Last week we bought a new crib from IKEA, assembled it, and lovingly placed it in the special baby corner of the school room. It’s outfitted with sheets and bumper pads and a few place-holding stuffed animals, waiting expectantly to hold our baby while he or she sleeps. Yesterday I pulled out the baby car seat and companion stroller and gave all the pieces a good vacuum and sanitizing wipe-down. Then I put the car seat in the trunk of the van, just in case I need it. We’re expecting Four to arrive in less than three weeks, now, but these little preparations still feel like huge acts of bravery for me. There’s no reason to think that we won’t make it all the way to 39 weeks and our induction date. But there’s no guarantee we will, either. I’m repeating this to myself: I do not have faith that God will give me a healthy baby. I do not have faith that God will protect me from loss. I have faith that God is good, and that I can trust him to give me the grace I need to walk the path he has ordained for me, whatever that may mean.
I know how God held us together after we lost our son Sam. When people offer sympathy, I say in total honesty, “It was really hard. But God has been good to us, and now that is a sweet part of our family’s story.” And yet the other day, one of Stephen’s late nights out, Abby came down with a little fever, and Jem couldn’t shake a persistent cough. I felt genuine panic: Both of our big kids are probably coming down with Ebola and this baby is completely unsupervised inside of me and why can’t anyone see that we are all in MORTAL PERIL around here?!?! So clearly, the strength of my faith varies depending on the day.
Turns out this is not a new thing. I went back and found a blog post I’d written a few months after Sam was born. I had called it “What I’ve Learned from Losing Sam: I Was Never in Control Anyway.” I changed the title to read, more accurately: “What I am Learning.” Because I “learned” that lesson in September of 2011:
She is not mine. Stephen is not mine. My parents and siblings are not mine. If God gives me another baby, he or she will not be mine, either.
It’s really hard for me to accept that. I want to believe that if I am good and try hard, God will act within the boundaries I set for him. But what is true is that God is writing a story that is a lot more complicated than I can understand. It’s more beautiful than I realize. And it’s definitely bigger than what I can see.
And then I “learned” it again a few months later when I was four months pregnant with Jem:
But here’s the problem: for all his or her closeness in proximity to me, I don’t have any more control over Tres than I did over Abby or over Sam. Worrying, studying statistics, extra monitoring at the hospital–those won’t make a difference in how this pregnancy turns out because I am not the one who gives this baby life. (Talking to Myself)
…and five months pregnant:
I’m definitely feeling like this baby’s life is in the balance every minute of the day. Every kick (and there are so, so many!) is accompanied by intense relief that he or she is still there. Exchanging stress for surrender is a minute-by-minute battle that leaves me tired at the end of the day.
Because getting through this pregnancy is not simply summoning the power of positive thinking…It’s believing that we can trust God to do what is good, again, with this baby’s life and with ours. It’s acknowledging that I don’t have any right to demand that God give me a healthy child this time around. It’s choosing to humbly receive what He gives–whether it is a child who lives or dies, a child who is healthy and uncomplicated, or not. (Great and Greater Expectations)
And eight months pregnant…
John MacArthur calls it “the theology of sleep,” for how could anyone possibly cease worrying, striving, self-protecting without a childlike trust in a good and sovereign God to keep the world spinning?
When I lay me down to sleep, and when I wake to venture out into the scary world for a new day’s activities, I can do no more or less than entrust our lives to the good and strong Father who holds us all in his hands. (Comfort for Sleepless Nights)
…and again when our niece was diagnosed with cancer:
I’ve pressed as hard as I know how into the belief that God is great and God is good in all things, in ALL things. His eye is on the sparrow and he’s numbered the hairs on my head and Jesus alone holds the keys to life and death, and His will IS done on earth as it is in heaven…
But I don’t know what tomorrow holds for any of us, so my hope and confidence can’t be in temporary happiness and restoration; my trust in God can’t be contingent on how quickly he restores me to happy circumstances when tragedy strikes. He is writing a greater story than we can possibly glimpse from within the shadows. And I can trust his goodness and generosity, because whatever else he does or doesn’t give to us, he’s already given us the most priceless gift: the guarantee of life in his presence, now and forever. (Through Cloud and Sunshine: Abide with Me)
So amen to all of that for yet another day. And tomorrow, I’ll preach it to myself all over again! (Thankful that God is such a patient teacher.)