There’s a story about my wife I share with people and today, I thought I would share it here because it has been on my mind lately in my sermon preparation time. If you’ve heard it before, bear with me.
My wife and I were married on a blazing hot Friday afternoon in Las Vegas, Nevada. I will spare you the story of how we made it to the altar of the Island Chapel which sat beside the shimmering pool at the Tropicana Hotel. I’ll just say it was a long, rough morning and save the rest for my memoir. Nevertheless, we made it. We got married! We celebrated with a buffet lunch, in typical Las Vegas style, with the few family and friends in attendance. Then, we were off to a very well-air-conditioned hotel room.
We planned to meet up with some friends that were staying in town that evening for dinner and some sightseeing on the famed Las Vegas Strip after the sun went down. We had a fantastic dinner and made our way down The Strip. (This was in the days when you could just walk up and down the street without having to ascend a flight of stairs and cross a bridge at every intersection.) We excitedly made our way to the fairly new Treasure Island Hotel & Casino to get a look at the nightly pirate show in front of the hotel everyone had been raving about.
As we got closer to the hotel, it was clear this was a popular event and the crowd in front of the hotel was thick. My buddy and I led the way through the crowd in search of a good viewing spot. The ladies followed us from behind. I was head and shoulders taller than most of the crowd, so they couldn’t lose me. I was playfully mimicking a fullback clearing a path for my All-Star new bride. Somewhere in the middle of all those people, I noticed a little boy getting bumped around, looking very lost. I swiftly sidestepped the kid, not wanting to knock him over, and kept moving. But, as I did, the thought went through my mind, “Darcy’s going to stop that kid and help him.”
I took five more steps before I heard her cry out over the noise of the crowd, “Brian!!” I turned to see my sweet wife stooped down talking to this little boy (probably 6-8 years old) who was in some emotional distress now. I made my way back to them to find that she, upon questioning the kid, had come to the same conclusion I had. He was separated from his family, and in the flurry of people in front of the hotel, it was going to be very difficult for each party to find the other. The solution: put him on my shoulders, elevating him above the crowd so his parents would be able to see him or vice versa. I lifted the kid up and let him sit on my shoulders just as the pirate show began.
As the swordplay escalated, swashbuckling pirates swung from mast to bow of the enormous pirate ship. Cannons were fired. Water splashed. Flames shot in the air, and that little boy completely forgot he was lost. He was so excited, smacking me on the head and jumping up and down. For a moment, I thought I was getting attacked by a pirate. I kept trying to remind him that he was supposed to be looking around for his parents. But if they weren’t wearing bandanas and eyepatches while screaming, “Avast ye, Matey,” he wasn’t going to find them. Alas, the show came to a climactic end, and the crowd began to disperse. Neither of the separated parties found each other. I spun in circles, putting the kid on display hoping there would be some connection. There was none.
We were approached by a man in a security guard uniform that had a couple of other lost kids with him. He asked if the boy was lost. We answered. He said he would take him and the others inside and help them get reunited with their parents. We said our goodbyes and turned him over to the security guard. Much later, the thought did cross our minds that we handed the kid over to a stranger just because he was wearing a badge. He could have easily been rounding up lost kids for slave labor or worse. We prayed from then on for a while that wasn’t the case and hoped God did reunite him with his family. Anyhow, that’s not the point of me telling the story.
The point of telling the story is this: God was showing me in a very practical, “rubber meets the road” type way, what kind of woman I married. Of course, I already had a pretty good idea who she was, but to see it demonstrated in a situation like that, where I would have so easily moved along without giving that kid a second thought, really grabbed my attention. Here was my wife setting aside any thought of self while she emulated the love, compassion, kindness, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in such a natural way. She glowed in that moment. “This is my wife! She’s going to be the mother of my children! We’re going to be all right,” I thought.
God would call me to do the same, to live a life of righteousness on display that followed the example of Jesus. “This is not natural for me,” I would argue. God said he would give me the Holy Spirit to guide me, the Bible to instruct me, and this beautiful partner to demonstrate his love for me. In looking back at that moment on the Las Vegas Strip, I realized I had a strong hope to be like her someday. I wanted to have that kind of care and concern for others. I wanted to be ready to sacrifice for someone else’s benefit. I wasn’t there yet, but I had a feeling she would rub off on me.
So, why am I thinking about this story this week? Maybe just to brag on my wife who has loved me extravagantly for 28 years. Maybe to praise God for his amazing grace in giving me this woman to serve alongside in all that he has called us to do. More than anything, I share this story because I have been preaching about the importance of the call for Christians to live a righteous life as evidence of an authentic walk with God. We are to imitate Jesus’ example in the world. I am reminded that how you run this race of life is partly dependent upon who you run it with. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:33-34, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.”
In pursuing a righteous life, it is important to surround yourself with people who are in the same pursuit, on the same mission. I often here of people who are running around with idiots and wondering why they fell into some dumb circumstance. If you are running around with toxic people, unrighteous people, it is more likely you will develop toxic traits and have unrighteous behavior in your life. “If you lay down with dogs, you will get up with fleas,” is how my father would put it. Find the people you see demonstrating the righteous characteristics you want to have as the defining marks of your life and invest in those relationships. Imitate the ones who are living and loving like Jesus. Soon, you will be doing it, intentionally, maybe even unconsciously, as the Holy Spirit prompts and guides you.
I believe the 28 years I have had Darcy by my side have made me a better person. I still say she is my “better half,” and I will never be wrong about that. All glory to God, but he has used her to teach me how to love well, how to think of others before myself, how to be kind and caring, and sometimes, after 28 years, I even do it with a smile, like her.