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FIRST-PERSON: A living illustration of biblical love

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–These days when negative news seems to dominate the headlines, I am always on the lookout for inspirational stories that accentuate the positive. I discovered one recently that deserves to be not only read but also contemplated.

On July 22, Rachelle Friedman wed Chris Chapman in Pittsboro, N.C. Of the perhaps thousands of weddings that will take place in America over the next few days, what makes this couple’s nuptials newsworthy is that the bride’s father pushed her down the aisle in a wheelchair.

Friedman and Chapman were scheduled to marry about a year ago. However, just a few weeks prior to the wedding Friedman was injured in a freak accident, which resulted in her being paralyzed from the neck down.

It seems Friedman and some of her girlfriends were celebrating her approaching wedding with a backyard swimming pool party when a friend playfully pushed her into pool. Friedman’s head hit the bottom of the shallow end, and she was instantly paralyzed.

The wedding plans were placed on hold as Friedman’s recuperation took precedence. She regained limited use of her arms and hands. However, the idea of canceling the wedding was never entertained by Friedman or Chapman.

Chapman, a middle school science teacher, never considered deserting his injured fiancé. “It was not, ‘What am I going to do?'” Chapman said in an Associated Press report. “It was, ‘What are we going to do?'”

In a day when marriage is a political football for some, entered into casually by others and abandoned easily by far too many, Friedman’s and Chapman’s story is inspiring. It is a living illustration of love as described in the Bible.

Love in popular culture is depicted as an overwhelming emotion. It is treated like an unpredictable summer shower, here one moment and gone the next. As such, the practice of love is too often capricious, especially in regard to marriage.

Love as described in the Bible is not an emotion; it is not depicted as casual and fickle. Love is articulated in Scripture as a commitment. “Love,” the Apostle Paul wrote, “never fails.” The wedding ceremony is a couple’s public pronouncement of their commitment — their never-failing love — to one another.

Traditional wedding vows include some form of a verbal commitment whereby the bride and the groom pledge to remain married until death separates them. Most vows state that love will endure in spite of difficult circumstances that include tough economic times and/or poor health.

In a time when marriage vows are treated by many like, in the words of Mary Poppins, “pie crust promises, easily made and easily broken,” it is encouraging and inspiring to see a couple who appear to be taking their commitment seriously.

In a society where love is expected to be flighty and unpredictable, few would have blinked an eye if Chapman had chosen to not marry Friedman. After all, a paralyzed partner is surely not what he expected. Marriages end every day over far less than a debilitating accident.

Chapman is following through on his plan to wed Friedman because he loves her genuinely, purely and unconditionally. As a result, he is committed to her even if she is in a wheelchair.

Marriage is based on the commitment of love, not the emotion or whimsy our culture calls love. It is unconditional and cements two people together as they agree to face life together with all of its uncertainties.

Life offers no guarantees for a couple entering the commitment of marriage. No one knows what the future holds. However, love — real love — will enable a couple to navigate together through the uncertain waters of sickness, tragedy, economic hardship, childrearing … the list goes on and on.

The various reports that I read never mentioned a faith aspect to Friedman’s and Chapman’s story. I don’t know whether or not they are Christians. However, I do know their commitment to one another is a clear illustration of love as described in the Bible. And I find it inspiring.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs