"You make me a better man. A better version of myself." I used to tell Leslie that. She loved me, as different from her as I was. As much as I could get under her skin. And I loved her so much that I desired to hone the things about me that she found easy to love, and trim the rest down to nothing. She "reeled me in". She kept me in my shoes. She taught me how to love people better... how to have compassion and "come alongside". She taught me how to shut up and listen, and to think twice (or more) before responding. She taught me the quieter side of passion and private side of laughter. I could go on... but you don't have the time to read all the things she taught me. Basically, summarized, she taught me how to live the only life I know how to live today.
The crazy thing is that, through the events of the last several months, she has taught me (is teaching me) even more than she did through our first 6 or 7 years. I'm realizing, now that she is not actually here, in the flesh, just how much a part of ME she not only WAS, but truly IS... she always will be, in this life, and for "forever". Don't misconstrue this to mean that I'm sobbing my way through these days and nights, unable to function without my "better half". (Because to be honest, that is quite far from the reality I'm experiencing, as ashamed as I am to admit it.) But she does, in fact, remain my "better half". We are no longer married, (death did, in fact, us part). This is no longer "our life"-- it is now "the life she left me with". But she is still my "defining thing" up to this point in life... I am forever changed. I am not the man (or perhaps, the "boy" would be a better descriptor) that I was before Leslie was in my life. And I will never be the same.
I find it interesting, as my heart continues to heal, little by little, that each day I have more emotional, spiritual, cognitive, etc... energy to invest in other things. Less of my energy is spent on the burden and sorrow associated with "grief" and the re-living of the tragedy of the past year. Indeed, those things stretched me... made me stronger... made my very capacity to experience life and exhert such the afforementioned energy incomparably greater. Through these experiences, God taught me to RELY on Him... to RECEIVE His strength, just to get me through the day. He taught both Leslie and me to receive and be content in our portion... to, in Him alone, find the very definition of our being...
And now, with this increased "capacity", coupled with the "lighter burden" associated with God apparently starting the healing process in my heart, I find myself feeling more alive and passionate about certain things. It's like God is putting things on my heart... filling the void that is left in Leslie's absence. This is not that original of a thought... one of Leslie's friends sent me this quote from Kahlil Gibran: "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." Indeed, how true!
Anyway, these "reawakened passions" have been heavy on my mind, beating wildly in my heart... with a new clarity and sense about them, now. These "passions" aren't new to me-- they've always been there. They're just revitalized, lately. And they are finding themselves into my thoughts and actions and conversations with friends and strangers over and over again, more than they did when Leslie and I were young and healthy, and life was easier.
An inexhaustive list of these "passions" is as follows-- I should note that these are all things that Leslie "shared" with me... things that Leslie helped me to define and explore through our life together:
- My God and Me- Worship. His love for me. His desire to be known and loved by every person. The beautiful mystery of the Cross. The physical reality of the power of the Holy Spirit. My understanding of Him. Grace. Peace, Agape Love, and so-on...
- God and His Church- We are a broken, segregated, mess of a remnant of what we were in The Acts of the Apostles. (aka, the book of Acts) Yet, we have more power, knowledge, resources, and numbers than EVER. Just IMAGINE if... ... ...!!!
- People in Need- The broken-hearted. The fatherless. The widow(-er). ;) Those who know or have known burden, suffering, and trial... and who subsequently also know the resulting blessing. Fits nicely in with #'s 1 and 2, if you ask me.
- TJ- 2 letters will never hold as much love and life as these two letters do. The single biggest requirer and source of my love and energy on God's earth.
- Health- My "physical" life. What I put into my body. What I get out of it.
- Human Expression- "the arts". Music. Movies. Literature. Just simple conversation. and so-on.
- The Concept of Marriage- An underappreciated and misunderstood blessing from God. To its very core, a miraculous image of completion... a taste of Heaven, right here on earth.
Praise God (yet again) for the gift of Leslie that continues to live (and will forever live) in my life. And the beautiful paradox of how this "gift" is beginning to thrive, in the midst of His healing in my life.