Listen to this week’s Devotional here.
Author: Chris Shearer Cooper
Most of you know that I lost my dear wife Lisa to cancer back in 2019. We had been married for 32 years, and had been together for a few years before that, so it was hard for me to even remember a time when she wasn’t there. Earlier this year I was trying to put into words what that was like, and the best analogy I could come up with was waking up in the hospital after a car accident and discovering they’ve had to amputate your arm. Do people with only one arm go on to live full happy lives? Of course. But whatever happens, you’re never whole again.
And then over the summer, once of our guest preachers read the story from John 5 about the man who had been sitting at the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, waiting for a miracle cure, and the question that Jesus asks the man is “Do you want to be made whole?” That question hit me like a ton of bricks. Did I want to be made whole? What would it mean if this Lisa-shaped hole in my heart and soul were to heal up? It felt like that would negate Lisa’s very existence. This Lisa-shaped hole is all I have left of her, and I didn’t want it taken away!
But the question kept niggling at me, and I talked with a lot of people about it, trying to make some sense of it. I worked at it, and worked at it, and one day a wise friend of mine asked a follow-up question – what if I’m whole right now, today, exactly as I am, hole and all? Ooh, that was a tough one. What does it mean to be whole? Great, now I’ve got two existential-level questions niggling at me.
So I pondered, and I pondered, and I kind of imagine God thinking “Dear Me, this guy is thick! Do I have to spell everything out for him?” and luckily God knows me well enough to know the answer is often “Yes.”
And so the other day I was hiking the hill behind my house, and as I came to the top there was a young woman sitting up there sobbing uncontrollably. You know how when you come upon someone crying, they always stop (or at least try to), reach for a Kleenex, and apologize? Her grief was too deep, and too sharp, she couldn’t even do that. All she could do was cry. And the hole in me recognized the hole in her, and I sat down next to her, said something incredibly insightful like “grief sucks,” and just sat with her. After a while the tears subsided and she was able to tell her story about job stress and family stress and moving and the country going down the tubes and a boyfriend who turned out to be kind of a jerk, and through it all her beloved dog was always there for her, and he had died unexpectedly, leaving her completely and thoroughly alone. And because of this hole in me, I was able to connect with her and while there was nothing I could do to ease her grief, I could let her know that she was not alone, and for a few minutes I was there to share her burden and hopefully lighten her load.
As we went our separate ways, the ego part of me was thinking about angels and how the word “angel” literally means “messenger,” and how good it felt to be a messenger in that situation. I’m an angel! Woohoo! And then this quiet voice in my head pointed out that she had also brought me an incredibly important message, and I should get off my high horse.
I am whole, and part of my wholeness is this Lisa-shaped hole I have. Wholeness does not mean perfection; it means living into all the gifts I’ve been given and being the best version of me I can be.
Dear Lord, thank you for reminding me that however broken I feel, I am whole and I am enough!