For I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God… (Job 19:25-26)
The second wife of my first step-father died this morning. She was diagnosed with cancer only a month ago, and no one who knew and loved her had little opportunity to say goodbye. Her name was Rita.
Although the family connections between Rita and me may have seemed tenuous, our hearts and souls were deeply connected. I am thankful for her life, zest, beauty, sassiness, and generosity of her spirit. I am also thankful for what she did for me.
My mother’s second marriage to Ted was in trouble before it even started, and their individual brokenness wasn’t healed being together but only accentuated and exacerbated. One day Ted was in our lives, and the next day he was gone, and I was never able to make sense of their 5-year marriage, and I never healed from the pain of that time.
By God’s mercies, Ted and I met after a 30-year gap. We were both on Sewanee Mountain one summer—he for a wedding and me for graduate studies. When I heard that his family was on campus for this grand event, I “crashed” into the chapel just as the wedding was ending, found Ted, reintroduced myself, and we spent the next 2 hours talking, sharing, and laughing, crying, and healing.
As Ted and I continued to build a relationship, he introduced me to Rita. I watched them together, listening to their spirited banter, and seeing them argue over the best way to make a Manhattan. I was privileged to see their joy of being together, and it became clear to me that Rita had saved—was saving—Ted’s life—or rather, that Jesus had worked through her to redeem this broken and conflicted man.
So, what did Rita do for me? Because her love for Ted helped him to heal, so a healed Ted was able to make for a healed and restored relationship with me. The pain of his marriage to my mother, the pain of having a depressed and angry step-father, the confusion about him being gone without any goodbyes, and the void of a 30-year gap were all healed.
I didn’t know just how quickly Rita was going downhill until her brother, Doug, called me yesterday. Although we have never met before, I believe that on some deep level, we knew each other by the end of the call. During our time on the phone, I told Doug that I would always be grateful for Rita because through her love, Ted was healed, and through that healing, a big part of life was redeemed as well.
This morning Doug called to tell me that Rita had passed away. During today’s call, he said, “Yesterday, you told me that Rita had saved Ted’s life, and I also believe that he saved hers.” As he was speaking, these words from Eugene O’Neil came to mind: “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”
How does the glue of God’s grace come to us? Through each other. Who have been the glue people in your life? Who lifted you up when you were down? Who came to find you when you were lost? Who helped you to believe in yourself again when you had been defeated? Who gave you hope when your heart had been broken? Who continued to love you even when you knew that you weren’t always loveable?
Without our glue-people, many of us wouldn’t even be alive—I know I wouldn’t be. As you remember and give thanks for those people in your life, I want you also to recognize that you have been—and are today—the glue of God’s grace for more people than you will ever know in this life.
To introduce Rita to you as my first step-father’s second wife doesn’t begin to tell the story of the love that we shared. I give great thanksgiving for her life here with us, and I also give great thanksgiving that Rita totally believed that her—and our—Redeemer lives, as Job proclaims. The grace of God’s glue saved both Ted and Rita, the grace of that glue spilled into my life, and the grace of God’s eternal glue has mended Rita and brought her into her new life with all those who have gone before. Amen. Alleluia.
- Who has been the glue people of God’s grace in your life?
- How has God worked through you to be His glue of grace in someone else’s life?
- Is there some gluing—that is, mending, blessing, reconciling, sharing—work that God is calling you to do right now? If so, are you doing it? If not, what will it take for you to know there is no better time than now?