Life Update: The Hand that Wounds is the Same Hand that Restores
Last year, John Musyimi shared with us his raw and palpable grief journey following the death of his wife. Today, John graciously shares with us a personal update that is exciting and encouraging and serves as proof that God heals and restores. Let’s dig in.
There are three people whom I admire for their courage. The first is anyone who ever stepped into the boxing ring with Mike Tyson. I just don’t get how after watching those knockout videos on YouTube, anyone would volunteer to fight ‘Iron Mike.’ That’s courage. The second is that guy on National Geographic who goes into the deep of the Amazon forest, barefoot, in a little canoe, looking for Anacondas. This he does simply for the thrill of capturing them by hand and measuring their length. And the third person whose courage I admire is Mumbi Mbugua.
For those of you wondering who Mumbi Mbugua is, I’ll tell you. She’s this lovely young lady in Nairobi who loves Jesus, likes to talk theology, and is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church. She’s also a violinist who loves to read and analyze people and stuff. Interestingly, she’s fantastic at finding the right gif to respond to text messages.
Where’s the courage? you ask.
Well, not too long ago, Mumbi Mbugua agreed to marry me.
At the risk of stating the obvious, she knows I am a widower and have four young kids. And yet, she still wants to marry me and be their mom. If that ain’t courage, then I don’t know what is!
It has now been one year and five months since my wife Maureen (Mo’) died. Quite a bit has changed since I last wrote about my grief journey. This post is meant to give you all a personal update about this big change in my life.
In October 2020, eight months after Mo’ died, I officially began a relationship with Mumbi. I knew her from my time as a pastor at Mamlaka Hill Chapel. She’s never been married before.
We are both as surprised as you might be at this turn of events because neither of us expected it. I wasn’t looking to date then, and there wasn’t any pressure in my personal and family life that was bearing upon me to move in that direction. I had even thought I might pattern my life after Anna the prophetess in Luke 2:36-37. (Just like her, I was married for seven years. Just like her, I became widowed. I thought that perhaps I should also, just like her, be single for the rest of my life).
I had a solid support system that prevented me from being overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising my four young kids alone. In other words, the genesis of this relationship was purely the realization that I had just ‘met’ a person with whom I would want to spend the rest of my life under ‘normal’ circumstances. I thus decided to pursue her, and she, knowing all the dangers, toils, and snares involved, said yes.
We drew up a list of people we thought needed to hear it personally from us, and the reactions were pretty much what we expected – there was Celebration from some, sincere Concern from others, and sadly, Contempt from a few. (I’m still a Baptist preacher, I had to have three alliterated points).
Those who celebrated generally did so because they had privately prayed for this to happen. They had all felt that I would need a companion with whom to share life and who would help me with the responsibility of raising the kids. They saw this development as a triumph of God’s grace. I did too.
Those who expressed sincere concern did so for various reasons. The main one was that this felt like it was happening too soon and was moving too fast. They were concerned that we might not have processed the decision well enough, and I might not have healed enough to think objectively about such a matter. Other related concerns don’t need repeating here. The main value to us of this reaction was that, though it was immensely taxing emotionally, it helped us further clarify and own our decision. We probably wouldn’t have done so if it hadn’t been so strongly resisted and thoroughly scrutinized. As you can imagine, we’ve had countless conversations with different people answering myriad questions about it.
Those who expressed contempt did so mainly in the form of slander. My faithfulness to my late wife was questioned, given how ‘soon’ after her death this relationship developed. Mumbi’s suitability as a wife and mother was slandered as well. Thankfully, this reaction was minimal and was hardly spoken directly to our faces.
Since then, by God’s grace, some people in the concern group have shifted to the celebration camp. Others, sadly, tipped over from concern into contempt, and some continue to struggle with the fact of our relationship.
You might also fall into one of those three categories as you read this. We pray that it be a celebration, we understand if it is a concern, and we beg you to resist the temptation to give in to contempt.
I still miss Maureen from time to time. I still experience bouts of sadness over her death. The impact of losing her will continue to be a scar on my soul for many years to come. And yet, God’s grace has greatly availed in my life and brought me to the point where remarriage is happening.
Where we’re at
Our families on both sides are supportive. We did our Ruracio (dowry ceremony) a while ago, and it went very well. We’ve officially received our parents’ blessing to proceed to marriage.
So far, the kids have, very well, taken to her and her to them. We’ve had plenty of memorable little moments together that have given us encouraging foretastes of what family life could be like. There have also been pivotal moments of testing where the difficulties of what lies ahead were thrust upon us. By God’s grace, we have been able to navigate through those.
Two particular men, Rev Arphaxad Chege and Andy Mburu, who have both been widowed and remarried, have proved to be faithful guides down this path.
We are firmly planted in the life of our local church, and the saints there have been of tremendous encouragement to us. They mourned with me, and now they are rejoicing with us. My fellow elders have all voiced, and more importantly, demonstrated their support for our relationship.
Some random thoughts
I write this update because it seems God has been pleased to use my journey over the last year and a half to encourage others. Perhaps this new development and all its entailments will also serve some of you. So, here are some random thoughts from my experience so far, which I hope you find useful:
- Healthy, gospel-proclaiming-and-displaying local churches are a gift of God’s grace in which saints share in the joys and sorrows of life. Find one and plant yourself in it.
- God’s grace triumphs over the deepest sorrow. The same hand that wounds us is also the same hand that heals and restores us. Praise God that He does this.
- Labor to make your thinking about suffering and death as robustly biblical as possible. It’ll prove useful in ways that you can’t anticipate right now.
- The length, depth, and height of grief will vary from one person to the next. Learn to be okay with that.
- Sometimes God’s goodness surprises us just as much or even more than His painful providences do. Gladly receive his goodness when He sends it.
- The gospel has within it the idea of adoption. Through his Son Jesus’ death, God adopts all who believe in him as his children. Taking on children who are not yours biologically is one way you can imagine that reality. The Father took us on as his own, though we were formerly alienated and hostile to Him. So, blended families, too, do image the gospel. Encourage your friends who are in blended families.
- God’s blessings will usually come with new sets of problems and responsibilities. They will burden us in new and unexpected ways. It’s his way of growing us whilst keeping us humbly dependent on Him.
- Some people have done harder things for the glory of God than seeking to build a gospel-commending blended family. Learn to see things in perspective.
Lord willing, the wedding will be held on the 14th of August 2021 (roughly a month away at the time of this writing).
Seeing that we live in Covid times when there are restrictions on attendance, most of you will not be able to come, even though we would have loved to have you at the wedding. We want to honor the government’s authority and follow the laid out protocols. Hopefully, we will be able to have a livestream of the ceremony to serve those who won’t be there. We regret any disappointment about this and plead for your understanding.
There’s lots more to this story than we have time or space for. For now, let us content ourselves with this abbreviated version.
Finally, friends, pray for us.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15 ESV