I posted the first part of this list back on December 1st. Here’s the second half of this year’s list about two months later.
- A New Heart. When you are robbed of something of great value, but someone graciously gives you a second chance, you prize what you’ve been given because you understand its true value. Fran and I celebrated our second anniversary this last week (11/27) with a getaway to San Antonio. We somehow we managed to get mired in a conflict so intense that we left San Antonio a day early (wasting cost of the Bed & Breakfast) and spent three hours with a counselor (probably more than $500) on our anniversary. After two more hours of crying at Cheddar’s we finally understood what the other was saying, as well as the underlying pain that energized the conflict. I long for That Day when He gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), so that I no longer do the things that I hate (Romans 7:15).
- A Forgiving Heart. Fran asked me if I was nervous, before I left to see my lost-but-found friend. I replied that l was looking forward to it, just like I would if I was seeing Gary from back home. I reflected on that response as I drove to see him and on the return trip four and a half hours later. My friend was broken, admitted his wrong and he needed forgiveness. What surprised me was that it wasn’t difficult and I didn’t even have a twinge of anger, even though I was incredibly angry five years ago. A few days earlier the counselor, after listening to my story, asked if I had forgiven my dad. I replied, “Yes, I had forgiven him, even though there is still deep hurt.” I chose to forgive Dad completely, because it was the right thing to do. The counselor then asked if it was hard to forgive myself. I paused and then smirked. He had me trapped. I could forgive my dad though he inflicted great pain, but I couldn’t forgive myself whenever I failed. As I reflected on that irony this week, I realized that I struggle because I don’t feel like I deserve to be forgiven. And that realization indicates that I know nothing of God’s grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:6,8).
- A Painless Heart. I cried a lot the last couple of weeks (over Thanksgiving). I wept for a friend who is walking away from his wife, kids and faith. I wept for a friend that is returning to the Lord and taking responsibility for his sin. I wept for Ann’s matron of honor as we traded Facebook messages this week, because she was in Thailand during Ann’s cancer and death. I wept for my ex-sister-in-law as we corresponded this last week, becuase she suffered great pain by my brother’s deception. I wept for my brother, whom I haven’t seen in more than twenty years, because he has followed in my dad’s footsteps. I look forward to That Day when God himself will wipe away our tears (Isaiah 25:8, Revelation 21:4).
- A Permissive Heart. Ann and I seldom talked about her possible death. It was just too painful. But on a couple of occassions when we did, Ann told me that she would want me to remarry, if God didn’t answer our prayer. I quickly responded that I wouldn’t, that I didn’t want another wife and it would be “No one but Ann.” I told my kids, our friends and even our church that I would never remarry. Yet, I had no idea the depths of grief that I would go through. I was in a very dark and despondent place by the end of the third summer. So, when God surprised me with the opportunity to have a best friend, complement and confidant again, I wholeheartedly accepted his priceless gift of Fran. Yet, calling, dating and falling in love with a woman after nearly twenty-three years of marriage is both an exhilarating and incredibly painful process. Every step I took closer to Fran was a heartrending reminder of the finality of Ann’s death. Each step closer brough a sense of guilt and at times a sense of betrayal. I don’t know if I could have navigated those murky waters without her gift of permission. I encourage you to give your spouse the same gift.
- A Reunited Heart. There is one hope, more than any other, that enabled me to endure the devastation, robbery, amputation and finality of Ann’s death. It is the hope that my relationship with Ann is not severed, but only interrupted. After studying about the Resurrection and the New Earth intensely after Ann’s death, I am confident that I will see Ann again in That Day and we will know and remember and love one another. I’ll introduce her to Fran and she’ll introduce me to Brian. Ann will finally get to hold and love and know her grandchildren, for which she so deeply longed. And she’ll introduce us two the three babies who were miscarried back in the 1990’s. We will have unending time to uncover all the beauty that God wrought from the ashes of her death. And as a perfectly blended family we Joslins and Geigers will enjoy new adventures together on the New Earth.
- An Undying Heart. I was discouraged this summer out in Colorado, because I was in such bad shape. I’d gained more weight and had been exercising less, which is not exactly the smartest formula for a guy who had a heart attack nearly seven years ago. Since Fran and I are praying for forty years together, I really need to get my act together. I have a lot of life that I still want to live. Nevertheless, one way or the other, my heart will eventually stop for good. I am grateful that Christ’s death on the cross paid the entire price that God’s justice demanded for the depravity in the depths of my heart. And I am grateful beyond words that when The Trumpet blows, I will rise from my grave near Minburn and be given a heart so filled with His Spirit that it will be unable to die.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”