I surprise myself sometimes, at how readily I am able to shift from living in lighthearted joy to racing down into the Valley to meet the heart of another mama or even my own heart. It is a painful stretch, yet I have accepted it as beautiful like a singer with the widest range, able to descend into the lowest and haunting bass notes and soar within seconds into the highest, glass-shattering soprano notes. In the first days that I discovered I would be asked to stretch across this range, I resented the assignment. Today, I relish my heart’s willingness to be in the moment.
Perhaps it is a wild downshift for you as a reader, from the silliness of inviting Brinner to dinner and The Day of the Eyeball, to the intermingled joy and sorrow I have waded into this morning. I could shy away from the sorrow of the loss of others. I could choose to immerse myself in my own personal joys and sorrows instead of entering into those of others. It would be easier. Easier, but I would deprive myself of such a beautiful life. I want that life. This stretching hurts, but I want that life.
A few sweet babies who have held the hope of my heart have gone to heaven in the past few days, in the wake of their mothers and fathers’ hope for life this side of heaven. I had encouraged these parents to hope for their children. Was I right to encourage them in that? Was I right to hope the way I did for my son? When I first ventured into this Valley, I resented how readily I cried for myself and for the losses of others. Why did the tears have to spring forth so easily? The tears are right though. So I weep for these parents, for their loss, for the journey that is ahead of them. Why would anything but tears be appropriate when we experience such trouble in this world? But take heart…
So many parents who choose to carry a baby with a fatal diagnosis wrestle with how to hope for life for their babies while preparing for the stark reality that is death. How do you shop for a casket and come home to set up the nursery just in case Baby is able to stay alive for a few days, or maybe a lifetime? How do you accept your child for who he is in the brevity of his life, yet hope for more for them? For Sam, I prayed for extravagance in his healing. Yet he was born before he could ever take a breath. God’s answer was such a swift and violent “no” that I have often wondered how I could ever ask anything of Him again. Is it right to ask for so much from God when the obvious and inevitable answer is no? Can I trust God with my hopes? Does He even hear me? Or does He persist in His plan to save us all, bloody sacrifice in His wake?
I am brought into the Garden of Gethsemane, where sweat has turned to blood and prayers have turned to dozing. “Take this cup from me,” begs the Son of God. The Cross is inevitable. It is the only way, and God’s passion for His children is too wild to let the cup pass. The answer to Christ’s plea was a swift and violent, “No.” And He is innocent but taken to die the shameful death of a sinner.
It is in His asking that He demonstrates His humanity. In this, His willingness to not just show us how to live but to be us, Jesus Christ makes Himself the perfect high priest for us. He does not walk into the Holy of Holies to stand with a rope tied around His ankle, as did the priests under the Law. He is perfectly unblemished, and He sits down at the right hand of God, in finality. He is the only one who has the right to declare over salvation, It is finished. Jesus is superior to our former ways of living, of bringing ourselves to God. Everything in Creation has been waiting for Him… and yet He was so human. He asked.
I feel God’s pride for me when I think about this. It almost feels like the warmth of mountain sunshine, penetrating and comforting. I feel it because when my own Cross came to bear, when my son was being taken from me, I entered the Garden, and I asked as did Jesus. I was no one’s victim, not even the victim of a broken world. I acted as one of God’s children, identifying myself with the Cross. My journey in carrying Sam was messy and ugly and imperfect, but in my moments in the Garden, I fought the good fight. I finished the course. I kept the faith. I feel God’s pride for me. For the first time in far too long, I feel His joy over me. Not because I had enough faith to move mountains or save the life of my son, but because I had enough faith to ask.
So I weep with the mommies and daddies whose children have gone to heaven so recently. But I also see God’s joy and pride over them, in their asking and hope for their children. And in so doing, they have participated in the transformation of what would have been a total tragedy, the death of a child, and they have seen victory in the brief earthly lives of their children. They have fought the good fight. They have run the race. They have kept the faith. God has heard you, mommies and daddies. God is good, even in this. Bask in His pride and joy over you and your willingness to carry the very least of these, these important little babies. I am so sorry for your losses.