by Joanie Butman
I left for my recent trip with a heavy heart as a member of our small summer bible study group is in the midst of an intense battle with cancer. When I landed in Croatia, I was overwhelmed with guilt that I should be enjoying such beauty while she was in debilitating pain. When I awoke the next morning to a breathtaking view of the Adriatic, I began my day with a prayer on her behalf. What I heard in response was that the best way to honor her suffering was to live life to the fullest.
With that thought and this scripture in mind, I embraced each experience with renewed gusto even though she was never far from my mind. My guilt became gratitude and an intense appreciation for the blessings I’d been given – especially the privilege of making this journey. Every color seemed more vibrant, every flavor more robust, every encounter more pleasurable, every moment more treasured. That’s the thing about facing mortality – your own or someone else’s – it makes you cherish living all the more.
Everywhere I looked was an ‘Oh wow!” whether it was a stunning vista, a culinary delicacy, a new friendship, or our cute Croatian kayak guide. None compared, however, to a brief glimpse into a wedding reception at the Villa d’Este in Lake Como, Italy. It was otherworldly, and I get goose bumps whenever I think of it – not because I’m a sap for weddings (even though I am) or because my daughter deemed every place we visited in Lake Como a potential wedding venue. No, it was because it reminded me of the many Biblical analogies of Christ as bridegroom and we as His bride.
The Villa d’Este isn’t Heaven and pales in comparison to what awaits us, but I couldn’t help but be comforted by the visual of my friend being welcomed into eternity in an even grander fashion than the bride and groom at the reception I witnessed. I hear the burst of applause, singing, and cheering as I picture her being ushered in on Christ’s arm radiant, fully restored and free from suffering. I don't know what the immediate future holds for my friend. God alone sets the date for each of our wedding feasts; but Biblically speaking, we can all look forward to a celestial reception that surpasses anything we can imagine. It’s God’s promise to us.
I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
for he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
One last thought. As I peered into that reception hall mouthing yet another ‘Oh wow!’ I thought of Steve Jobs for some bizarre reason. According to Walter Isaacson’s biography, Jobs had a lukewarm approach to God. In response to a question from Isaacson, Jobs comments, “Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. Maybe it’s ’cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear.” Jobs was a visionary and a seeker. I could be wrong, but I don’t think he was seeing the newest Apple product when he uttered his last words. I choose to believe the last vision Jobs had was his best ever or else he wouldn’t have left this world with these words still lingering on his lips, “OH WOW! OH WOW! OH WOW!”