A loved one’s death inevitably unleashes a flood of memories—some warm our heart, but others make us wish we could rewrite history. Five years after losing my husband, I’m thankful to have few regrets, but now and again I recall times when my reaction could have been more generous or compassionate. And I can get stuck there, wishing, If only he could tell me it’s okay.
First, let me back up. Years ago I completed a seven-year cycle of an international Bible study, and while all the courses were excellent, my hands-down favorite was Genesis. Over and over, it shows that what seems impossible is planned, set in motion, and brought to completion by our caring, all-powerful God. For example, there’s the elderly sterile couple who are promised countless descendants. There’s the imprisoned slave who rises to power and rescues the family that disposed of him. And most wonderful of all, there’s our loving Creator, who wants intimate fellowship with us despite our disobedience—and then makes a way. From start to finish, the book proclaims not only God’s sovereignty but also His tender desire to be involved in our lives.
Ever since finishing the course, I’d been wanting to take it again. Well, last August through my friend came word that the series had rotated back to Genesis—with brand-new curriculum, no less. The study would be on Zoom, and its unusual time slot meant studying God’s Word with women from across the continent. Despite lingering concern about the time commitment, I couldn’t shake the sense that I should register.
I’ve not been disappointed. The new material is even richer, and thanks to Zoom, I get to learn with—and from—a group of mature Christ-loving ladies from multiple backgrounds and time zones.
Five years after losing my husband, I’m thankful to have few regrets, but now and again can get stuck there, wishing, If only he could tell me it’s okay.
Curious whether different things would stand out to me this time, I got the idea to hunt in the basement for my Genesis notes of 15 years ago. I opened the old notebook to compare—and heard myself gasp. What I was holding wasn’t my notebook but my husband’s! Elliot had once given the men’s class a try, but I had no recollection that Genesis was the study he attended or that he’d saved his notes. Yet here they were, in that oh-so-familiar handwriting.
Now, each week when I finish my questions, I pour some tea and pick up those notes to study this favorite book “with” Elliot. Every lesson gives me glimpses into how he thought—and I relish both the connection with him and little discoveries along the way. My favorite is a gem from the worksheet on Genesis 24:1-67. The first verse of that chapter says, “The Lord had blessed Abraham in every way,” and to personalize the idea, participants were asked, “How is God blessing you now?” Well, I know how I’d reply: “By having me find Elliot’s answer!” What he had written was “Godly wonderful marriage.”
It was the best gift I could’ve received. Those three words have helped me be kind to myself about the times I wish I’d loved better—they spoke forgiveness, in the form of reassurance that love can be excellent without being perfect. And encouragement from Elliot himself was exactly what I had fantasized about, though humanly speaking an impossibility. It’s one more example of the theme I treasure from Genesis, that nothing is too hard for God (Gen. 18:14).
Each week when I finish my questions, I pour some tea and pick up those notes to study this favorite book “with” Elliot.
As it became clear that many years ago a chain of events had been set in motion, I began to appreciate the lengths the God of the universe went to for me; I felt known. The experience has stretched my understanding of His profound, personalized love, which Dr. Stanley explains in his sermon “God’s Love”:
God doesn’t love the world in some big group. It isn’t some pot that He’s thrown everybody in and says, “Well, I love everybody” … He loves every single one of us personally … [And] He wants us to know that He loves us. Why? Because, you see, there’s so much wrapped up in that. If He loves me, He’s going to be faithful to me. If He loves me, it says, “Yes, He died for me.” If He loves me, He is going to be concerned by my needs. If He loves me, He’s going to be concerned about every single area of my life … God knows exactly how you and I need to be loved.
And that is precisely what Genesis shows—that the Lord loves each of us uniquely: Adam received an invitation to stroll with his Maker in the cool of the evening (Gen. 3:8); Abraham was given a son miraculously and a covenant that’s still playing out (Gen. 17:5-6; Gen. 21:2); Joseph got to trade his prison clothes for fine linen, a signet ring, and the authority they denoted (Gen. 41:40-42). And Sandy got a love letter from God, in her husband’s handwriting.