Readers of my book, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace, will already know this: When my husband David died four years ago, I instinctively knew I needed two things; prayer and God’s word. Having grown up Catholic, I was used to praying rote prayers. While those seemed to be sufficient for handling my mother’s death in 2010, it was not what I needed when I lost my spouse. Instead, I needed the kind of praying I’d been exposed to at Christian Writer’s conferences; Out loud, and from the heart. Two weeks after David’s death, God led me to a church down the street where a youth pastor took my hands in hers and prayed out loud for me.
As for God’s word, while I owned several Bibles, I wasn’t sure how to study a Bible to find the answers I needed. Once again, He intervened. I read books by Godly people who had gone down this road before me; C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and H. Norman Wright. I found devotionals everywhere I went, and had some given to me. A Max Lucado devotional became a lifeline for me. I greedily devoured it in a few days before beginning another one. A mentor of mine asked me to write some devotionals for an upcoming Grief Bible, so I had to learn how to look for answers in the Bible. Embarrassing as it is to admit now, (though I admitted as much then) having a Bible and devotional on my end table was new to me.
In April 2013, a year after my husband died, I began a Bible study at my church, using the Walking Toward Eternity series.
Three years later, our Bible group still meets, though it has dwindled down from 50 at the church to eight of us in my home. This month we are repeating that initial study, delving into the topics of love, humility, forgiveness, prayerfulness, sacrifice, and thankfulness. In re-using my old journal from the study, I can see how much I have grown as a Christian. There were two things that struck me during this morning’s study.
#1 was that in April 2013, I struggled with hospitality, hesitating to invite people into my home because of a mess or the possibility they might judge me and find me lacking as a hostess. I smiled as I read my words from three years ago. The last time my Bible study group met here, I’d had a busy week at work and hadn’t had much time to clean. Yet I just shrugged my shoulders, knowing they weren’t coming to see my house. Half of them just walked in the door without knocking because they’d gotten comfortable here. Mission accomplished: I’ve learned the meaning of hospitality.
The other thing that really hit home for me this morning was that when I opened my Bible to 1 Corinthians, I discovered a small yellowed piece of paper with my mother’s handwriting on between the pages. I’d forgotten that my daughter Elizabeth had given me the pieces of paper she’d discovered in one of my mother’s Bibles. My mother, a devout Catholic in an era when Catholics weren’t encouraged to read the Bible, was familiar with the Old and New Testament in a way her church allowed at the time. I can’t remember ever seeing her read it, but she must have, at least pieces of it. Something about 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 spoke to her so that she’d jotted those verses down, slipping the pieces of paper into her Bible. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15~ the very verses I’d just highlighted in my Bible, verses that meant something to me this morning as I attempt to discern God’s will for me.
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.”
What did those words mean to my mother, I wondered, as I blinked back tears.
I won’t know, in this world.
But I do have faith that someday, I can ask her.