This morning I was thinking about my last husband Joe. Joe and I had a rocky relationship (Wow – that is an understatement.) There was a lot of love and a lot of thorns. And then he died. I was remembering that Joe said that he had hoped that he could help me heal, that he could help me be whole. He wanted to save the little girl that was. At the time I knew this was absurd because we can’t change people. Only God can heal you or make you whole. But really, his being in my life led to all the wonderful changes in it. Not directly, but indirectly. If I hadn’t been driven nuts by him I wouldn’t have . . . They were all just steps on the road to today. Everyone we really interact with, we affect in one way or another. I wonder if Joe up in heaven sees it? How many times do we get the very thing we asked and prayed for and don’t recognize it, simply because it came dressed up in a very different package than the one we were asking for?
I have come to realize that God answers all of our prayers ALL OF THE TIME but sometimes He simply says “no.” (“No” is an answer too, just ask any parent.) Sometimes He says “yes, but I’m not doing it the way you planned because my ways are so incredibly better.” (Is 55:8-9) I remember praying for Joe to live, but even as I prayed I knew in my heart he wouldn’t.
When he called and told me he was terminal it was one of those moments were the weeping and pain were so intense that I had no words except “oh God, oh God,” and big, gulping sobs. It was like all the air and life had just been sucked out of my chest and I was without any potential solace. I’ve only known a few times that where I was that devastated. I think the other time was when I was kidnapped and raped and I had truly met evil. Another time was when Joe died. God said “no” to Joe’s continued living here on earth. But God said “yes” to Joe’s healing, because there is no pain or sickness in heaven. Joe is healed. And now when I cry, I’m not crying for Joe, except for Joe in the abstract, the Joe that had such a sad life, the little boy that was. I cry for myself, that in this life I will never see or hold him again.
As Christians our home is not on earth, it is in heaven. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Phil 3:19-20) Our bodies will be like His body. No pain, no suffering, no wrinkles or large derrière (okay, I threw those last two in for personal angst!)
Then I thought about how I eventually came to accept Joe’s death and how I’d then begun to pray for assurance of Joe’s salvation. I felt like I had to know. I needed to know that I would see him again in heaven. I wept and prayed and God gave me my answer. When Joe and I had first gotten married and I was decorating I bought a picture of Jesus welcoming a man into heaven. When I moved into my own apartment I had hung that picture over a door frame to keep it out of the way because it wasn’t one of my coolest pictures. So one day I walked into my apartment and my eyes fell up-on that picture over the doorway and it was as if God said “Michelle, I’ve got him. He’s here and he’s fine. He’s free now. You can have peace. Rest in me and my love.” And I wept some more.
One of the things I am proudest of in this life, is that in spite of the fact that I was supremely messed up when I met Joe, I was still seeking God’s face. So as a condition of our dating, Joe had to go to church with me when he was in town. If I hadn’t been seeking God, if I hadn’t thought that what Joe and I had was potentially special, if I hadn’t insisted he go to church to church with me, Joe would be in hell today. That makes so much of what we went through, the bad and the good, bearable. That and the love we shared.
Then God gave me a song for even further assurance (when God answers prayers, sometimes He really answers prayer.) [Note the words in red – they are the words that God used.]
Abide With Me Hymn
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
What’s really strange about all of this is that I had no idea that I still feeling any loss for Joe UNTIL I began writing this blog. Then the tears came. Go figure. And then, when I thought I was through writing I jumped over to Facebook and I saw that a close friend had had her baby. Life goes on. I think God was telling me not to dwell in the past. He is in today not yesterday (he was in yesterday when it was today.) His name is I AM, not I WAS.
Well all, I’m not sure why I wrote this. Usually I write about some great, new lesson God has shown me that is quite different than this. I’m sure someone who needs it will read it. Beloved friend remember that God sees everything and loves you. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13) I love you. If you want me to pray or listen, just send me a note. “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:19-20)