The longing that does not end but changes

Ecclesiastes 3:11 — The New International Version (NIV)

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Such is the stuff of this life to have so many longings remain, even for those who have found rest in Jesus Christ. It must be a function of the human condition. We can’t fathom the mysteries of our God nor what it really means to live forever in His presence. Or find the answers to a thousand questions that begin with the word WHY? There are just too many unanswered questions that at times it makes me for one, ask how then am I to live?

Experiencing a great loss revs up this engine even more. One of the worst in life is that posed by divorce. You not only lose a spouse but many of the people, places, and things associated with him/her and the life you once lived. Life drastically changes. When the divorce comes as a consequence of infidelity followed by him or her leaving your life completely, well then you simply have no choice but to slog your way through the destruction, the grief, the changes in so many relationships, and a heart left bleeding for all to see. The tearing takes years for the woundedness to heal over. Does it ever really heal over? For some, perhaps. Or somewhat. Certainly many new people, places, and things fill some of the void: our Lord can become a Heavenly Husband to the woman who earnestly seeks Him. We learn a new way of living as unto the Lord.

Thankfully, I didn’t have children in the mix. This fact is bittersweet, however, as it became a desire of my heart to not become old and have missed the joy of having a family of my own. After years of pursuing a career, I did want a family after all. I was not given this opportunity. The Lord allowed circumstances that closed that door for me and it was painful. Then there were the changes in other meaningful relationships grown through 16 years of marriage. In due time, many of them would be ripped away from me as well. I kept in touch with some of my former spouse’s family as best I could over the phone lines and hundreds of miles between us. Eventually my former spouse’s Stepmother passed away and my Sister-in-law’s gate-keeping of my relationships to other family members led to a breakdown that I simply couldn’t overcome. She was the bridge to them and she severed the bridge. The heartache of their loss was palpable for many years. There simply was no place for my love for them, for my sorrow at their loss to go.

These feelings of loss were especially hard when Sharon’s youngest son died tragically. No one bothered to tell me. I found out about his death online from a third party. No one cared that I loved him too, that I needed a place to grieve, to share in the experience of losing a loved one. And tonight I found out that her and my brother-in-law’s remaining, oldest son died tragically last year. He was hit by a drunk driver and died as a consequence of his injuries. This is just so very awful. It hurts! It hurts in a place that I cannot even explain. Why does it hurt so much when I haven’t seen any of these people for nearly 20 years? I guess that when you choose to love someone and they die, it just hurts no matter how much time has passed. And it brings up any remaining fragments associated with the whole mess of divorce too. I don’t think these types of pain ever really go away completely. Sure, it’s less and much healing has taken place for me. The scars do remain though.

So to you Nathaniel and Jeremy, I extend my own tribute to each of you. Nate: you were such a tender-hearted kid that struggled to find your own identity under the shadow of your older brother. In time you discovered your artistic talents that far exceeded his, gifted by the Lord. I don’t quite understand your drug addiction but I do understand that it is really hard to live well with the pressures that life blasts at us. I am sad that your faith did not carry you through to victory over your struggles. I am glad that you have left a legacy of incredible art work that lives on, literally, in the tattooed images of your clients near and far. And your daughter Isabella is beautiful.

Jeremy: you were a young man with clear ideals about the world, a young wife and beautiful son so early in your adulthood. I don’t quite understand why it all didn’t work out for you, that you had to run off to the opposite coast to find a place in life to finally call home. I am glad that you found it with the fellowship of your brother Nate, that you both landed in the same area, the same industry that was meaningful to you. Thank you and your brother for showing an interest in my music when I played guitar during that one visit to your childhood home. Flash forward a couple of decades and your death is rather shocking to me. Both of you are now gone! How can this be? Did each of you know the Lord before you left your earthly home? Will I get to see you again in the heavenly realm where joy and the colors of the Master Artist paint eternity with with glorious goodness, music beyond compare?

Sharon and Max: thank you. You welcomed me into your family with friendship and fun every time Craig and I got to visit your home in the mountains of West Virginia. I learned so much from each of you simply by the way you lived and worked and lived out our shared faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. I admired your creativity, ingenuity, industriousness, and positivity Sharon. I appreciated the technical help that you gave me with my speaking business long before we all had computer and internet skills: you were on top of it all! Your home was a bed and breakfast no less and when we visited we were treated to the best hospitality in the South! Thank you. At some level I do understand why you couldn’t talk freely with me when your brother/my ex-husband Craig had to leave my marriage. I just didn’t expect you to cut me off so suddenly too.

My ex-husband’s Dad, Ken, had already passed away from abdominal cancer before Craig’s affair and our divorce. His second wife, Eleanor, died after a bad fall in her beautiful home where she too had graciously hosted many of our visits to the Pittsburgh area over the years. You became a voice of reason in my life when I needed an older, wiser woman who had also been scorned as a relatively young wife herself. Thank you for listening to me, for trying to guide me through such a confusing time for all of us. I really loved your daughters, Cindy and Laura. You probably don’t know that I asked Craig for us to be considered as their caregivers in the event of your passing but he said no. Their developmental disabilities were a lot to handle for sure. I was trained in such things as an occupational therapist. They loved life: decorating for every single holiday, visiting with everyone, church on Sunday, and working at the sheltered worship with their friends. I never got to say goodbye to them. And now Cindy is gone as well. How is Laura doing? I often wonder. I may never know this side of heaven. Gratefully, I know I will see all of you again one fine day!

We long to see a loved one for that is how Christ’s love for us manifests in this life. We love others because He first loved us; we learn about love in this life as infants from our parents, our families. IN time we come to know that God is love itself, that He has set this beautiful gift into our heart, our mind, our very soul when He created us, when we came to be. Our longing for our lost loved ones is part of our longing for our Savior Who covers all. The only way that we can deeply connect with others in this most tenderest of ways is to come to know the love of Jesus Christ. Being together with other believers in Jesus Christ fulfills this longing; being in fellowship with the Lord through His Word and prayer fulfills this longing. We come to understand that the connection to our Lord is the most perfect relationship of them all: never failing, never ending, ever present, and perfectly above them all. We are always with Him, He is always with us such that we are never alone again when we call upon Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our longing thus transcends our earthly relationships in ways too wonderful to explain. We can come to trust that the Lord has taken care of these mysteries of life. We come to trust as in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that He has made all things beautiful in His time.

All things beautiful. These are people that I have had the privilege to know and love. My Lord will redeem them one day for my good, for His glory. He promises. O.k., I get it now. Thank you Lord. Thank you for Nathaniel, Jeremy, Max, Sharon, Ken, Eleanor, Cindy, Laura, their brother Michael, and yes even Craig. You gave me so much through them. I see how my longing is satisfied in You. I don’t understand it. I do believe it.

Gentle Reader: maybe you too?

JJ

Steve and Julie moving on at the Groovy Plants Ranch in 2019

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