The Bible and Homosexuality - The Church's Dance in the 21st Century - Part 2

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 7 April 2004 0 Comments
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What sense did you make out of the death of your first wife? How did it affect your God experience?


My first wife died of cancer on August 6, 1988, after a long, long sickness. Like all death experiences involving a primary relationship, there is enormous pain, emptiness and depression that fills the life of the survivor. That is what grief is. There is also after an extended illness, a sense of exhaustion and even relief about which one feels guilty. Twelve years after her death, I wrote the account of that experience and its meaning in my life in my autobiography. It is entitled: Here I Stand : My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality. By the time twelve years had passed I could talk about it openly and rationally. I could never have written that, however, when her death actually occurred. That book is now out in paperback from HarperCollins and I don't know that I can improve on that here.

Every experience teaches one something. In this particular death and grief experience, I learned a great deal about whom I am, how I cope and what sustains me. These life learnings are in a deep sense "God learnings" though most people would not call them that. I also learned to be more sensitive to people who live alone, either by choice or by circumstances. It is not easy. Some of my compassion for those whom society does not allow to marry comes from that experience.

This experience also focused my attention on the issue of life after death with a new intensity. It was a non-intellectual intensity. That theme shows up again and again in my later books. I think especially of my book entitled: Resurrection : Myth or Reality?

It is fair to say that everything that happens in life, both good and bad, opens one up to the possibility of growth. But growth is not automatic. Two people go through similar experiences and one will grow while another becomes bitter. That has led me to the conclusion that external events do not finally shape our lives but the way we relate to those events does.

Thanks for asking. Few people ever do that.

-- John Shelby Spong




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