"But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus." 2 Corinthians 7:6 (NIV)
Fifteen years ago I watched an empty hospital bed roll into my living room. What an unlikely place for a bed. What an even more unlikely place for my husband, Ron, to be dying-in our living room.
How could this be? Ron was young, athletic, my best friend, the love of my life and the absolute joy of our three-year-old son, Nick.
Soon, fragile days filled with Ron's raspy breathing became what I called my "in between." During that in-between time — the space separating life and death — I wanted to savor the richness of last conversations, last kisses, and last memories.
But Ron's condition deteriorated quickly. He slipped away much too soon. In an instant, I became both a widow and a single parent. I felt completely alone.
Most people have a close support network, a soft place to land. Not me. Physical distance separated me from my mother and in-laws, and differences in viewpoints created emotional distances with other family members.
As a result, my "soft" landing place often felt like shards of glass slashing at my heart. Everything cut deeply. Everything hurt.
It was my love for our son, Nick, which helped me survive the painful emptiness and move on.
But I grieved when thinking about spending our future holidays alone. No boisterous birthday celebrations for Nick. No traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We needed a bigger family to do life with.
When you experience a tragic loss due to death or betrayal, it's hard to trust anyone again. At least it was for me.
Yet, a little brown-haired boy needed godly male influences, and a loving family with whom to celebrate. I also needed to stop being filled with conflicting emotions about being afraid to trust.
In 2 Corinthians 7:6, Paul didn't have any extended family present during a time of conflicting emotions and fear either. Yet, God saw Paul's need for a family-like companionship so He sent Titus to encourage and take care of the apostle. Titus was a problem-solver who had a heart for God and a heart for God's people in Corinth.
God also saw our need for a new, bigger family. With ample love, He sent Nick and me some "Titus" people who have a heart for God and a heart for His people. They helped to transform our downcast souls with His all-encompassing comfort.
Slowly, I cracked open my heart's door just an inch or two allowing these amazing people into our lives. Over time, God knit all of us together creating a "Titus family" related by our hearts, not our heritage.
My "Titus family" consists of people who love each other unconditionally, support and encourage each other, sit beside one another's hospital beds, hold each other accountable and share in every achievement, failure and pain.
Do we look alike? Not so much. But do we share the same heart and many happy holiday celebrations? Definitely!
The most valuable lesson I've learned since my husband died is that marriage certificates and blood relationships are not the only way to make a family.
God makes a family.
Dear Lord, You promised to be a father to the fatherless and to even bring joy to widows during festivals. The holidays are often a hard time for people in a season of suffering. Please open my eyes to see anyone who needs a soft place to land or a safe place to share. And then, give me the resolve I need to respond with the same incredible love You've shown me — no matter how busy I am. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Words of Comfort for Times of Loss by Cecil Murphy and Liz Allison
Reflect and Respond:
How do you most often close your heart to shield yourself from being hurt again? Withdrawing? Being angry? Holding on to bitterness?
Who might you turn to to help you move past your pain, trusting that God can redirect it into a new purpose in your life?
Take time today to contact someone who needs companionship.
Lamentations 3:32, "Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love." (NIV)
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, "Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God's family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more." (NIV)
© 2012 by LeAnn Rice. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105