The countdown began. The ball descended slowly, inching to its destination. 3-2-1! Happy New Year! The room filled with streamers, noise makers, and lingering kisses. He wrapped me in a giant hug, eyes dancing, grinning broadly. When he smiled, his whole face smiled. And of course, he kissed me with gusto. Goodbye, 2012. Hello, 2013!
The trip to the emergency room several days earlier already seemed a fading dream. I stole a tender glance at my husband. Thoroughly alive, passionate, vivacious, charismatic, and definitely goofy; these embodied him. Sure, there’d be valve replacement surgery in the near future, but medication would manage the problem till then. Jon would recover, and we’d go on living, dreaming, and pursuing Christ, worshiping Him together. We expected the trial, but we were ready. God had always taken care of us. He’d see us through this one as well.
But our hearts were light, hopeful, looking toward the new year with anticipation. We’d recently moved to a new home. Jon had started a new job. And we hoped this year God would bring a child.
New Year’s Day I awoke thinking about fresh starts and new beginnings.
“Lord, You’ve brought us so far this year! 2o12 was a year of abundance. I’m so thankful. Father, in the coming year, consume our hearts with You. More than anything we want You to be magnified. Would You use us for the sake of Your kingdom, Your gospel? We’re hopeful, Lord. We’re excited.”
Fresh Starts. New Beginnings. Hope.
In the middle of the night, less than a month after we greeted the new year with gladness, I lay in a tight ball, clutching my husband’s wedding ring. How does one describe that first horrific night? Shock. Numbness. Nausea. I think there are no adequate words. A single thought repeated endlessly, “Jon died. My husband is dead.” My brain could not process reality.
Hope? Excitement for the future? What future? It died with him.
Or so it seemed.
Almost two years later, at the dawn of 2015, again I look toward the coming year with hope and anticipation.
“But how could that possibly be? You were utterly crushed, your dreams wrenched away, ripped apart like a doll house in a hurricane.”
Yes, that’s true. But remember what I prayed that New Year’s Day.
“Consume our hearts with You. More than anything we want You to be magnified.”
He has done it. Through tragedy, God was there, meeting me with grace upon grace. Gradually I remembered that I had not also died, and I recalled the One who promises a “future and a hope.”(Jeremiah 29:11)
It was the death of my beloved that caused me to be captivated with Christ. I’m mesmerized by Him, utterly fascinated with Him, and long for eternity with Him. And in this place, there is profound, penetrating, soul satisfaction that this world cannot hope to provide.
It’s an anticipation of things to come, the not yet. I’m looking toward a day when the church will be perfectly united, glorified in heart and mind, rejoicing forevermore, face to face with the One who redeemed it!
I wouldn’t have chosen God’s answer, but He faithfully heard the cry of my heart. “Teach us to know You. Lord, be magnified through us.” With the apostle Paul I’m learning to say, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8 ESV).
Yet I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the second prayer. “Would You use us for the sake of Your kingdom?” If you had known my husband, you’d know this prayer was his heartbeat, even more so than mine.
And, oh, how God has granted that desire, multiplying the fruit! Confidently I see God using Jon’s life and death to strengthen marriages, to call a man to preach, to save the life of another heart patient—literally, to push me to things I never would have tried. Through writing, I get to proclaim to thousands that Jesus is hope, that He is life, and that He alone makes reconciliation between God and man!
These are merely glimpses. I know there’s exponentially more than I understand. So, I kneel in awe and humility. For God does not need me or my husband. I cannot add to His sufficiency. When I ask that God be magnified, it’s a prayer that men would ascribe the honor to Him that He already has.
Through Christ there are always fresh starts and new beginnings. And He satisfies. How then, could I not face tomorrow with gladness?
Lord, another year approaches. Would You fill the hearts of Your children with anticipation? Teach us that You are hope. Teach us that we can anticipate good things, that we can expect Jesus in sorrow and in joy. Amen.