Chuck Swindoll's message today was from Joshua 24.
The chapter contains two well-known verses that meant very much to Becky and me.
As you can see, Bradford Hall, the house we built, is now 20 years old. For 11 of those years, Becky and I enjoyed living here together. For the past 9 years, I have lived in the house by myself. When I think about our long marriage, my mind goes back to the day we dedicated Bradford Hall to God. The house was filled with friends and family. After it was all over, Becky and I retired to the front porch to reflect, as did Joshua and the Hebrews in Joshua 24, on the goodness of the Lord and the abundance he had lavished on us. It was with that abundance in mind, and our desire to use the house in the Lord's service, that we had that plaque commissioned.
After Becky's courageous battle with cancer ended, we held a memorial service on campus. Hundreds of people attended the service. I was very moved as I heard person after person tell me what Becky had meant to them and how her example had influenced them. After she was buried in our church cemetery and all of the guests and relatives returned home, I sat in the library gazing at a picture that was taken of Becky and me shortly before her death. I asked myself, "How do I begin navigating a world without a spouse?" I felt alone, and that feeling has never left me entirely.
But Chuck Swindoll is right. We must never hold God's gifts too closely. You hold them loosely. Otherwise they become idols.
The memories, of course, never vanish. How precious were our moments of planning the house together, then building it, furnishing it, and finally living in it, cooking together, watching movies together, hosting dinner guests, listening to the farm sounds in the evening, sometimes talking, sometimes not. In 2004 we began travelling together to the land of her youth (Ethiopia) twice a year. These were activities we both loved and enjoyed. I don't ever want to "get over" Becky. Instead, I want to become a better person because I'm a widower -- stronger, more compassionate, more self-reliant. I continue to enjoy the life I lead, one that is rich both professionally and personally. Being as active as I am also helps. It forces me to live in the present and not dwell on the past.
Becky was my partner, my spouse, my beloved wife, with whom I shared many struggles and victories. Chuck's message today from Joshua 24 was serendipitous because it reminded me of the plaque pictured above. Even now, as I sit at the computer in a silent house, the memories come together -- the goodness, the love, the dreams, all merging with the silence, and I realize again just how blessed I have been.
I remain so grateful for the years we were able to serve the Lord together -- "me and my house" -- in ways we could never have imagined when we first got married, right to the very end. Like the Hebrews after Joshua's death, life will go on. I plan to have new experiences, meet new people, travel to new places, try new hobbies. Most of all, I plan to keep on serving the Lord and being fully engaged in whatever plans he has for my future.