Today is July 2, the first day of Independence Day Weekend. For me, July 4 marks five months. Until today I had never thought that, to the Loyalist Americans, July 4 was not a day of celebration, but a “Day That Will Live in Infamy,” the day the long-resisted, long-feared separation finally occurred. What happened that day changed their identities, their hopes for the future. They had taken oaths of loyalty and kept them in the sight of God and man. Yet their partner – the land beneath their feet, the society around them, the Crown overseeing it all – had been violently ripped from them.
And they must have wondered, as I wonder: God of our fathers, what now?
I mention this because Paul raises the question of the widow being free to remarry because her covenant with her husband died with him. For Paul, it’s an illustration about being dead to the law and alive to Christ. He’s not interested in the real-life details. But I am. His illustration raises some real questions.
Here is what I DO know: I know that I am free to remarry, in the sense that it is not sin to do so. I know that God made man for woman and woman for man, and that short of a special calling to celibate service, marriage is the divinely-ordained “natural state,” a compact for mutual benefit. I know that husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
It does not rise to the level of Scriptural authority, but here is what I have learned from reading, reflection and wise counsel, since Diane died:
Grief first, dating and remarriage second. It is almost impossible for grieving people to do the “hard work” of grief AND love a mate or prospective mate “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Instead there is a tendency to “medicate” one’s pain with the analgesic of affection and attention. Ibuprofen is good but not if I use it to walk on a broken foot or ignore an infected tooth. That is not “getting on with life” or “toughing it out” – it is foolish because it only worsens the condition and extends the period of recovery. And to the extent that others are hurt when I use them as painkillers, it is selfish. As my friend Rich Parker says, “one has to remember that there are other people involved.” The scriptures do have much to say on the subject of selfish fools, none of it good. “There is a way that seems good to a man……”
At the Christian coffeehouse in Montpelier last night, I sat next to a brother who told me he remarried shortly after his wife died. Big mistake, he said. The house of cards collapsed quickly, with people he loved trapped inside. He said to me, “I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but……” I tell myself sometimes that I am not That Kind of Person who would make That Kind of Mistake. But again I must invoke a proverb of Solomon the Wise: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
And so like the honest Loyalist of 235 years ago, I leave the familiar, beloved ground and set sail for uncertain shores. There is no joy in it, but there is acceptance, and openness to unknown blessing as one life ends and another begins. The Fourth will always be recalled with sadness, but my oath to the King remains, as does my trust in His protection. All may change, but Jesus never, glory to His name.