Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)
Each Thursday in August we’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane! I will be posting some of my favorite stories ever published here, part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts are taken from books (like today’s) and others have only been published online thus far. You’ll read stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.
Not all memories are “good” memories. Though, as you’ll see from this account of a very tough day in our lives, tough and good can somehow coexist when our loving Father is present. He makes all things beautiful.
November 11th, 2004
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be stripped of everything when I die.
The LORD gave me everything I had,
and the LORD has taken it away.
Praise the name of the LORD!”
Those were the first words – words of worship – immediately following Job’s hearing the news that his children had been killed in a horrible accident. And just before that he had lost much of the wealth that God had blessed him with. An amazing reaction to an extraordinary circumstance. His first thought was to worship the God who had given him life, even in the midst of the demise of the life he had known.
There is a song by songwriter Matt Redman called Blessed Be Your Name. It echoes those lines Job spoke so many years ago,
“You give and take away, you give and take away,
my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name!”
Those words reverberated loudly – even confidently – through my head as we learned that the child we had been eagerly preparing a space for in our family, had stopped developing inside mom’s womb.
“You give and take away… You give and take away…
My heart will choose to say… Lord, blessed be Your name.”
The first moments were just hard. Shocking. Deep sadness. Life hoped for, now lost. And this was not the first time we faced this.
About one week into our tour, there was such a shocking occurence that we thought we had lost the baby. That was on our anniversary. Not the way we wanted to end the day. The drive to the hospital was a little over an hour. Of silence. Of doubting. Of wondering. Of self-pummeling. I felt completely culpable for the loss of this baby’s life. Our lifestyle, my missed chances at reminding Jen to rest, my busyness keeping me from helping Jen with the three kids on the outside. All things were pointing to me being the reason we had lost the baby.
But God was beyond gracious.
When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by a friendly nurse who was fairly convinced that the baby was doing just fine. The doctor who followed happened to be at the church we had led in worship the morning prior, and he echoed those sentiments, but they needed to do an ultrasound to make sure.
My heart skipped a beat or two in astonished joy. My soul gasped for air! I can’t describe the feeling of life from death. How the Father must have felt when his son was given breath again! Even knowing the plan ahead of time, his heart must have exploded with joy knowing that not only his son, but all of us who trust in him were given back to him that day!
We went from that place, with images of a dancing baby in our head, and the hope that through a rough 6 or 7 months ahead we would emerge with a miracle baby from God.
“You give and take away…”
Yesterday, following the weekend of God giving wildly to us through his people, we experienced the pain of loss again.
Jen had been experiencing signs of trouble again (we thought) and so we went to the doctor, who put the monitor on Jen’s belly to listen for the heart beat. After about 10 awkward seconds, she said, “Sometimes it’s difficult to find the heartbeat with that machine.”
That had not been our experience, and so we were already thinking the worst.
She turned on the ultrasound equipment, and we began looking at the baby inside. It had grown since the first time, but it was lifeless. No movement. No heartbeat. No life.
No words were said for a time, until the doctor broke the silence, “I’m afraid I have some very bad news…”
My heart sank. It was quite final. The baby was gone. Again.
But this time, the words to that song kept replaying in my head. “You give and take away… my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name…”
And I meant it. Though I was not necessarily comforted by it just yet.
We discussed the next steps and headed out to the van to go home. The song continued in my head.
When we got to the van, we just sat there in silence. We were both attempting to understand what was happening. To process it. Why would God want to give us a baby for 12 weeks, and then take it home?
There were tears. There was silence. We prayed together. We talked. But the most amazing thing was happening inside my head and heart.
Instead of sadness, there was supreme confidence in God’s love for me. More than just confidence, there was palpable reality. Almost like his hands on my shoulders.
And the song would not leave.
I knew the scripture was from Job, so I looked it up on the computer we had brought with us.
The first thing that stuck out to me was in the NIV translation: “Job got up, tore his robe and shaved his head, then he fell to the group in worship.” His first response was a brief moment of agony and mourning, and then he worshipped. Instead of blaming God for letting this happen, he was compelled to worship him.
That’s where I lost it.
I was too! That’s what I had been feeling the whole time in silence. Strong images and feelings of God’s love and provision for me, for us, were present in my head. I was not conciously thinking of them… they were just there. I was not dwelling on the loss, but rather on things gained from the Giver of all good things.
And that’s exactly what Job experienced.
God’s bigness, his caring, his inividual attention to my life, his unfathomable love — all of that had never been so near to me, so palpable, so REAL.
Words do not do the experience justice, but I really wanted to try. I was astounded by the love God has for, and was showing to ME. I was crying, not out of sadness at our loss as much as out of overwhelming joy and gladness at my Father who loves me.
In a moment, literally less than a second, God also gave me a strong series of images that reminded me of his goodness.
There were three sets of two images. First was the hopsital back in Arkansas. Image one was the deep sadness of losing the baby, and image two was the unspeakable joy of getting that life back! Second was from the weekend just past, where image one was the empty bank account and actually having zero cash being 3000 miles from home with many big bills to pay, and me asking God in a parking lot, “God, what are you going to do??”. The second image connected to that was of the generosity of our Father through his people this weekend, we were given nearly $2000 by people and places that wouldn’t normally be a source of such abundance. The third image was our present circumstance, the final loss of our baby, and attached to that image was a future provision from God that would blow us away with greatness as much as this loss had brought us low.
I had a very specific image, but as I am not claiming to be a prophet, I will guard that image in my heart and will let you know if that does indeed come to fruition. I don’t think God gave me those images for you… but I KNOW he gave them for me.
In less than a second, all of that imagery of God’s attention to our lives came into focus, and I was full-on reminded of his incredible provision and love.
And again, I was brought to tears… not of sadness, but pure, unthinkable joy!
Our God is so good. So, so good.
We are sad, and still dealing with loss. Loss costs us. We won’t know this member of our family until heaven. I see images of families with kids, or even our kids, and I miss the face of the baby we lost. We are definitely hurting.
But there is over all of that, a far greater peace and hope. God made me SO aware of his presence and love in my life today, right now. He is so good that way. And I am not alone in that experience. Which makes it even cooler. Friends today have shared a similar experience, and I believe the reason Job reacted when he did was that God was as overwhelmingly present for him that day as he was for me. And Jobs loss exceeds mine by such a volume as I can’t imagine.
He is so good. Today, yesterday, forever.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Praise the name of the Lord.