Richard Exley Ministries

The High Cost of Commitment

In March 1990, Dr. Robertson McQuilkin announced his resignation as president of Columbia Bible College in order to care for his beloved wife, Muriel, who was suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease. In his resignation letter he wrote:

"My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about eight years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at CBC. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. (click here to continue reading)

It is not just 'discontent.' She is filled with fear -- even terror -- that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.

"Perhaps it would help you to understand if I shared with you what I shared at the time of the announcement of my resignation in chapel. The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel 'in sickness and in health...till death do us part.' So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel. She is a delight to me -- her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person."

As a man and a husband, I am deeply moved when I read that. Intuitively I realize that's the stuff real marriages are made of – commitment and integrity, for better or for worse. Yet it would be a mistake for us to assume that Dr. McQuilkin's decision was an isolated choice, independent of the hundreds of lesser choices that went into their forty-two years of marriage. In truth, a decision of that magnitude is almost always the culmination of a lifelong series of smaller, daily decisions. And, as such, it challenges every one of us to examine the choices we make each day and the way we relate to our spouse.

This article has been excerpted from 
“Forever in Love” by Richard Exley