Our loved ones know what has happened, but I am not quite ready to share the details to absolutely everyone, as Sunday was one of the most terrifying and traumatic as well as hopeful days of my life. God was mighty to save. Pray, pray, pray for us. We are walking by faith in a dangerous but good God. I want you to understand my heart’s position on the day before these events, so that when I gather the emotional energy it will take to detail the events, you will understand the significance. Here is my heart’s words on Wednesday, a portion of an email sent to my grandmother on Wednesday…
I am taking some scary steps these days. I started out wanting to have one subdued shower with no baby gifts, just keepsakes for after Sam passed (and even that was a stretch for me). Now I’m having two showers, one for which I am registering for all kinds of baby stuff, the other for which people are contributing toward one big gift: a rocker. I started my registry yesterday afternoon, and called Mom for no other reason but that I wanted someone to know I was taking the plunge. Making a detailed list of baby things is a big step. Something Dark visited me this morning, when Steven was still asleep, and told me, “Just because you get a bunch of baby things doesn’t mean God will change His mind and save your baby.” It was raspy feeling and sarcastic and mean, and I was only half awake and felt helpless. Sam was curled up around my bellybutton like he always does when he’s sleeping, and when I felt him I realized he’d grown a little and I was starving. We got up at 5 and had cottage cheese and peaches and went back to bed, and I was more alert and knew whatever evil was there before was gone. It was like the Darkness snuck in, said a quick mean thing, and got kicked out. I never had to tell it to leave. I just knew it was gone.
The word that keeps coming up in my prayers is “extravagance.” When I first found out I was pregnant, I was excited, but I also had some very realistic and sensible ideas about gathering baby things. After all, Steven was a student and worked full-time, and we’d decided I’d stay home. I was going to borrow the majority of the baby things, and what I bought would be gender neutral, so it would be cost-effective for my next babies. I had planned to buy one convertible car seat that would last him till he graduated out of a car seat (these days kids stay in a carseat till they’re almost 5!!! So you could buy 3 car seats for one kid, if you start out with an infant seat. It’s so expensive!!!) When we found out how small Sam could be, we bought a little infant seat and stroller for him–which, down the road if/when he needs a toddler seat, could mean a few hundred dollars more extravagant than I had planned. Sam’s baby things are extravagant. They are blue. No future little daughter could use Sam’s bedding or blankets. And then there’s the bizarre unfulfilled promise of a “nursery room”, which is indescribably extravagant because 1) there is no nursery room 2) there is a good chance there will be no baby for the nursery room.
My wedding was extravagant, I felt. If my mother hadn’t had a big hand in it, it would have been much more sensible and much less beautiful. I wouldn’t have had a gown made of dupioni silk and thousands of tiny pearl-beads. I wouldn’t have had a train (a little piece of extravagance that my heart wanted, and I almost let go of, and my mother made sure I had). I wouldn’t have had a dinner. I wouldn’t have had a beautiful cupcake tower and a cake filled with raspberries. I would have arranged the chairs where they were convenient and required less planning, rather than in a sentimental circle on the bumpy dirt where Steven and I had a beautiful view of the hills. Extravagance sometimes, maybe often, has something to do with generosity of funds, but for me it has to do with every resource available. Money, time, energy, and willingness. It’s not that I don’t ask for nice things. I ask, but if I sense that it’s too much, if I find out it’s too expensive or that it requires more effort from the person I’m asking than I had calculated and I sense they might resent me, I will restructure my request so that it’s not too small but certainly not too big.
I have listened to this sermon over and over since Ken preached it, called “Extravagant Goodness” and I am listening to it again this morning. The things Ken is saying about God’s goodness are hard for me to digest, because he’s not addressing this dumbed down goodness I’m both comfortable and angry with. He’s talking about extravagance. My life feels like violent darkness right now, like I’ve been tied to the back of a semi and am being driven at 90 miles an hour down the interstate. And the pieces of “goodness” that I’m receiving right now feel like a set of football pads. I’m still being abused and damaged and beaten, but at least I have football pads. This does not feel like abundance or extravagance.
I compile the list of “messages” that Steven and I have heard over and over in the process of deciding to start our family. “God is mighty to save,” came first. Over and over and over. And I hated it because I wondered what he would save me from. Then, the subtle calling that both of us heard in a time when it made no sense to start a family, and we wondered if someone needed to be born, “If you have this baby, I will bless you.” So we obeyed and we trusted him and along came Sam, and we were overjoyed and frightened because we needed God to provide. Then, before we knew what had happened to Sam, and in the midst of our need to be able to financially care for a baby, He promised me a nursery room. And now, as I contemplate burying my firstborn son before he even sees the light of day, He’s talking to me about extravagance. At the end of the sermon, Ken said something that has echoed in my mind almost verbatim since that Sunday. He said, “This miracle, we can say it’s not a necessary miracle, but for my heart it’s necessary. I need to know His goodness.” And that’s where I’m at. This miracle, to take my healthy son home from the hospital to raise him, is not a necessary miracle, but for my heart it’s necessary. And, for the first time in my life, I’m sensing that what I’m asking is extravagant and more than most people in my position expect, but I’m standing up and looking at his face like I looked at my Dad’s face when I asked him for things, and I’m asking Him to save my son. Not just give me 5 minutes to say hello and goodbye. I’m asking Him to let me raise my son. And if He doesn’t answer me, I’ll be confused about His goodness and I’ll wonder why He withheld this miracle from me, but I won’t justify it for Him. I’ll be hurt and broken, and wait for Him to make it right in my heart.
Ken also talks about stepping into His goodness, and my hopeful step toward that is gathering baby things. Not keepsakes. Not the bare minimum. Extravagant, brand-new, blue, so much that if the doctors who diagnosed Sam knew, they might refer me for counseling. I hope I’m stepping in the right direction. I hope I’m not stepping off a cliff. Every time I register for something, I imagine using it with Sam, swaddling him in the blankets, taking him hiking with the carrier, pushing buttons on light-up toys. I’m in a dangerous place, but I hope it’s the right place. Pray for me. I know you’re praying.