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Do You Wish You Knew the Future?
The Widows' Path by Ferree Hardy
The summer before my first husband Bruce died, we took a rare walk down the street behind our house. Just as rarely, we talked about our future instead of the usual concerns involving our children or the church Bruce pastored. The setting sun cast long shadows and golden rays as it neared the tree-lined horizon. The air was calm and light, and so were we. This was just a leisurely stroll after supper.
We wondered out loud, “What lay ahead for us?” Bruce had been pastoring Riverview Church in Novelty, Ohio, for almost seven years. He’d pastored two other churches before coming here. In each one, at the six or seven year mark, it just happened that another church would ask him to come to them. Would we sense God’s calling and be moving on to a different church once again?
Our roots were settled deep with this congregation. When we were first married, they called Bruce to be their first youth pastor. Now he was back as their senior pastor. The teenagers we’d loved so much when he was the youth pastor were young adults now—marrying and starting their own families. I taught their children in Sunday School and Children’s Church. Our own children were teenagers, involved in the church youth group, baseball, and a variety of school events. We’d purchased a home. Life was good.
I had even given notice at my full-time job that I’d be leaving at the end of the year, or as soon as we could find and train my replacement. I was looking forward to being a full-time mother and wife. Staying home would be a huge—but welcomed—change.
Yet, we both sensed that there was something more—that a deeper level of change was out there. What was it, and how should we prepare? We were blissfully, and blessedly, unaware of the brain aneurism that waited ahead in the dead of winter.
"Isn’t it better to live each day as if it’s our last? Life is precious; the people in it are precious. If we knew our “expiration date,” it might consume us with anxiety..."
When I interviewed Marlin and Sharon Beachy for their story* last month, they told me something that I didn’t have room to include then, but it’s fitting for today. They said, “We don’t want to know the future.” I agreed wholeheartedly, and we had a great conversation. Isn’t it better to live each day as if it’s our last? Life is precious; the people in it are precious. If we knew our “expiration date,” it might consume us with anxiety; some of us might cower and hide. Or if we had plenty of years left, we might squander the here and now.
I wish you’d been in on our talk. What thoughts would you have added? Why not share this article with your community of friends, neighbors, and family and hear what they have to say? I’d love to hear from you too, so please feel free to contact me. My address is at the end of this column. I can learn from you; this is an important topic for your input and perspective.
But let’s continue the walk from those many years ago. After some moments of silence, Bruce and I came to the end of the street. Dried grass and wildflowers—Queen Anne’s Lace, the papery blue flowers on chicory, and the deep brown seeds clinging to stems of curled dock brushed lightly as we turned and headed back home. As our house came into view, so did the plan. Almost simultaneously we agreed: the next thing we were to do was to “get the house ready.” That was all we needed to know. Whether Bruce was called to a new pastorate and we’d need to sell, or whether we’d stay in this lovely place long enough to see grandchildren running through the living room, “get the house ready,” was a good directive. Innocently, I just thought we’d strip off the old wallpaper and give the walls a fresh coat of paint.
Years later, at lunch with a group of widows in Charlotte, North Carolina, I mentioned this rather mysterious incident. My widowed community gave me the crystal clear meaning of “get the house ready.” Without hesitation, one of the women gasped, “Set your house in order!” She was referring to the Old Testament story of King Hezekiah being told by the prophet Isaiah that his death was imminent. “In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’” (2 Kings 20:1 NKJV)
Looking back, I realize that, although we never connected our plan with Hezekiah’s at the time, God did give us what we needed to know that day. Months later, the day after Bruce died, a carpenter and a designer both knocked on my door. They had no way of knowing what had happened the night before, and they were there for the appointment we’d made to help us “get the house ready.” I was numbed by shock and grief, so I asked them to come in and get started! Awkward and unnerving as that must have been, they did.
Over the next weeks as wallpaper was stripped, the floors redone, and everything was a mess, it pictured perfectly what was happening to my life. My life was being stripped; my footing would never look the same. I understood a bit more of Jesus’ work as a carpenter, and of God’s work as my designer. I don’t want to make light of how painful it was, but widowhood was a fresh coat of paint, new flooring, and much more storage space in my heart.
My community of Plain Values readers, widowed friends, and The Divine Carpenter and Perfect Designer continually gives me cohesion, order, and peace. The wisdom of widows is a priceless perspective. Make sure you see, acknowledge, and consult the widows in your community today. And, like Marlin and Sharon Beachy also told me, “It’s the grace of God that we don’t know the future … Do not dwell on IF your loved one might die. Instead, love them to the fullest.”
The future we plan for ourselves is tenuous at best. We have no guarantees except the never-changing ones from Jesus: God is love, God is good, He cares for you … Therefore, He has the full authority to tell us, “Do not worry about tomorrow...” Matthew 6:34 (NKJV). //
Let's rest our future in God's hands.
Ferree Hardy has helped thousands of widows through her book, “Postcards from the Widows’ Path,” small groups, speaking, and personal coaching, but touching one life at a time is what matters most to her. She holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute, and was a pastor’s wife in Ohio for over twenty years before her first husband died. She’s happily remarried now, and her readers know that moving seems to have become a hobby for her. But she also enjoys backyard chickens, aims to read fifty books a year, and loves to bake. Learn more by visiting her blog.