Wednesday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I debated whether I was going to even mention it. I felt the same way that I felt about Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week back in February – I hated it. I hated that it meant something personally to me. I wanted to be sad for other people. Or better yet, I didn’t even want to know it existed. Like before, when everything in my life fit comfortably. I was confident of my views about God and his Word. I was confident that there were Biblical answers for EVERYTHING. (I can’t hardly stomach the know-it-all I was before our lives changed so drastically that January 18th day.)
But I did mention it because I know I’m not alone. So many others could relate personally to that day too. It means something a whole lot different than just a sort of passing holiday like Columbus Day (which by the way, why are we still celebrating?)
I just finished the book, Rare Bird (read it. Please read it. Whether you can relate personally or not, please read it.), and the author said something so profound that completely encapsulates how I feel today, now, in the aftermath of loss and grief:
Ask me on a Wednesday and I’ll say that Jack’s death is part of God’s beautiful plan for the world and that every action and every second of that terrible Thursday had to happen in order for that plan to be fulfilled, though my human eyes are too clouded to see what it is. Ask me on Friday and I’ll say we live in a sinful world where bad things happen to good people while an all-knowing God let this happen to Jack – even gave us a foreboding of what was to come – He didn’t make it happen. Other days I won’t say anything at all. I mean, what do I know?
I’m certainly not willing to drag other hurting mothers into my brain games as I try one idea or another on for size. I’m not going to tell a mother whose first grader was gunned down in a classroom that it was part of God’s plan. I may be there with Jack’s death on more days that I’m not, but I refuse to come to these conclusions for anyone else.
And it’s tricky. Because hurting people want to understand; we want to know why. But we don’t want people coming to conclusions for us, feeding us neat little answers of what God’s will is and how His mind and heart work. No thank you.
I guess the only thing that is certain to me now is that the small God I followed before, the one I must secretly have believed would spare my family pain if I just didn’t ask for too much or set my sights too high, is somehow not big enough to carry me now.
That little God isn’t the one who comforts me when I despair. No, it’s a big God, whose loving voice reminds me of my mother’s, who gently whispers to me, “I know, Anna. I know, honey. I know.”
I am so done with a small God. I am so done with a God that can be wrapped up in a topical sermon, full of elaborate props and silly illustrations. Do you know what that did for me in my darkest hour? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I once expressed concern to a pastor whose church we had been attending for a significant amount of time that I couldn’t remember the last time I had heard him preach the Gospel. His response? Well, I guess I consider myself more of an encourager, more of a motivational preacher.
What? There is no encouragement apart from the Gospel. It literally means Good News. What’s more encouraging than that? The good news that God is a God who forgives, redeems, restores, transforms, makes new.
I don’t need to have a catchy sermon title with flashy props. I need God. The one described in the Bible.
I want to know about the God who met Elijah in the wilderness when Elijah wanted to die because he was so profoundly discouraged. Did God give him a three-point motivational talk about what he can do to snap himself out of it and start receiving those blessings and speak the word of faith? No, he sent an an angel to minister to his most immediate needs. Then he spoke words of empathy and compassion, Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you. And then he sent Elijah to a mountain and said, Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.
He revealed himself to Elijah. Not in demonstrative acts of grandeur (he wasn’t in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire) but through a gentle whisper. And it was enough for Elijah. He returned to the work God had given him to do.
That’s the God I want to know. That’s the God who can’t be contained, summed up, wrapped up, explained away, minimized, who quite frankly, destroys all cutesy perceptions about him that we propagate through shallow, entertainment-oriented, numbing American church practices.
Too few are equipped to withstand and endure loss and suffering and calamity because most of our spiritual upbringing has been about making us a more moral person, not about knowing the God of the universe in his power, his love, his gentleness, his nearness, through his Word, and talking and communing with him.
And without planning for this to all work together this way, this is what I read in my devotional time this morning:
“We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known, as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2nd Corinthians 6:3-10).
God and faith and knowing him and walking with him and loving him and others are much more profound and deeper and richer and better than simply having good morals. Real life calls for much more than that. Maybe those silly illustrations and promises of prosperity work in a good, calamity-free world, but not in the one I live in.
I no longer feel this pressure to have a spiritual answer and bow-tied experience to share with people. This is what I know: I don’t know why our story is what it is, but I know that the God I love now is so much better than the small view I had before. He has been profoundly near, profoundly loving, profoundly more powerful and bigger than I ever fathomed. And I love to meet with him. I love that this journey isn’t done and I have more time to be transformed as I look to him and love his Word.