I can’t exactly remember the moment that Kevin and I called each other boyfriend and girlfriend. I suppose I should, because it was a really big deal to me. He was my first and only boyfriend. But I of course remember the moment, just a few months later, when he got down on one knee and proposed, then surprised me with an engagement party where I happily told everyone and anyone who would listen that “Kevin was my fiancé!”
And one of my absolute favorite memories was, the morning after our wedding, waking up next to him and saying, “Hi husband.” And him saying to me, “Hi wife.” I remember it feeling so silly and odd and fun, yet comforting and normal all at the same time. Saying fiancé was just plain fun because it sounded so fancy. And since we’d had a two and a half month engagement (Which I highly recommend, by the way!) I’d only just gotten used to saying fiancé when it was time to switch to husband. I loved it, and loved it even more when I would accidentally start to say “fian-I mean, husband.” Which of course let everyone know that we were newlyweds because I wasn’t used to saying it yet.
I loved the sense of inclusion that being husband and wife made me feel. Kevin agreed. Before we started dating, all his usernames were things like 3rdwheel. Almost all of his friends were already married, and he had been the lone single guy in his core group for quite a while. When we started dating, and especially when we got married, we felt included as part of the “in crowd.” For me, who had struggled my entire life with making friends, this was an especially big deal. I suddenly was welcomed into this group of friends that Kevin had known since childhood and they were, consciously or not, excited to be able to share all the fun things that being a couple meant.
As our marriage deepened over time, both Kevin and I became closer and closer, not so much craving the feeling of inclusion amongst all our married and couple friends, but enjoying the sense of deep satisfaction and comfort that came from being a part of Team Hill, a dynamic duo that could conquer the world if we chose to. I loved more than anything the deep knowing that someone loved me unconditionally, not because they had to, but because they chose to. And the fact that this person loved me, knowing each and every one of my flaws more intimately than anyone in the world, well that was just the icing on the cake.
I loved it when Kevin would introduce me or refer to me as his wife. I suppose there’s a reason that Jesus uses marriage as an analogy for His relationship with humans. That sense of being chosen, loved unconditionally, and knowing that there was one person in the world who, even if he didn’t always take your side, would always always always be on your team. And once we held our own “only begotten son” in our arms, we happily tried on even more new names…mother, and father. I think in that moment, we first began to truly glimpse just the tiniest bit of how God could love us beyond all imagination, even when we were a screaming, squalling mess.
Last week I started to try on a new term – widow.
I am a widow.
My husband is dead. Now he is my “late” husband.
I am a single mom.
I am alone.
I know that the Sunday School answer is that you are never truly alone, and that Jesus is all you need, but let’s be honest here. Jesus can’t reach out and wrap his arms around me as Kevin did, even as he lay dying. Jesus can’t go to work and pay the bills for our family or teach my son how to play baseball or how to ride a two wheeler. Jesus can’t walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Jesus can’t fix the kitchen sink (although if I’m honest, Kevin probably couldn’t have either 😉 Jesus can’t manage our family’s finances or talk things through with me until two in the morning or entertain my zany ideas and then bring me back to reality while still letting me hang onto my dreams. Jesus can’t sit on my porch with me and have a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise, his hand protectively on my knee or his fingers laced through mine.
I believe in God. I truly do. And I believe in the Christian understanding of God, and the mystery of how he sent His only son, in human form, to offer the ultimate sacrifice that would allow us to be in relationship with Him. I believe in the mystery of it all, even when I don’t understand it. I’ve thought it through many times, multiple times a day on most days. I sit and wonder if I’m just talking to an imaginary friend, or voices in my head, or if I’m just praying and talking about God to make myself look spiritual in front of others, and that probably not, otherwise why would I be praying even when no one else is watching? I sit and ponder it all through because God, well he isn’t something we can feel in the way we were created to feel. We can’t touch Him, see Him, breathe in His scent that has not yet washed away from his clothing.
Yet where I ultimately end up is, what’s the alternative? Nothingness? No purpose or plan to our life here on earth? No meaning to the misery and suffering? And that ALL the crazy, amazing things that have happened in Kevin’s and my life must be attributed to chance?
Well, honestly, none of that makes much sense either.
In my doubting, Kevin would tell me again and again about Peter, who even as his world and everything he had believed in was crumbling around him and nothing made sense, said to Jesus, “Where else would we go?” [John 6:68]
Like I said, what’s the alternative?
For whatever reason, every single time, every. single. time… I always end up coming around that it would be harder for me to make the case not to believe in God than to believe in Him. And for me, the next step from that is that it makes much more sense to believe that God is completely powerful, completely good, and that none of this is a surprise to Him. And my being able to believe that in the midst of all this is miracle enough to prove to me that God is with us.
There will be plenty of time for me to explore theodicy (Kevin would be so proud of me), but for now, I simply rest that even in my pain, God is still with me, He is still good, and He is still in control.
Which means that whether I feel it or not, I am not alone.
Yes, I am a widow, and that is a rather surreal hat to wear. I am a single mom, and that reality has come crashing down on me faster than anything else. I am alone in the sense that my earthly marriage with Kevin is over and he is no longer a part of Team Hill with me. Having felt alone for so much of my life in one way or another, I had a precious eight years (nine if you count our dating) where I felt the love of Jesus in a physical, tangible way that went beyond all comprehension. In my marriage to Kevin, I often felt “Christ with flesh on” as our good friend Bob used to put it. I’m fully aware that eight awesome years are more than many people have even in thirty or forty years of marriage.
I feel alone and lost and I imagine I will feel this way for a long time.
I’m not going to end this by saying it’s all going to be okay and that I’ve figured out how to depend on Jesus alone, knowing our marriage was merely the tiniest of a shadow of what true, unconditional love looks like. I wish I could just say that. It certainly would sound very spiritual and start tying things up and setting the stage for the next chapter of my family’s life quite nicely. But honestly, I don’t know what I feel. I hope I can find a way to depend on “Christ alone” as the song says. It took me a while to learn how to depend on Kevin alone. It took me a while to learn how to sleep in the same bed with another person, how to share everything in life even more than I ever did with my own twin sister. It took a long time to learn how to let go of my own single girl independence and become interdependent and then completely dependent on another person. I believe that the Sunday School answer, “Jesus is all you need” can be true. People say it for a reason. The Bible tells us this is true. But just as it took time to learn how to be truly a part of Team Hill, this will take time. It will take time to learn what it means to be a widow, a single mom, alone in this world, yet never truly alone. This will all take time, and I pray to God, who I’m pretty sure I believe in, to allow me all the grace and time I need.
Peace to you all, and thank you again and again and again for all of your love, prayers, support, and unfailing faith that there is goodness in the world if we only choose to see it.