There are things in life that can only be known when you experience them in your own skin–feel them down in the depths of your own bones. Things like that feeling of absolute certainty that the person kneeling before you with a ring in his hand is the person you will love for the rest of your life. Or a heart swollen with humility, love, and gratitude at the realization that the grace of God, through Christ, covers you, floods you, and sets you free. You simply can’t know those things second-hand. I’m not sure you can even really fathom them, although you may try.
The all-encompassing, self-sacrificing passion that a mother feels for her child is one of those things, I believe, as is the physical act of birthing a child. Another, I learned last Monday, is the loss of a child.
I’ve been surprised over the past week at how foreign it is to refer to a miscarriage at six weeks gestation as the loss of a child. Some people are offended…Maybe rightly so? I know that there is infinitely more pain when a child who was born into the world dies, whether the child was two minutes old or an elderly child who passed before an even older parent. That kind of pain is another one of those things that you cannot fathom–nor should you want to. I don’t pretend to include myself in the group of people who have had their worst fears realized.
And, yet, I say with a pain I could not comprehend before last week, that I have, in fact, lost a child. I feel it with an incomprehensible sadness that I never expected. I have, after all, two beautiful, healthy children. That is one of the consolations that have been frequently offered to me this week. And it’s true. I was only six weeks along; if I hadn’t taken the test early, I would have never even known I was pregnant. It would have been worse if it happened later in the pregnancy–another attempt at consolation that is, in fact, also true. I know that people mean well, and I’m certain that I’ve said the same kinds of things in the past before I knew the pain of loss. I’m trying to extend the grace that was so kindly shown to me when this kind of hurt was still unfathomable. I smile, and say “you’re right” or “thank you,” and yet…I’m still left pondering. I’m consumed with a question whose answer I cannot grasp.
But it’s not the “why” that’s expected–the one shouted with clenched fists at the heavens, as if the Almighty Creator somehow owes me an explanation. It’s not even the pleading “why”–the one asked with the hope that a reason from God will somehow make the pain more bearable. As strange as it may seem, I’m satisfied with those particular whys. My peace there lies in my unshakable belief in God’s sovereignty, and beyond that, His goodness. He has promised us in His Word that “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28, emphasis mine). And I believe that promise in the depths of my soul. God has proven it to be true throughout scripture and through the events in my own life. GOD IS FAITHFUL. And so I rest in the truth that I don’t need to know why as long as I’m trusting that God knows why. And my faith says that is enough.
Yet…a pervasive “Why” remains.
WHY, after sincere, heartfelt condolences are offered, followed by answering the question “how far along were you?” is there the thud of an uncertain “OH.” As if the expressions of sympathy were mistaken, or somehow unwarranted? I understand that the medical community calls situations like mine a “chemical” pregnancy, implying that it somehow wasn’t a “real” pregnancy at all. And that lie has been believed over 50 million times since 1973 when Roe vs Wade made abortion legal. But it’s not typically abortion advocates who are saying these things to me; that would make sense. It’s people who believe whole-heartedly that life begins at conception. It’s people who vote strictly based on social values. It’s people who are staunchly pro-life. It’s CHRISTIANS–people who believe that God is the Author of life and death and creates man in His own image. The same people who post pictures of babies at 12 weeks gestation with Bible verses on Facebook are the same ones who imply that we lost a pregnancy and not a child. Disappointing? Of course! But an event that warrants heartsick grief and mourning over the loss of a family member–a sibling to our boys, who may have had my eyes or my husband’s wit? A living, breathing child who we will never cuddle or hold or sing to sleep? Well, that’s a little, eh, extreme, don’t you think?
And before last week, I thought the exact. same. thing. I was guilty of allowing our society’s culture of death to seep into the crevices of my mind and cloud my understanding of the beauty and preciousness of life as it is from conception–even as I paid lip service (and even whole-heartedly believed) the anti-abortion talking points. I rejoiced in the news of a baby saved from murder outside of an abortion clinic, but I did not mourn and grieve the loss of a precious baby of the same gestation who died in my friend’s bathroom. “How far along was she? Only nine weeks?. OH.” I wasn’t even aware of my own hypocrisy.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
God is so very merciful to me. And, as I said before, I cannot begin to know the mind of God in this situation, nor would I want to. But I can use the death of our child as an occasion to give Him glory and to (hopefully) grow to be more like His Son, my Savior. He has allowed me to see this tragedy as a GIFT. He has used it to reveal sin in my life and an attitude in the church as a whole. And for that I am profoundly grateful.
At this point I’m still left asking “why?” Why is there such dichotomy in the church and in the minds and hearts of the saints? Why are we, as a whole, not truly advocating a culture of life within the church? And what can we do about it? I’ve pondered these questions before the Lord all week…and this post is one way I’m attempting to answer them. We aren’t talking about this; I think that we should.
We have a tradition in our family. When our two sons were born, we chose meaningful names for both of them, as well as a Bible verse and a hymn that we pray will come to characterize their lives. This week we gave our sweet baby in heaven a name, since he/she was our precious child. And we chose a hymn and a verse that already characterizes our child’s life–brief on earth, but (we have a great hope) is eternal in heaven with Jesus Christ. Each and every day, God uses my children to teach me and mold me into His likeness, and I’m so thankful that this precious third child is no exception. And He has been so faithful to walk through this with us. He has flooded us with a peace and an assurance of His goodness, even in the midst our pain. And once again, His Word is true.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
And, yes, that peace…that’s another one of those things.