The Greatest of These is Love

I got a lot accomplished on Monday after I’d discovered the 1999 e-mail from my husband, but I worked at a more leisurely pace. I appreciated the reminder that things would get done in time, and fretting and worrying, along with hurrying at a frenetic pace, would do little in the way of helping, and might actually hinder my accomplishments.

It wasn’t until Monday night that I finally followed the advice to “read a book.” Out of the literally hundreds of books I have in this house, why was it that I picked this one up instead of a light, chick-lit type read?

To Heaven and Back, is written by a surgeon, Dr. Mary C. Neal, and similar to 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey, in that it is a true account of a person who died and went to heaven, only to come back and write about it.

I will preface this by saying that I am actually a skeptic when it comes to this sort of book. Because David loved 90 Minutes in Heaven, I have not only read and re-read it, I have picked up at least half a dozen similar books since his death. However, after carefully and prayerfully perusing a few pages, or even a chapter or two, I have returned most of them to the shelf, not continuing to read. A few just didn’t ring true and others seemed written simply to piggy-back on the success of 90 Minutes. 

I began writing in a journal after David died; mostly prayers and Bible verses, along with passages from inspirational books and sentences and paragraphs from books and articles that touch my heart in some way. I’ve nearly filled one journal, and have another one set aside for these “heartstrings” that I often refer to when I need a lift of spirit, and that I now realize will be incorporated into my own inspirational book.  I left the couch to get that journal before I was half-way through Neal’s book.

I jotted down this Bible verse that she quotes;

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice saying, ‘This is the way: Walk in it.'” Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

I have heard that voice in the darkest days of grieving.

When I got to page 186, I read and re-read this paragraph, also jotting it down;

“Growing up, I was taught that Psalm 23:4 (Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me) referred to one’s own death and the dangerous journey back to God. Now I believe it actually refers to the people who are left behind to grieve. As grieving people walk through the valley of the shadow of a loved one’s death, their sadness, confusion, anger, and despair can inadvertently prop open the door of their hearts, allowing evil to silently enter.”

I have seen this to be true.

Another sentence I copied into my journal;

“Someone told me, ‘When you love with all that you have, you grieve with all that you are,’ and I would certainly agree with this observation.” (page 189)

Me too.

And then there was this Bible verse that I’ve come across repeatedly since David’s death, “And now these three remain; Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.” Corinthians 13 (NIV)

I finished Mary Neal’s book before I went to bed, her words echoing in my head as I slumbered.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I sat very quietly for nearly half an hour, something I’m learning I must do if I want to hear God’s voice. I pondered Mary Neal’s book and the direction God has been leading me in. I thought about the book I began writing the morning of what would have been our 33rd wedding anniversary; a book about faith, hope, and love.

Now, you must understand this; I have signed a book contract for my couponing book, a manuscript I am to complete by the end of December, which I forsee no problems in doing. However, my “other book” keeps calling to me. That book I begun in June, the one about David, marriage, grief, hope and faith. Work on it had completely stalled in recent days. Obviously, from the above description, part of the problem has been a lack of focus. What exactly will this book be about? Who will the audience be?

There was also a roadblock in regards to a section I’d begun writing about my mother’s death. After that short period of quiet on Tuesday morning, I re-read those lines and paragraphs from Neal’s book that I had jotted down in my journal. And then I began writing, and I couldn’t stop, and three hours later, I knew exactly what my book is about. More than that, I had an outline, a working title, and a breakthrough in the chapter I’d stalled on.

“How could we help other couples get this kind of marriage?” David had asked me just a few weeks before his death. “Could we do speeches together? Write a book?”  I’d smiled indulgently. I couldn’t imagine David doing public speaking. I could, however, more easily imagine us writing a book together.

Dare I say that, despite his demise, I intend to do just that?

I don’t believe in coincidences anymore. Finding David’s old e-mail on Monday and choosing that particular book to read that evening were no coincidences.

The death of my mother two years ago is central to this story, as that is when my journey of faith began. Yes, I believe that in her death, my mother gave me the greatest gift any parent can bestow upon their child; a gift of faith. My grandson Jacob and his fight with cancer is integral to the story as well. But it will be our marriage that draws the reader in. They will read about faith, hope, and love, and not just any love, but the greatest of love, the “agape” love described in the Bible.  I want that kind of marriage, the reader will think wistfully, and in the next instant, how could she stand to lose that kind of love?

The answer is Faith. Only by the grace of God have I endured the loss of my beloved husband. I hit bottom in the darkness of grief, and instead of propping the door open for evil to enter, I opened the door wide to goodness and light.

“And now these three remain; Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.” Corinthians 13 (NIV)

4 thoughts on “The Greatest of These is Love

  1. Ken Burrows says:

    Wow; Now that is a concept I had never looked at, Your thoughts on The bible verse to walk through the valley of death being our road to travel after the loss we all go through when someone close to us goes on to what ever their road may be from here. I thank you in a way though it makes me think again of the hurt, it is a new way for me to look at it, and another way to think of not only my road since but how others helped me cope through the years.

    Thank-You for this enlightenment.
    Ken Burrows

  2. HappyMomof5 says:

    Mary, that is so wonderful that God blessed you with the three productive hours writing the new book. I know if will be a great read and will minister to many.

    Just this morning in Sunday School we were reading Psalm 23 (among others) and I found myself thinking the exact thing that you said here; I believe that those words of comfort were penned for those left behind to grieve! The one who goes on to be with the Lord is not the one who needs comforting!

    I am currently reading a wonderful book that I would suggest to you. It is not about seeing Heaven from a near death experience; rather, it is a book looking to what scripture says about Heaven that should make us want to look forward to being there. The book is Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Someone gave the the copy of the one he wrote for kids so that I could share it with my children and I was so impressed that I bought the one for adults.

    God bless as you continue to write (both books).

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