The word widow comes from the Middle English word which meant to be empty. Even before that, it was derived from the Old English word meaning “to separate or to split.” While it is easy for me to look up the etymology of the word, it is far more difficult to watch those that I love become widowed.
My precious mother-in-law is adjusting to life as a widow. Another dear friend lost her husband this week. Additionally, I have been reading Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot who was twice widowed. The compounding of these realities means that my heart and mind have been thinking deeply about those who have experienced widowhood.
To separate or to split: that works well for wood (which shares a root word with widow), but it is not cut so clean when it comes to covenants and vows. Ask Naomi who was so overcome by grief that she changed her name to mara meaning bitter. Ask my sweet mother-in-law whose hands still set out two tea cups from over fifty years of muscle memory.
Expensive, covenantal love leaves expansive gaps when it is severed by death; however, for believers in Christ, there is another covenantal love which will never be severed. Those who lose an earthly spouse need never lose their heavenly one. Even though they are widowed, they are still wed. The following are only a sampling of verses wherein God speaks to his people as their truest mate.
And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness (Hosea 2:19-20).
You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her and your land Married, for the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married to him (Isaiah 62:4).
For your Maker is your husband, and the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called (Isaiah 54:5).
I am learning so much from my widowed friends. I am seeing the inordinate weight I tend to wrongly place on my own marriage. I am reminded how many widows long to be seen and known and engaged. I am reminded that there will be no marriage in heaven since our souls will be wed fully and finally to the One with whom they were always intended to be eternally wed. I am reminded that gospel hope is resilient and buoyant even in the deep, deep waters of loss.
Widowed yet Wed
I find it hard to breathe without you.
In oneness you became my other lung.
And although you’re no longer here,
Your name is always on my tongue.
As certainly as love’s first drops
Leave both its drinkers drunk,
It’s sobering last sweet sips
Leave each survivor sunk.
I didn’t see how high we’d climbed,
Or the height our love had grown.
But now I marvel at the elevation
As I slowly climb down all alone.
In all those years of side by side,
Hardships worked on us like glue.
I long for even one more such day,
As I make one and one from two.
Though I’m widowed still I’m wed
To a Savior who dwells on high.
As our love led me more to Him,
Your absence now draws me nigh!
Yes, He will make a new song
From my barely humming heart.
My Maker is not through with me;
From a stop, He’ll make a start.