For those of you who saw my recent FaceBook pix, you know that I took a vacation to Phoenix, Arizona with some girlfriends. These are friends from WAY back in my early days with Northwestern Bell – which became USWest, which became Qwest, which became Century Link. We’ve been friends since 1983 and I’m SO blessed that they are still such a big part of my life. It’s the kind of friendship that can pick up where we left off and not miss a beat.
We did all the fun things you do on vacation – lots of pool time, a little HOT golf, dinners out, trip to Sedona, sleeping in, and LOTS of chocolate and laughter. Such an encouraging time for me. And ironic that I would find a respite from the emotional desert in which I find myself – in that desert! But it was a wonderful balm for my soul.
Most of us know that there is a somewhat depressing re-entry time after a vacation – or even after a nice, long weekend. It means we go back to the reality of work or school or chores or problems or whatever. It’s not my favorite part of a vacation and I’m sure it’s not yours.
But this re-entry was HARD! The reality I faced after this trip was “full of emptiness” (intentional pun) and sadness. I so wanted to call Dale and tell him about my trip. Despite the dogs’ exuberance at my return, the house seemed very quiet and lonely. I found myself tearful for 3-4 days after my return.
My grief seemed to center around the loss of this great love we had. Like any relationship that is decades long, our love went through numerous stages. There’s the beginning stage of new love with a little bit of infatuation thrown in. The kind where you just can’t stop thinking about him and feel incomplete whenever you’re apart. It has to be one of the most exciting times in a relationship and ours was no different. As the years went by, of course we worked through the issues that are bound to crop up in a relationship and marriage.
And yet, so much of that initial love remained for me throughout our marriage. The bonus was that we added to that the deep, abiding love that grows BECAUSE of what you’ve been through together. I learned that I could ALWAYS count on Dale’s love and I would trust him with anything.
I know how blessed I am to be able to claim that in my marriage. But, of course, the flip side is that the pain of that loss is so deep. As believers, the great hope we have is to see our loved ones again and spend eternity together before the throne of God.
That has been my hope as I lost grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and friends throughout my life. Those relationships would all be restored one day, and I found great comfort in that promise.
But, I wasn’t feeling the same level of comfort when I thought about reuniting with Dale one day. I know that sounds really crazy, so let me explain how I landed there. The Bible says in Matthew 20:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.”
I’ve known the truth behind this passage for most of my adult life. Dale and I would NOT be husband and wife in heaven. I won’t take the time in this post to get into all the nitty-gritty of that, but briefly – marriage is not necessary in heaven. All believers constitute the church of Christ and we are all Christ’s bride. It’s a great picture of what marriage is really all about and it comes to a perfect conclusion in eternity.
So, what was my problem? My love for Dale was the deepest love I have ever experienced in my life and when he died, it felt like my heart was ripped out. I knew I would never again experience 35 years of that unconditional love, the kind that you can only have with a spouse.
And because of the “no-marriage in heaven” clause, it seemed as though my relationship with Dale, once I reached heaven, would be lessened somehow. I imagined it would be more like getting to see a long-lost friend again, or even a parent. And that’s NOT what I wanted! I wanted to enjoy that deep love between a husband and wife for eternity.
Hence the extra sadness and, to a certain degree, hopelessness that I felt based on my assumption that I would NEVER have this love again…ever.
It’s pretty amazing how one can sit under solid Biblical teaching for so many years and still get some of the theology wrong! And I’ll admit it’s a little embarrassing to have overlooked what should have been so clear to me. Thankfully, God decided to straighten me out – and I’m so glad He did! I don’t hear an actual voice of God, but I often get such a strong sense of what He wants me to know that there’s no doubt in my mind, or soul, that it is from Him.
That was the case as I was having that little pity party about never being able to experience my great love with Dale again. God CLEARLY “spoke” to me and said, “The love you will have with Dale in heaven will be SO much more than anything you ever experienced here on earth with him, and more than you could possibly imagine with your limited knowledge in this life.”
Boom! (I’ve always kind of wanted to put one of those in. 😊) My lightning bolt hit. Of course, God would NEVER have our experiences in heaven be anything less than perfection! It is His pure agape love that will be present in every relationship we will have, especially our relationship with HIM! Agape love is what we see in 1 Corinthians 13, often known as the love chapter. It is EVERYTHING we would ever want love to be, and that’s what God has in store for us. Read about it below if you need a refresher.
Any of us who attended church or Sunday School as children learned this simple truth – God is Love. He is so much more than that, but Love defines him and as 1 Corinthians 13 says, “So now faith, love and hope abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” So, of course God, the perfect embodiment of love, will get it perfectly right!
OK, I get it now! Yes, I will still be so sad in this life that I won’t share that love with Dale on this side of Glory. But, oh what hope I have that the heavenly, agape love waiting for us will absolutely blow my socks off!
These are the kinds of revelations God gives to me on this journey that remind me how much He does love me, and continues to walk with me and teach me what I’d likely never learn without this season. Talk about trading sorrow for joy, tears for laughter, and hopelessness for a hopeful expectation.
I think I’ll officially declare this particular pity party over… Thanks be to God!