10/12/2015

To Those Whose Children Are Asleep

I mean not to write to those reading this in precious moments when their children nap, or are sleeping for the night (or next few hours of night, as your case may be). Rather, this is for those whose children are asleep as regards the biblical terminology to refer to those who are no longer with us, those our hope declares are with the Lord.

October is Infant Loss and Awareness Month. Some call it Pregnancy and Infant Loss and Awareness Month. Either way, it is a month in which the intent is to spread awareness of the many, many walking wounded women and men among us who have lost pregnancies and infants; many include those who have never been able to conceive though not for lack of many, many months of trying and tremendous efforts to do so. If you would like to have an ugly cry, read this article to the Invisible Moms among us. Thursday, October 15th, is the particular day in which these lost children are remembered. My hope in posting this a few days early is that it might engender tenderness and grace in us toward those who are hurting.


In honor of the countless sisters and brothers who have lost their beloved children; to those who have known intimately the pain of struggling to conceive, I write this today in hopes that you will know you are not alone. I don't doubt many of you have heard some deeply painful words, the most painful likely from "well intended" Christians who are just trying to help you trust God, but whose efforts twisted the knife deeper into your soul and further frayed the shreds of your hope.

I once sat in a Bible study about idolatry, putting anything before God and above God. The leader asked where we were convicted by the study about idolatry in our own hearts. Somehow the conversation turned to "concern for a friend" who has been infertile for a few years. And the concern was that this person is angry and bitter, and struggles to be happy for friends who have babies. How could the Sharer "speak the truth in love" [that phrase needs its whoooooole own post. someday.] to this friend about how she needs to trust God's plan and timing for children? Because, according the Sharer, "I'm just so concerned that she wants a baby more than she wants God and it's ruining her life and she's miserable to be around. And this isn't about me! It's really that I want to help her not be that way and have God's peace." [That's a bit of a sum, but that was the message]

I will tell you straight up--all I could think about was the devastation I felt the times I thought I was pregnant, when we weren't even trying but man alive I wanted a baby so much that I would weep at church week after week. And then that test would be negative, or my period would start, and I would be crushed. Once I was so sure I was pregnant that, on day 26 of my cycle, with a test stating that "99.2% of pregnant women get a positive test with this brand by this point" showed me a big fat negative, I lay on my bed crying for six hours. SIX HOURS. I had never done that in my life. Not when someone I loved died, not when my parents showed up in my fifth grade classroom to say, "We're moving hours away today, so say good-bye to all of your friends" and I had literally about two minutes to say good-bye and then we were just gone. But I was so sure that baby was on his way, and when he wasn't? It was a death to me and I grieved that death as such.

Turns out Roger was very much alive in my womb, and I just don't show up on pregnancy tests until the day of my missed period. Which I learned with BT. But that is a story yet forthcoming.

Point being, I sat in that room thinking, "I thought this was about OUR idolatry, not how to fix others. And also, that poor, sweet woman. So broken. And these are her friends? So worried about how to tell her she needs to trust God?" And truth be told, I was a bit pissed. Because the Sharer (who, truly, is someone I like, but we all do shitty things sometimes, which is why Jesus died for us) was nursing her third child, as were the other few women who chimed in. As I was trying to figure out a way to say that what this infertile friend needs is compassion for her suffering, without my words coming across self-righteous or angry (because anger is bad, doncha know, so I couldn't be mad and actually be communing with God!), by the grace of God another woman who fought infertility before being able to have her two sons spoke up. She shared how studies have found that infertility carries the emotional and psychological impact of being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Literally, to the infertile woman every month she doesn't get pregnant is like another death to her.

And for the woman who suffers miscarriages? She is experiencing the death of her beloved, wanted baby every. single. time. The baby she wanted is dead and she will never get to know them. Other children may come but this child's life story is finished. Pretty sad that these cards are the best thing I have ever read in regards to pregnancy loss, yet they have not a single Christ-leaning sentiment.

Wouldn't you think the most compassionate people in this regard would be Christians? We who crusade against Planned Parenthood and label ourselves abolitionists in our pursuit of ending this modern day genocide known as elective abortion? But no. Many heads in that room did the "tsk-tsk" nod--with a sad face of course because infertility is such a bummer--because this woman just didn't trust God enough to be at peace with his will for her to not have children, at least not yet. Praise God that my friend spoke up, because the tone of the room changed. A few people who have also suffered had the courage to speak up about how if anyone tried to tell them they had idolatry in the midst of their infertility or miscarriage they wouldn't have been able to hear, or possibly even wouldn't have cared.

