Most days I am okay. What does that mean? It means I am waking up, walking with God, and enjoying many things in life. I have things I look forward to. I smile and laugh. It is during these times when my thoughts suddenly become knotted in a contortion of confusion twisted with guilt. Why should I get to wake up? Why can I enjoy the sunshine, hear the birds sing, laugh, talk with my children and grandchildren, or even take a walk? I get to live. He doesn’t. Or does he? My mind jumps, attempting to visit a dimension simply impossible to understand because I am entrapped by my mortality.
Next, reasoning attempts to overtake my thoughts. Wyndham would want me to enjoy life, I am sure of this. I would desire the utmost happiness for him were our situations reversed. If, in fact, he is awake, more alive than ever (which is my belief), he would laugh (lovingly) at my guilt for enjoying life…oh, if you only knew, babe. It is beyond your wildest dreams. Suddenly, my mind begins to ponder what heaven might be like.
I do not know what a new heaven and earth will be, but I surmise something like the Garden of Eden and better, before sin. In Paradise, we can finally eat from the tree of life because we will no longer live in a broken world, but a new world as God intended. God will no longer need to protect us from living forever in this broken world. God will walk with us as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden, calling us by name, intimately and lovingly.
Jewelry has never been my thing, so honestly, streets of gold, foundations of precious stones, and gates of pearl don’t thrill me. However, the vision of paths of golden light reflecting hues of every color infiltrating the horizon captivates me. Crystal blue waters sound divine, and emerald mountains and forests create in me a longing. But mostly, I am captured by the thought of endless fellowship with those I love and those whom I will come to love once I know them. And God, who is love, will be there, united not only with Jesus and the Spirit—but with me. That’s what I long for.
Heaven, I believe, is about relationships. I think we will somehow “tend” to the new garden, walking and talking with God and each other with no pretense, insecurity, or guile. I think animals will live there, but without the food chain so that the lion will play with the lamb. I cannot imagine, even if we are not married as we know it, that Wyndham will just be another brother to me, since we had forty-five years of deep love. But then, what will time mean since we will be timeless? This is all so far beyond my grasp, because God is beyond human thought.
Is Wyndham merely asleep until a further time, in some hibernation form? Is he already in Paradise? I think the Scriptures teach the latter, but whatever is the case, God is quite capable of taking care of him. What happens there? Where did Jesus go and what did He do during the three days before He was resurrected? What does it all mean? Is Wyndham fishing with Jesus, or Peter? Can he see me? Is he welcoming a few friends who have passed on even since his death a few short weeks ago? God, I asked if you would be willing to arrange for Wyndham to show Emily around Paradise. Did that happen? I wish I knew even some of these answers, but I don’t. I must simply trust while on this side of eternity. Trusting is hard sometimes. Lots of times. Daily. Because I want him here. He liked it here, too.
I am glad that Jesus said to Thomas in front of the other disciples,
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn 20:29)
You, nor I, have ever seen Him physically and at times He can feel far away. But He is not. I have never touched Him, but I have been touched by Him. I have never seen Him, but I have seen where He has been. I have seen changed lives, including mine. I have seen sunsets, I have seen storms, snowfalls, babies born, and all sorts of wonders of creation. I have seen Him do the impossible and the unlikely. I have observed the laws of nature fall in line with predictable precision. I witness jaw-dropping creativity in humans, created in His image. I have seen the consequences of sin, the freedom of forgiveness, and have experienced and observed love, which is so profound it can only be a God-given quality. I walk with Him and talk with Him. And He does tell me I am His own. We do walk through the fields together, as good friends should and do. I clasp His hand and our voices fill with laughter—my God and I. I cherish the images these song lyrics evoke, convinced that eternal life is all about relationships, beginning first with God. In this relationship, as the Scriptures promise, He pours His love into my heart and fills me with joy, peace, patience, and other fruits of the Spirit through His Spirit in me (Rom 5:5; Gal 5:22-23).
I have never more appreciated Jesus. He understands humanity. He did not want to die. In Gethsemane, He sweat drops like blood over the prospect of death. Death was the last enemy to overcome, and overcome He did. Where now is its sting? Only when I am resurrected from the dead will I fully know resurrection’s power. Hope keeps me knowing that Wyndham is good. I will be better than okay because I will be with God as he is with God. Thank you, Jesus, for conquering death.
But for now, still living as a perishable mortal, my grief from the death of my beloved and best friend does sting. It stings like no tomorrow. It stings worse than a thousand hornets biting while I’m passing a kidney stone. It’s completely horrible. His disease was more horrible. Grief can suck the life right out of me; yet, I have no choice but to go through it. I don’t want to go through it, but I must. So must everyone at some point in life; no, at numerous points in life. Nonetheless, I hate it right now.
I can only attribute this pain to our fallen world and death as a result; however, death is also a portion of God’s grace to carry us beyond this broken, hate-filled, sin-filled, fear-filled, broken world. Only Jesus could/can fix this by defeating death and allowing us to be imperishable as we pass through death (1 Cor 15:50-52).
Since I am still mortal, I keenly feel the merciless kicks in the gut, just when I think I’m doing well. I’ll have a series of really good days and then one day I drive into the driveway. Out of nowhere, the stark reality hits that Wyndham will not be waiting for me inside of the house and he will never be there again. That feels unfair, so I cry out to God for answers as to why he didn’t heal him. He could, but He didn’t. Why did such a great man have to get what seems one of the cruelest diseases known to man? I have to be okay with this because I am not God. I can’t change the facts. I am only in the middle of the threads being woven. I can’t see the tapestry, so it feels like a hot mess with no rhyme or reason. Yet, in my innermost heart, I know that God is walking with me through the suffering, and is weaving the hot mess into a thing of beauty that will work for good…and one day, on the other side, make perfect sense.
I have asked God, “Didn’t you hear us when we were praying? When the elders anointed him with oil and prayed over him? Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity to showcase your power and glory?”
God has time and again shown me that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. Prayer is the crucible to change me, helping me to see not the scope of my problems, but the greatness of my God.
I borrow words from a recent eulogy given by a preacher named Jonathan Evans for his mother, He described his wrestling with God when God seemed silent to the many prayers offered on her behalf. (I changed the wording to employ masculine pronouns.)
I came to understand that God knows I don’t understand the nature of His victory. The victory has already been won. He tells me He has answered my prayer. There were only two possible answers to my prayers. Either:
He was going to be healed, or he was going to be healed.
He was going to live, or he was going to live.
He was going to be with family, or he was going to be with family.
He was going to be well taken care of, or he was going to be well taken care of.
Yes and yes.
He the Sovereign God. We don’t think the same. He doesn’t need us to tell Him how to get His glory.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Of your love. Make sense of the nonsensical. Ease my pain. As I pray these words, I realize that I am making this about my pain, but this is not about me. Or is it? Is that okay, God? Wyndham is the one who suffered. But oh, God, you know what it is like to watch the one you love suffer and die. Is it worse than actually being the one? Maybe so. I don’t know. It all stinks. Thank you for going before and with me, enduring both sides of the stink; then walking through the stink with me. I will be okay. I am okay. But throughout the okay, it still really stinks.