Friday, September 26, 2008

A Better Version of Myself

"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:

  1. 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...
  2. 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... ... ...!!!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Health- My "physical" life. What I put into my body. What I get out of it.
  6. Human Expression- "the arts". Music. Movies. Literature. Just simple conversation. and so-on.
  7. 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.
The list is larger... and perhaps this is over-simplified, in that some of these (#1 being the glaring example) might be better served as several different "passions"... but you get the idea. Anyway... don't be surprised if you log on in the future to find entire posts dedicated to one of the above. And when you do, you'll know how this relates to what God is doing in this, "...another chapter".

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.


Anonymous said...

Bravo Lord!

ann said...

If we believe what we say we believe ...that our very essence lives in heaven after our bodies die; that heaven is a better place - then no matter the wound or the burden, we live in the comfort and healing of the Holy Spirit. Don't feel guilty that you are experiencing His mercies every day. What a blessing to your son, that you are able to live today with joy in the midst of loss, that you LIVE OUT the promises of God. You bless me - and don't even know me, nor I you. But God knows us, our mighty and awesome God.

Katie Umbaugh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You are an amazing man of God! I became a Christian at 22. My dad is not a Christian and have never seen a man live out his faith like you have--I stand in awe of your strength, courage, grace and most of all your heart. You radiate Jesus's love for us :)

You are amazing!

Wee said...

Praise to our Lord!!! God truly gets the glory for all that He is so faithfully doing in your life. Thanks again for so openly sharing those chapters with us. I, personally, learn so much from what you share. Looking forward to future reads.

Anne said...

I think Leslie - and God - are very happy with where you are in the process of dealing with your loss!

kim p said...

What a powerful witness to the grace, healing, and provision of the Lord your life is! Thank you for sharing with us and for allowing God to minister to us through you. Your life declares His glory!

Jilli said...

He'll never give you more than you can handle. And He grants much mercy.

Anonymous said... underestimated and misunderstood Blessing from God. I must agree with you. We have never met but I pray for you many times and your son, TJ. May you continue to experience God's wonderful grace,peace and Joy on a daily basis. He is worthy and when we reach heaven we will still fell unworthy.

Carrie S said...

Do you know how much God is smiling down on you as you listen to him and his path for your life even in the midst of such grief? He has blessed you with many gifts and the ministry you are putting out there for the world to see can only be the begining. May many learn from you and Leslie's bond as one and God Bless you and TJ every moment of every day.