ALBUQUERQUE (BP)–The apostle Paul wrote the church in Philippi: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11 NIV).
If you ask me (I know, you didn’t, but let’s pretend you did), I’m not too crazy about the sufferings part of Paul’s desire, but I, too, eagerly yearn to experience today and every day the power of Christ’s resurrection, which we will celebrate this coming weekend.
That longing has intensified dramatically since the morning of March 8, when the Lord called my precious companion, Kathy, home to her well-deserved rest and reward. When she drew that last breath, at 8:50 a.m., the person I have been for the past 29 years — a person connected by a bond and commitment that grew stronger with each passing year, a person whose mate has always been there for him as much as she was able — died. And my life will never again be the same.
If that seems sad to you, let me assure you that it really is sad for anyone who has experienced it, and many of you have. Those who know me personally won’t be surprised to hear that in recent weeks I’ve been studying everything I’ve been able to get my hands on, trying to get a handle on the grief I’m experiencing. I want relief as soon as possible, the sooner the better! But I have a feeling that grief counselor Britton Wood is right when he advises, “Give yourself two to three years as a minimum for much healing to take place” (from a book given to me by the Annuity Board, “The Experience of Grief”).
I do thank God for those who have become experts in providing grieving individuals an understanding of some of the stages they can expect to go through and the issues they will face. I am more convinced than ever that Granger E. Westberg, author of “Good Grief” (a little book I’ve given to dozens of grieving people through the years), was right when he wrote about the shock, the “temporary anesthesia,” that helps us through those first few days, which can be so overwhelming. And I’ve already experienced the “uncontrollable urge” to express my feelings of depression and loneliness, the physical symptoms of distress (which has been a real surprise), the inability to concentrate and get things done, the feelings of guilt (wishing I could have made her more comfortable those last few days), the anger and resentment (which I know is totally ridiculous) and a reluctance to re-enter the world.
I do hope I’m on the fast track to recovery (I’m an extremely impatient person), but I do know that my life will never be the same. I’m not the same as I was 10 years ago, prior to the auto accident that permanently (until last month) incapacitated my mate. And I’m not the same as I was a little more than a month ago, when I was still doing my best to keep my “till death do us part” commitment to her. I’ve been deeply wounded, as have many of you, by some pretty powerful blows of this life, and the person I am now carries some scars I didn’t have before — like the apostle Paul, who said, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). The person I was is, in a very real sense to me now, dead.
But please don’t feel sorry for me! I believe that God also could have been pointing at me when he asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3). And God’s promise for me is the same as the one he made to Israel: “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (verse 14).
I am reminded in many wonderful ways during this Easter season that “I serve a risen Savior.” He was as dead as a person could be, but he rose from the grave and now shares that resurrection life with all who will trust him. I do so look forward to that day when the body my wife left behind a few weeks ago is re-energized with the resurrection life she’s experiencing now. But I am also so very thankful that I can experience “a foretaste of glory divine” even now as I begin a new chapter in this exciting pilgrimage hand in hand with him.
The Bible explicitly states, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Hallelujah; because he lives, life after death is possible for all who will trust him!
Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican newsjournal. He and his late wife were married nearly 30 years.