Monday, October 21, 2013

Trading My Ashes for His Beauty

“I’m beginning to believe that you won’t leave me here, God.  Just help me to trust all the words you say.  And I’m learning to surrender, I’m learning to forgive.  I’m learning to receive all the love, all the love you have for me.” –lyrics from Isa Couvertier

Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since we learned that our little baby no longer had a heartbeat.  The days that followed have been hard, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  I honestly do not know how to answer everyone who is asking me how I am doing. I’m pale and tear stained.  I feel empty and heartbroken.  My throat has a constant lump in it.  I’m grieving.  And that might confuse those who have never lost in this way, because I never actually thought through this process before walking through it, but I will tell you that this loss is real and painful.  I’m walking around in a fog, knowing full well that what I see is not all that exists.  That there is heaven, and whatever it is that separates this earth from that glorious place is the threshold to meeting my precious little one.  I often find myself “checked out” of what is going on in front of me because of what is going on inside of me. 

By sheer mechanical habit, my kids are getting dressed and fed and schooled.  Through the kindness of friends, we haven’t been forced to solely rely on cereal as our only means of nutrition.  My husband has been amazing.  He’s so quiet, but I know just how much more of a load he’s carrying because I know what I’m not doing, and how much is still getting done.  But still, he’s grieving too.  And as I’ve watched him moving about the days in strength, I’ve watched his eyes fill with tears at night.  I’ve never been more thankful for his arms around me. 

But in the midst of all the tears and the difficulty just making it through the day, there’s a beautiful, mysterious peace that I’ve found.  It doesn’t take away the sorrow.  It doesn’t take away the process, but it’s made me reexamine who God is.  And let me tell you, He is amazing.  “My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand…His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely.  This is my lover, this is my friend…” (SOS 5: 10, 16) 

I’ve had so many friends tell me it was o.k. to be angry with God.  To those friends, I say thank you for loving me and letting me grieve, but I came to a point very early in this process when I knew I was angry, but it seemed like a waste of energy to aim that anger at God.  If it was God who caused this, then everything that I know of Him, all that I believe, would be null and void.  It would lead to a crisis of faith.  But I know His word is true, so I knew that the target of my anger could be explained in a better way. 

John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  I have an enemy who is very real.  I forget this when I get wrapped up in life.  I blame him when something goes wrong with our finances, or our hard days with the kids….and that’s not displaced blame.  But I forget that he is much more harsh, more cunning, more destructive than I tend to remember.  And just because I have a relationship with the Lord does not immunize me from his hatred.  I would argue that it makes that hatred all the more real.  And that is what happened.  I had to see and experience death last week.  It was gruesome and cruel.  It was heartbreaking and horrifying.  And it was nothing new.  This has been happening since the serpent came to Eve in the garden and whispered “Did God really say…?”  And that same whisper invaded my ears last week.  “Oh, God is good?  Really?  Then why is this happening?  Did God really say…?” 

Yes, yes, God did say that He came that we may live and live full, abundant lives.  Yes, God said that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  Yes, God said that He will go before us and hem us in behind and before.  He said that He is a refuge to us and that He is near to the brokenhearted.  He said that He would work all things according to His purpose for the good of those who love Him.  He said he would never leave us or forsake us. 

And He hasn’t left me.  He is so near and so good.  Though there is death and sadness, this was not His intended, created order.  And He doesn’t just throw His hands up in the air and say “Oh well…you sinned and this is what you get!”  No, our God is so good that He gave His son, which I realize more now how amazingly sacrificial that was, so that my little baby who never got to be held or kissed by me, can live forever in the arms of a loving God, never knowing sickness or sadness or sin.  And in the midst of my grief, He is taking what the enemy of my soul has intended to destroy me, and He’s turning it into something He can use to work something deep into my heart.

I have a choice.  I can stay angry, closed up, and distract myself into numbness.  Or, I can grieve, cry, and trade these ashes for His beauty.  It seems like the obvious choice, but it’s not simple. 

I want to be alone right now, and in my loneliness, I want to feel sorry for myself.  I want to turn on the tv and get lost in whatever is on, no matter if I like it or not.  I want stay daydreaming about my baby and what we would have been like a year from now, a family of 7 instead of 6.  I want to tantrum sometimes like a little kid who didn’t get her way.  But God is drawing me to something better. 

