women folk.
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. Ephesians 4 NLT
But the men conveniently glossed over the verses that followed.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
I had always wondered exactly what Paul meant in Ephesians when he wrote that husbands are to love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I thought it was a lovely little metaphor and a nice goal to shoot for but I did not believe it to be possible. Bob Flickner messed up the curve for me. I left Bob and Susan’s house after one memorable visit with that Scripture passage reverberating through my thick noggin. I had just seen the working model of how a husband can love his wife like Christ loved the church. Bob had more impact with his simple acts of love than 10,000 words of a beautifully crafted sermon could ever have in my life.
And maybe that will be the biggest lesson I have learned from Bob as I attempt to finish strong as a husband, father, and friend. We live in a world full of noise and words and self promotion. Actions validate words. Bob Flickner’s actions, the way he loved and cared for his bride over many trying months, demonstrated that he truly depended on God. I cannot begin to describe his spirit, dignity, and grace through adversity that would have caused many of us to crumble like a house of cards.
We often criticize “bad Christians” by saying things like “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear a word you are saying”. With Bob Flickner I would say that “His actions spoke so loudly that I couldn’t ignore what he was saying.” And that is the lesson for all of us. If we truly trust God and follow Him we will make a difference. You don’t need to be gifted and glib. You just need to be godly. And others will see Jesus through you. I am grateful for my friend Bob and for his wonderful family.
The Flickner family doesn’t have to tell me about Jesus and how that makes a difference in a trial. They have a far more powerful approach. They have shown me.