Whatsoever Things: A Stumble Around Grace

When I consider my relationship to William Spencer through a lens now being cleansed by tears quite hot and abrasive, I think about how the word of God says “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of a good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise? Think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8-9).And I want to talk about it. Or at least get it out of my mind.

Whatsoever things are true.

Immediately upon his absence in the body Holy Spirit reestablished and resettled in my heart that Spencer loved me. In fact, one of the first things I wrote—the initial ways that God allowed me to mark the moment in writing was not in mourning but in love. How much Spencer loved me. Holy Spirit imprinted in my heart the way that Spencer gazed at me. How he touched me. How he surprised himself with his own capacity to love me.

Even the way the Lord took him was an act of love for me. God knew how I’d fight, how hard I’d argue in the spirit. I’d done it before. I’d do it some more. Except this time, I’d have been out of line—and so he left in a way that left me no room to err.

When I say God’s love is for me? I mean that.

Whatsoever things are honest.

For a season Spencer’s physical health then cumulative AND complex grief changed him in ways that neither of us could identify, articulate, or handle—and sir refused to do counseling. It was not his bag, baby. He had had 2 heart attacks (having flatlined for a solid 13 minutes before miraculous resuscitation), 7 stints, a stroke, and a knee replacement. Additionally during the pandemic, his mother and former mother-in-law passed away within 6 months of each other along with countless others of his longtime friends and colleagues and family members. He had a near irrational fear of contracting COVID-19, and the news constantly made him worried, sad, and frustrated.

I myself was grappling with losing people while stumbling into my forties so far from where I thought I’d be, perimenopause fully fighting me in the face, and COVID-19 having left me with weird aftershocks that rocked me back on my heels. All of this while we navigated a changing church, two teenagers who basically slept through COVID school, adult children within a blended family, grandkids, financial uncertainty, and the usual fights that we always fought: his childhood trauma versus my childhood trauma.

I won’t tell you how many times Spencer tried to divorce me. Nor will I tell you how often I prayed for him to leave. It was rough, baby.

Whatsoever things are of good report.

I did my best, he did his best, we did our best… but capacity be limited to our humanity, and I think we really did both learn a little of what Paul meant when said he would glory in his weakness because God’s power is made perfect when we are weak. Up until that time we had never both been down bad at the same time; one of us would be able to carry on while the other got it together. This last season marked the first time we were both in critical condition but didn’t have the other to lean on.

Unheard of.

But hey. We caught a revelation on the down and dirty of God’s sufficient grace. And that’s where the Lord made some exceedingly crooked places straight enough for us to find love in Christ for ourselves and then each other for the first time again. He left here looking at me with love in his eyes and his hands and his heart. I am here today to speak about the complicated sweetness of a man that I loved full out with my whole crazy self irregardless of how bad it got until it got better every time til he slipped off in his heavenly slides. I still very much love him, and I sit in that reality, what folks call grief every day. To love someone who isn’t there to receive it full out. It’ll take you out if you don’t adjust your posture.

Folks always speak about God’s Grace like it’s some abstract thing. It’s not. Grace is literally Jesus Christ in the flesh. Do you understand? The Word was made flesh and dwelt among men. That means that Grace is not ephemeral but has a tangible quality. Grace has depth and mass, is solid and structured. Grace has arc and curve and groove and nuance. Grace has tone and inflection. Grace has muscle and range of motion and agility. Grace has thought and emotional intelligence. Grace is God’s Word in Action.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among men.

I say that to you so explicitly, so insistently because Grace had to be a real living being to change the two of us. In that last very dry place in our lives together, Grace settled into our home and began to work us out like Olivia Pope. Every which a way we scrambled, GRACE caught us by the scruff of our prideful necks and whispered, “It’s handled.” The vows we made before God and the Justice raised a standard up so high that we ain’t have a choice but to get it together under the hand of The Almighty.

Whatsoever things are just.

Now, on that blessed if bogart of a day, I ain’t write no fancy new age vows like a lot of you do these days. First of all, I wasn’t gone get married. Spencer made me get married cuz he wanted to get back into full time ministry and what he look like walking around with this ‘un henh just tagging along with kids and no ring? Yeah okay. And also, the Catholic Judge was old, and white, and traditional. So, while I said honor it wasn’t no cherish. Nah fam! My vows said this: I, Kisha, so take William, to be my lawfully wedded husband: to obey him and serve him; love, honour, and keep him; in sickness and in health; for richer and for poorer; and, forsaking all others, keep only unto him, so long as we both shall live.

That’s what I said. That’s what I tried to do. And it was but by the grace of God, do you hear me? No idea what I was saying. Until here at the end, when I had to walk it out. In the end, the Lord made sure that Spencer and I literally had to enact the vows we said for the Justice of the Peace on one cold December day. By Grace Through Faith and that not of ourselves, lest either of us got to cutting up.

But anyway.

God IS gracious just like Paul said because some time before he died, Spencer had become once again a more familiar version of himself to me. And he kept remarking to me how far I had come since he had met me and how much he loved me. We fell into a sweetness that never existed before, bred in fires that no one else ever saw or experienced—just us down in it. I know now if I’d have left when I wanted or even when he wanted? I’d be bitter and angry and useless. As it stands, I am soft and hurting and somehow still loving and lovable despite it all.

God always knows best no matter that you might feel your worst.

Whatsoever things are lovely.

I used to sing a song in the bars around college, an Erykah Badu jam before she was full on witchy. The words said:

Mmh, I’m an orange moon
I’m an orange moon
Reflecting the light of the sun
Many nights he was alone
Many, many, many nights

His light was too bright
so they turned away
And he stood alone
Every night and every day
Then he turned to me
He saw his reflection in me
And he smiled at me,

when he turned to me
Then he said to me
How good it is, how good it is
How good it is, how good it is
Ah, aah aah, ah, aah aah
I’m an orange moon
I’m brighter than before
Brighter than ever before
I’m an orange moon

and I shine so bright
‘Cause I reflect the light of my sun,
I praise the day, he turned my way
And smiled at me
He, gets to smile and I get to be orange…

Erykah Badu, “Orange Moon”

That’s how I saw myself with him—a reflection of his brilliance and happy to be it. Content to be orange while he smiled.


And so I miss him. Not the way that folks pine for a thing lost. No, I miss the familiar, the expectation, the folding up into his sphere of influence, the experience of Spencer. He had become the world to me after Christ. And perhaps he knew as much as God told him, that I’d never be more than that—content to reflect who my Spencer was and never really paying much attention to the bright light that I had all my own that was me reflecting The Lord’s Glory instead.

I won’t ever know that. I think Adonai knows that for me to know for sure would make me cry in a way I could never recover from. To be loved enough to be let go.

But who am I to guess at the thoughts of the all knowing, only wise God?

Whatsoever things are pure.

I’ll stop here. Not done. Just a…minute sit in the Grace that still envelopes me. I am grateful to have been so loved. And still so loved. Still.

I won’t ever make the same mistakes; and also. Perhaps, I will only love better from here.

May Grace abound even the more.

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