He allows us to grieve and ask why.  In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  But in the midst of that overwhelming sorrow and grief, in His very next breath he uttered, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  God did not create death.  But he chose to use it through His son to work something deep into the hearts of men for ages to come, so that we might be spared and spend eternity with Him.  What a good and loving Father.  And I personally am thankful that He overcame the grave!  Now I don’t have to wonder where my little one is.  I know.

So though you might see me with tear stained cheeks, tired and overcome with grief and sorrow, I can say God is good.  He has been working deep things in my heart.  He sits enthroned in the heavens, and my little one gets to see Him face to face.  There is no greater gift I could have given my child but Him.  And for eternity that little one gets to rest in His perfect arms of love because we allowed her life into our lives, even for a short time.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baca [tears], they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”  Psalm 84:  5-7

This verse has been prayed over me many times during my life, but never did I receive it with such clarity as I do now.  My heart is forever set on a pilgrimage and my very life’s goal is to draw closer to the heart of God, always sojourning until the day I see Him face to face.  But in this journey, there will be tears.  Jesus warned us that in this life, there are many troubles.  But we are blessed when we make this journey through hardships and allow Him to turn our tears into a place of springs…life!  But here’s my new favorite part:  “the autumn rains also cover it with pools [blessings].” 

You see, I learned of my baby’s passing two days before my birthday.  My actual birthday and the days surrounding this year were filled with so much pain, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  Three years ago, during the same week, my cousin suddenly passed away. When I was younger, my grandfather also left this earth around the time of my birthday.  A few other hard things have happened during the very same week.  So, my initial reaction to the timing of all this was “What in the world are you trying to say to me about the week I was brought into the world!?!” 

And in the Lord’s kindness, He revealed a little more about this passage.  It’s these autumn (some versions say early, but mine actually says autumn) rains that bring blessings.  And with each terrible hardship, each year, I’ve walked away with immeasurable blessings.  Not in an outward sense, no not at all.  In fact, it seems each autumn (or close to it) brings loss.  But it’s in this loss that God chooses to draw me closer than ever before and give me a glimpse of His eternal glory.  I’d rather have that than a birthday cake any day.

This year, my blessing has been a renewed commitment to maintain possession of nothing on this earth.  I own nothing, and I am nothing apart from Him.  He alone sits enthroned in my heart.  But I found how easily it is that I allow things that He has blessed me with, good things, to take His place.  How quickly my family became so important to me that it threatened to take that place of most importance.  And like Abraham who was asked to offer up His only son, my Father has challenged me with whether I’d be willing to give up these good and perfect little blessings if He asked me to.  Unlike Abraham who had unwavering faith, I was quite a bit more hesitant.  But His kindness led me to a place where I realize that if I truly want to possess all of Him, to know Him in His fullness, than I must possess nothing else.  And though Abraham was rich and owned many things, he possessed nothing.  That is the cry of my heart as I continue to walk through the Valley of Baca.  That I might come out receiving His blessings that these autumn rains are bringing, but still possessing nothing. 

But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake.

Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),

And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith.

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]

That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

Philippians 3: 7-11, Amplified
Thank you for praying for us.  Though this post is long, there is so much more to say!  So many victories and kindnesses and lessons.  All of us have been walking through this with a heart to see God’s purpose in our pain.  We ask for continued prayer.  I personally ask that you pray against fear that is so quick to enter my mind.  And also for energy to accomplish the day to day tasks of this family that I am so blessed to be a part of for as long as He lets me.  For my husband to be blessed, because I do not exaggerate when I say that he has been the most excellent husband and father I could have imagined, while all the while his heart has broken as well.  Finally for my kids…it was my oldest’s first reaction to pray for a miracle when he heard the news.  I love that I got a glimpse of his faith.  I ask for prayers for them, that their faith is increased beyond measure and that in their sadness, they find comfort.

If you’ve read to this point, I thank you for letting me pour out my heart to you.  I pray that He blesses you and that you walk with a deeper understanding of how near He is to us always. 

Many tears are still being cried, and each and every day is difficult, but He is good.  He is good.

1 comment:

  1. Amy, I had a whole atta' girl and awesome visual I had from your post. I think it got deleted. Will try again later. Praying for you and love you!