Living in the Faith Zone
- 2006 8 Mar
I received my first sledgehammer blow when the surgeon walked into the waiting room and said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Johnson. The tumor is inoperable. The cancer has spread to all parts of Richard's body."
This must be a nightmare, I thought, trying desperately to comprehend what this man in green scrubs was saying.
"We just returned from an Alaskan cruise," I stammered, trying to fight my way out of the nightmare into reality. "Just look at him. He's a big, robust, healthy-looking guy."
"Be thankful you took that trip when you did," the doctor responded.
"Are you trying to tell me we won't be taking more trips?" I asked.
"I'm sorry. There was nothing I could do." He sighed.
"If you're trying to tell me there is no hope, I won't accept that," I whispered. "We're Christians, and that means there is always hope."
During those next weeks, our family, friends, and especially I walked down a path of hope, believing and expecting a miracle. Not only did I expect a miracle, I did all in my power to make it happen. Day and night I cared for my husband of forty-six years, my high school sweetheart, and my best friend. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" was my stronghold. Each day I claimed this Scripture over and over. I could not, nor would not, accept
the fact that Richard was dying. If I could find the right doctor, pray hard enough, say the right words, selflessly care for him, I was convinced we would receive our miracle and he would go into remission.
Then, at 5:30 a.m. on January 21, 2003, I finally got the message--I'm not the Big Controller. When the doctor awakened me and led me from the hospital room, saying, "Richard's heart has stopped and he's not breathing," I felt completely out of control. What was I going to do? How could I live without my soul mate? What happened to our well-planned life? My road of hope was gone. I was on a dead-end street--without Richard--all by myself.
Actually, in the recesses of my mind I knew God was somewhere. But where? I didn't understand why God had allowed this horrible thing to happen, but I knew, no matter how miserable I was, I would be more miserable without Him. Somehow, someway, my faith in God had to be my new path. Not that I hadn't been on this path before, but this time I knew who was in control. The Bible verse, "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7), led me as I put one foot in front of the other, one minute at a time.
One night I picked up a book prodding me to trust in God. While reading, I laid the book down and cried out, "Where are you, God, where are you?" Suddenly a card dropped out of the book, and the words on the card seeped through the walls of my broken heart.
It was a poem reminding us that our loved ones who had gone before us were happily waiting for us in heaven, bathed in His everlasting light. We only needed to be patient, and our time would come to be reunited.
The message reassured me Richard was safely home. He was not alone and I was not alone. I sobbed and snuggled into my newfound faith zone.
Two days later a friend called and suggested I contact another new widow. "Teri's going through the same grieving process," she said. I called Teri and found someone who understood--another reminder I was not alone.
"Shall we call Bob and the three of us get together next week?" Teri suggested. "You know his wife, Betty, died just four days before my husband, Jack."
Bob and Betty and Richard and I had been in the same Bible Study group for the previous three years. I felt comfortable meeting with Bob and Teri, and we began weekly meetings, forming a life-saving and life-changing grief support group.
"I'm so tired of people asking, ‘How are you doing?' when I can't tell them what I'm feeling," Teri commented.
"Sometimes honesty is not the best policy," Bob answered.
The tears flowed, honest feelings erupted, dependency on each other increased, and our special bond strengthened. Before Bob left for his summer vacation with family and friends, he announced, "You girls saved my life this past year."
"I believe God brought us together and we saved each other," Teri responded.
"It looks like He's in control," I commented.
When Bob returned in the fall, he, Teri and I met for an update on what was happening in our lives.
"I'm responding to God's nudge," Teri said. "I start my classes in divinity school next week. The strange thing is, this is not something I would've done if Jack were still living. I still miss him, but I'm excited about becoming a pastor. It gives me a glimmer of hope for my future."
"You know, I bought a new RV before I left here last spring," Bob remarked. "I've decided the two main hobbies I'd like to pursue--besides visiting my family--are traveling and golf, but I just don't enjoy doing either by myself."
"I can relate," I answered. "I feel like I'm living in a ‘couples' world' and I don't fit in. I've tried playing golf with our old group of friends and joining them in their social outings, but these experiences usually just remind me of how much I miss Richard and how much my life has changed. Thank God for my children and grandchildren. They're my connection to the past and my hope for the future."
One unusually warm winter day, Bob called. "How about joining me for nine holes of golf?" he asked. "I'm tired of playing by myself."
For the first time, we shared laughter as well as tears.
During the next months, because of Teri's class schedule, Bob and I often met without her. Sometimes we'd walk around the nearby lake, talking about the continuing changes in our lives and how we were coping with a lifestyle that neither of us had ever wanted.
As Thanksgiving approached and everyone focused on being thankful, a close friend asked me, "Remember what I told you months ago? You had a rare marriage, one many people never experience for even one year, yet you had forty-six years. Since it's Thanksgiving, can you be thankful now?"
Her words were God-sent and God-timed. As I began focusing on being thankful, I tiptoed into the acceptance stage of my grieving process.
"I'm tired of this lifestyle. How about let's start having some fun," Bob suggested later that month. "Like going out for dinner tonight," he offered--and I accepted.
Our dinner conversation began a gentle U-turn in both of our lives. Bob suggested we start practicing what we were preaching--"treasuring the moment."
"I'm not sure I know how to have fun anymore," I answered. Then, as though the words were coming from someone else's mouth, I heard myself say, "Let's put our future in God's hands."
"I can't think of a better place," Bob answered.
The next months found us spending more time together. We still grieved, but now we laughed more and even giggled at times.
"It's as though God knows what we need before we do," Bob often said. "This is a road I never planned to travel," he'd add.
Nor had I. Even though Richard had often told me he wanted me to go on "living life to the fullest," I turned a deaf ear to those comments, knowing I would never enjoy life again, let alone find someone to treasure the moments with. We continued to pray our way through the "dating" process. Bob is God's gift to me--and a test, I decided. Worrying about others' opinions had been a way of life for me, and now I lived in the faith zone, trusting God to lead the way.
Not only did He lead the way, He prepared the way as our children, grandchildren, and friends all opened their hearts to our good news--we would always love Richard and Betty; however, we discovered that our hearts had room for another love. Living in the faith zone resulted in our marriage. Sometimes I still grab the control wheel. Then I remember the trauma, the pain, and that horrible out-of-control feeling, and I let go and trust in God. I readily admit we don't know what path our future will take; however, Bob and I do know, no matter where we are physically, we're going to keep trusting God, and that means we'll be living in the faith zone.
Excerpted from: God Allows U-Turns for Women compiled by Allison Bottke (with Cheryl Hutchings), Copyright © 2006 (Bethany House Publishers) Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.