I’m writing this piece because it’s two months today since I lost my wonderful wife, Fiona.
And it’s all been very strange since. In addition to having the huge adjustment to life without my soulmate and team-mate, I’d expected to have been completely overwhelmed with grief and to have been good for nothing useful at all. I’d expected it to be crippling, indeed incapacitating.
But it hasn’t been like that at all. I’ve generally coped just fine; I have accepted her loss and I am just getting on with life. And I don’t fully understand why that isn’t difficult.
As you might imagine, I must credit much of this to my Heavenly Father. David wrote, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and He saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18) and I have found this to be true in my own experience. I have had such a consciousness of the Presence of God, and He seems to have released small chunks of memories for me to grieve over in kind of ‘bite-sized chunks’. I haven’t had to deal with 34 years of soul-mate relationship’s worth of grief in one big lump. It’s been much easier than I thought it would be, although still terrible of course.
I’ve called this piece, ‘A Crumb of my Comfort’. And so I want to share with you as many crumbs of comfort as I can, from the many I have received from Father. Remember, it’s my aim in life to always do what I see my Father doing (John 5:19). And the biggest comfort to me has been my absolute certainty that Fiona is in the presence of God, worshipping the One she loves.
Over the months before Fiona died, I had several personal worship experiences where I felt like I was participating in what you might call the ‘Worship of Heaven’. For this purpose, Holy Spirit used especially some of the worship songs of Terry MacAlmon, which I have featured on my blog in the past*. For those months, the Spirit was using these, and others of Terry’s songs, to impress upon me, “Look, this is what Fiona is going to, only better!” And over the months, that knowledge and experience has soaked into my very being and it has become a part of me – in greater measure than I have previously had, even as a worship leader. In some ways, I feel like I am still worshipping with Fiona. Within an hour of Fiona’s passing, I had a vivid and almost indescribable vision of her worshipping in the Presence of God, and felt the Spirit saying to me, “There. This is what I meant”. Since worship is such an integral part of my life, and since my experience of God is an almost constant, exciting and energising Presence right in the centre of my heart, what better way for the Spirit to encourage me regarding where Fiona is now?
And because of this, my grief is mixed with an indescribable, bubbling joy, that, through the tears, is a constant reminder of God’s Presence both with me and with Fiona. It’s all very odd; in some ways I feel as if she’s not really gone, but then I also realise that if I am worshipping in the Throne Room in my spirit, then in some indescribable** way I am also worshipping with Fiona, who is doing the same thing. My heart is full of thankfulness and joy and praise and worship and there isn’t a thing I can do to stop it – not that I would try! The whole thing is quite surreal! I know it’s a bit of a cliche but I really do know that she has indeed ‘gone to a better place’ and that she is full of joy there. And so it is difficult to be too upset; I know that the girl that I love is out of pain, in the Presence of her Jesus, and completely, utterly safe, whole and full of joy, in ways that are far beyond anything we can imagine.
Don’t get me wrong on the worship thing by the way; I don’t believe that the entire experience of Heaven is confined to just one big worship meeting. I’m sure it’s not; I’m sure that attendance at that great gathering is optional, and on a come-and-go as you like basis, and there’s definitely more to worship than just singing songs. But I do believe that Fiona walks closely with her Saviour and He has His arm around her (I’ve seen that too). The Glory she experiences is beyond anything that can be experienced in our mortal bodies, but I know for a fact that, despite our bodies’ limitations, we too can experience the Power and Presence of God. I know this because I have so experienced Him, and do so on a regular basis. I rest in the presence of God, knowing that everything is in His hands. The Spirit gave me a verse the other day, which describes my position well; it’s Psalm 116:7 – “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee” (Ps 116:7 KJV) or in modern English, “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you”. And, again, this has been true in my personal experience***.
Despite this being published on Christmas Day, I wasn’t going to mention Christmas. Bah humbug. But there’s a contextual reason for it: at Christmas, we celebrate the unbelievable phenomenon called ‘Immanuel’, which means ‘God With Us’, just like I am claiming happens to me.
God Himself, the Creator of everything, right here and walking and living amongst us.
Two thousand years ago, it was of course Jesus Who walked among us – literally walked among us – as a human being (Jn 1:14). Nowadays He is still with us, because He promised us that He would send His Holy Spirit, to be with us for ever (Jn 14:16 KJV). And this is how we know that we belong to Him; why I can claim that He is real in me: Ephesians 1: 13-14 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory“, and 2Cor1:21-22, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come“. I literally feel the Holy Spirit within my heart; that’s how I know. And He also said, I will be with you always, until the end of time (Mt 28:20). Note that it’s not that the Bible says it, so I believe it; its the other way round: I feel Him in my heart, and subsequently to that, I find from the Bible and from talking with fellow believers that others too have felt that Presence****.
And this is what is meant by Immanuel – ‘God With Us’. Again, this has been true in my experience. And that’s how I know; that’s why my faith gives me such assurance, reassurance, comfort and hope.
Let me finish with, would you believe, a verse from a Christmas carol (despite my not planning on doing anything Christmas here, but such is the Spirit’s leading…) O Little Town of Bethlehem. So many people simply sing these carols year upon year without really knowing what they are about, but this verse captures the idea of Immanuel beautifully:
How silently, how silently
The wondrous Gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His Heaven
No ear can hear His coming, but in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in
And all of those are the crumbs I offer you, taken from the vast comfort I have been given. I sincerely hope they bless and encourage you 🙂
*The blog posts are these:
**I think that’s the third or fourth time I have used the word ‘indescribable’. But it’s the correct word to use; I am trying to describe things here that are right out on the edge of what it is possible to decribe with language. Maybe only my Spirit-language is capable of describing this sort of stuff…
***This verse was used on Fiona’s gravestone
****And so it kind-of validates the experience – not that I need it validating; it’s real enough to me – but it a) explains what it is, and b) tells me I’m not alone in feeling like this.