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A school of character

Murphy-Ian and LarissaSeveral years ago I traveled to Pennsylvania in an effort to tell Ian and Larissa Murphy’s story for Christianity Today. The story proved too complicated for me, and I finally wrote to the Murphys to ask their forgiveness.

The Murphys managed to spread their story in other outlets, including Focus on the Family’s weekday radio broadcast. Anyone who has heard about their lives will not forget the details easily: Ian, on his way to paint the interior of a home early one morning, lost control of his vehicle. He suffered major brain injuries and drew close to death’s door. Larissa, his fiancée, remained in Ian’s life. They have since married, and Ian has surpassed doctors’ early predictions about his ability to walk or communicate again.

Eight Twenty Eight
When Love Didn’t Give Up
Ian and Larissa Murphy
B&H Publishing Group. Pp. 222. $15.99

Now Larissa Murphy tells the couple’s story firsthand, with occasional additions by her husband. Only a few years after Ian’s calamity the family lost its patriarch, Steve, to brain cancer. One of the more heart-rending details of Eight Twenty Eight is that Larissa sometimes had to remind Ian that his father had died.

But heart-rending details are not the main point of this book. Grace is — both God’s grace for the Murphys and Ian and Larissa’s grace for each other.

Eight Twenty Eight also captures Ian Murphy’s wry sense of humor. Larissa writes of someone asking Ian how he feels about becoming an uncle. “Avuncular,” he said.

He said it a few more times before we correctly interpreted.

Avuncular?

We grabbed a dictionary because we thought we knew what it meant, but his vocabulary was obviously better than ours.

“Of or like an uncle,” Ian’s mother read aloud.

And, in a meta moment, Larissa describes his response to the pressures of her writing the book:

“Ian, I think I need to sell my soul to writing this week.”

“Just make sure you get a good price, preferably $49.99.”

It’s impossible to know how much functionality Ian Murphy may recover in the years ahead. Several years of weblog entries by Larissa and other members of the Murphy family suggest that his healing will not be sudden or dramatic, apart from God’s intervention.

I like to think the abiding miracle in their lives is that they reached their wedding day and have found a life for themselves, one rich with purpose.

Think of Eight Twenty Eight as a short book’s introduction to lifelong friends. You can follow their harrowing journey at ianandlarissa.com. Martin Luther called marriage a school of character. You will find yourself cheering for this young man and woman as they pursue post-graduate studies in that sacrament.

2014 Update: The Story of Ian and Larissa from Citygate Films on Vimeo.

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