Suffering

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Delicately pink and offendingly small.

Small enough to hold what once was two souls in their unfinished frames, and yet big enough to bury all my hope for the future.

I stared at the coffin as the numbness ran through my flesh, the numbness felt like a protective cloak that was holding in what was left of my sanity.

How do I grieve the loss of my children, God? How can I possibly keep going?

I looked down at the ground, carefully covered in that fake plastic grass carpet that attempts to pretty up a dying scene and hide the newly hewed out hole of earth that will welcome the latest to their return to dust, and I kept picturing my flesh falling forth into the hole.

I thought, just fall into the freshly turned dirt, heavy with the dust of those who came before. Fall in and join the dead, for what is left of you now? Hope is gone.

Let me die here with them, Lord. Why did you let me live? 

The melody began in my mind, softly, tenderly declaring words of hope and truth that were not felt by even one bone of my flesh. A song of praise, of praise to the God of dust, to the one who gave and to the one who took away.  All of my spirit joined in the chorus playing in my mind as the tears poured down my cheeks in surrender. How could I be filled with a song of praise to God while I stood at my twins’ graveside?

Was that one moment any less miraculous than if He had saved them? Or was it simply not what I would have chosen?

When would I ever choose to suffer? When would I ever choose pain? No, I would choose what I could control and fix and whatever felt good, but never would I choose pain.

What if there is profound purpose in the pain? Even as I type those words my flesh is ridiculously offended. Because, really, my self indignation wants to tell God how He should write the story differently, and it begs the question of his goodness. But does God owe me anything at all? And what could He possibly give me when I am faced with suffering, apart from my cries to remove the pain?

I am sitting in this space, over 13 years after the burial of my twins, asking the same question as I sit in yet another season of suffering and pain.

I read from Genesis to Revelation of some who came before, of God’s faithfulness, of His abilities to do far more than we can imagine, of His love. While something deep inside me cries out a deep and resounding, “Yes! True!,” they also feel like mere words on a page as I sit in this season right now. Should my feelings be what lead me? Only if they lead me to Him in eventual surrender of the simple realization that I am not God.

Remember.

I read of monuments they once built in the times of the Old Testament.

Monuments to remember what God had done.

Monuments that declare that God is bigger than their battle, bigger than their pain, that He always has a plan.

And I will myself to remember that scene, in that cemetery, with that small, soft pink coffin and with God pouring forth a song of praise in the darkness of death, and I remember anew how unfathomable His love really is. My mind still can’t comprehend how He was able. He became my hope without end. I did not come to my end that day, and light and beauty did dawn again.

In the suffering seasons, I have learned that His greatest gift to me has not been in the removing of my pain, but in the depth of His presence.  I have no words to express the mysteries of intimacy with God, apart from the deep certainty that He is worth everything, He is who I was created for, and He is my perfect peace in the storms. It is a gift of knowledge and intimacy with God only learned in the profoundly hard spaces, quiet possibly because that is what it takes for us to see and hear Him most clearly– the certainty that we need our Creator for our very next breath.

My feelings, while informative, are horrible drivers.

I have to fight to see the truth-

And to hunger for Him like the thirsty long for water in the desert.

God promises it will be hard. He promises it will cost us. He promises it will be worth it. But most profoundly He promises to give us Himself. In this we receive the most incredible gift, and this is the detail that changes everything, making the impossible possible.

This, my friends, not the absence of suffering, but the presence of the Savior, is the very pulse of the abundant life.

 

Daring God and Moving Mountains

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge,

a little human sympathy more than much courage,

and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

V and mommy

She was serious but full of compassion as she read over the lab work.  I was tired. In all honesty most of me lay dormant inside, unable to be roused since the twins died.  Now, when we talked of Ashley and Bethany, they were referenced to simply as “the twins.” But they weren’t talked of much now, the time for polite grief long gone, and life must move on.  The battles for, and adoptions of, our four beautiful daughters had long been finalized and all our energy must be poured into life with them…

“Your liver is beginning to fail.”

The words seemed to hold in mid air for a while.  She looked at me trying to ascertain if I comprehended the gravity of the situation.

I did.

I left her office and sat it my car.  Failure. Me. Age 31. Was this how my life would come to a close?  A slow, painful death of my own creating? 311 pounds–the weight I had eaten myself up to since burying the twins.  It was threatening to bury me when all I was trying to do was bury all the hard feelings. I had always struggled with my weight but this was more, so much more.  I had a problem, or a million problems. But did I care?

I cried an ugly cry.  The snot pouring out of your nose, eyes red enough to stop traffic, blubbering, smack-the-steering-wheel-multiple-times sorta cry. And when I was done and my eyes were firmly swollen to puffy little slits, the stillness spoke– Do you want to get well? He didn’t ask because he didn’t know, He asked for my benefit.  Yes, yes I guess I did. A fire began inside me in that moment. And then, the birth of the most forbidden dream of all was whispered into my heart…

Pregnancy.  Try again. What?

I could not contain the laughter or the tears.  Seriously God? Is it time to go admit myself into the mental ward because HELLO, look at me.  My name is failure. I began to list off every single detail that must be overcome for me to even TRY to become a mom again: the weight, my various health issues, the doctors response after losing the twins, the money, and on and on.

I pointed to the mountain and I dared God to move it!

I say dared because I had an attitude about it all that would make most faithfully obedient believers blush.  I didn’t doubt that he could, my attitude came with the “would he” part and the “trusting” part. But God…was bigger than all the feelings I had tried to eat away, and he was bigger than my terror.

Sitting there, 100 percent a mess, certain I was broken beyond repair, truly terrified of what lie ahead, God met me and he breathed new life.

I love how He meets us right where we are, just as we are.

He had me in his hands the whole time.  When I could not see, He could, and he carried me on to dreams that I was not bold enough to dream.  He carried me through my fears one step at a time–just one step at a time. Trusting Him is the best part and the hardest part.  But you know what?

He moved that huge mountain!  He overcame every obstacle. And the delivery of that beautiful dream came wrapped up as a gorgeous baby girl in July of 2015–14 years after first being told we were infertile.

Today, I need to remember that He is a God that can move mountains.  Here I am again, facing a huge mountain and daring God to move it.

What mountain are you facing today?