They spoke the truth many of us refuse to remember, that pretty much every Christian woman who is suffering from infertility already feels ashamed for not trusting God and for not having his "perfect peace"she "should" have. She questions if that lack of faith, lack of belief, is why he is withholding a baby from her. Or if he's punishing her because she had sex before marriage. Or perhaps, even, she had an abortion at one point in her life and God is bound by the damage she did to her own body and won't fill her womb. She doesn't deserve his blessing. She blew that chance.

Friends, I am crying in the middle of Starbucks. This is not the character of our God.

An actual teardrop as I write in a crowded coffee shop.

Yes. He allows things that make no sense. He doesn't stop us or others from doing just awful, awful things to ourselves and to one another. And yes, he does allow consequences of our actions. But he's not some jerk, always out to withhold from us. And while he is bold and fierce, he is also the actual personification of Love. Not with hard words to whip us into hard bodied faith-shape, but tender mercy and compassion. The Lord does want us to have joy, but it's not some thing we just render from ourselves, no gold nugget that we can mine out of our own faith. Not even if we read our Bible lots and pray without ceasing can we muster up the belief that all things are good and have the perfect perspective and wisdom that alone is God's.

I have written before about this song that wrecks me. It's called You are On Our Side by Bethany Dillon.

Truth be told, sometimes the Lord is the trumpet, going out before the host of his armies and declaring himself to the world. I would never deny he can opt to display himself, his glory, in that way. But so often I find Jesus to be so very less concerned with trumpets and declarations, quite reticent to require "bold words" be spoken "in love" to the "idolatrous" friend, and so much more his presence to be the way this song makes me feel. We're sitting by a fireplace, and cozied up with a mocha and blanket as rain pitter patters on leaves outside afire with gold, and he's asking me how I really feel, what's actually going on in my life and heart.

And when I spill my guts unfiltered, saying how angry I am with God, why I want to believe he's good but everything in me is crying out, "Not fair!" and, "Lord! How much more? How long? WHERE ARE YOU?"

The look he gives isn't wrath. It isn't disappointment. He doesn't take me to some verse about how I am supposed to trust the Lord, nor even show me the rewards God has for those who obey in faith. His eyes fill with tears, because his heart breaks for me, for how desperately weak I am. He is compassionate and tender, because he himself knows that you can cry out to God when you feel forsaken and nothing makes sense. Even if you know God is defined by his good will and purpose toward mankind.  Jesus knew why he came, knew why he had to die, even called the man who betrayed him to his death "friend" upon his seizure that he knew would result in his crucifixion. He knew he was cursed. Yet he still cried out asking God why he was forsaking him.

So to my brokenhearted friends, those who grieve their lost children be you one who has other flesh-of-your-flesh little humans to hug or no, I pray these words are grace and peace over your soul. You are so beloved to the Lord. Yes, he has allowed this, even chose this for you. He is sovereign and if it were outside his will for you it would not be so. Yet your father loves you. Fiercely. And this isn't supposed to be easy and you aren't supposed to be okay. You can grieve and whether it's been three days or thirty years, the pain isn't supposed to just magically disappear like death gets easy simply because a clock ticked some since it happened. It isn't even supposed to be better for you because your beloved baby dances in the presence of Jesus. It is supposed to hurt to be away from them.

Courtesy Vicki Zoller & Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
Their resources for ministering to the bereaved are amazing;
read it whether you think you need it or not. 1 in 4 pregnancies means you will.
And while we can't pretend to understand why God allows things that are just so profoundly unfair, so wrong and upside down from what it seems like the world is supposed to be, I pray you would be safe with him. That his character is revealed more as the tender listener and disperser of mercies and not the bullhorn shouting about how you need to shape up "for him" so he can finally do some good stuff through you. By some miracle, I pray these words are balm to your soul. We worship a God who, in tremendous suffering and excruciating pain on the cross, looked down and saw his mother--certainly in anguish as her baby, him sent to her from God to save the world, hung from a tree and his blood spilling to the rocks below--told her that his beloved friend John was now her son.

Today, beloved, grieve. Not as those who have no hope, but grieve those beloved children of yours who are asleep. And if you have yet to know him, I pray you might meet the Jesus who frees you to grieve as one who does have hope in him.

And if you find yourself, like me, among those who have not known infertility or child loss, I pray these words inspire you to reach out to the friend(s) who immediately jumped to mind. Just let them know you love them and they are on your heart. That you still grieve that precious child you never got to know, and while you envy their presence with Jesus, you wish they were here to hug and hold and so you cannot imagine what grief might still grip your friend's heart. Maybe send them a little token for some self care, whatever seems right. But don't be afraid to reach out and let someone you love know they are not alone.

Lastly, if you read this and would like to offer insight, correction, or even feel inspired to share your own story here on my blog, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can message me on my Facebook page, DM me on Instagram, or send a good ol' fashioned email. Your choice. I would be honored to hear from you.

[There is a shorter follow-up to this post; click "Newer Posts" or here to read it.]

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