I scream through that final labor pain and hold his motionless body. He is perfect, so fragile and intricate – fearfully and wonderfully made. I hold him, and his tiny frame fits in the palm of my hand. In agony, I try to hold him close to my shattering heart. This cross—that I did not see coming—cups my unwieldy face, and I stare into a tidal wave of darkness that beckons like a cliff on the edge of a formless, endless void.
I had been stirring the soup for a whole household of sickness when I knew I had to lie down. Only a few hours later, our perfectly formed, still baby boy was born right on my round, pink bath mat where the crochet had begun to unravel—a complete home birth in miniature.
My relationship to death, to the grief inside me, is not neat and tidy. This past month I have felt the waves wash through me—overwhelming waves crashing along the shore of my soul. My eyes stumble over the words of the Hebrews reading, and the tears well up and spill too easy as I contemplate mystery.
He for a little while was made “lower than the angels” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone . . . for it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering. He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers” (Heb 2: 7-11).
My thoughts wander a bit unanchored. Why did God create . . . us . . . my son? You can feel the hard questions come to the surface when tidal waves keep rolling in. For weeks now I have let the tears come, but in between labor pains of grief, I meditate on Scripture. The Triune God wants relationship. He is relational to the very core. He creates each one of us for relationship . . . for intimacy. And in the face of death, in my pain, there is only one place to look. I look to my Jesus. I cry out to him. I ask him to come . . . inviting him in again and again, like I am rocking a rhythm of hope.
Jesus had come to me that first time when I was eight years old. His saving love like a white-hot light reaching my heart in a way that no one ever had. My father had died, and I lived in a broken home riddled with confusion. But Jesus came to me there. He came to me then. He was attracted to me and I was attracted to Him—a divine exchange—a suitable partner.
From my place of grief, even as a young child, I received the message given by the Holy Spirit. God had sent Jesus in his fully divine power to save me, and to revive me to beloved-ness. That day he began to awaken me to an awareness of who I was to become. And yet, Jesus was not only divine that day, but was also like me . . . my brother, my own kin as Hebrews proclaims.
As I look to Jesus in this season, I remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever—he has come to be the exemplar of who I am called to be as a mother. What did Jesus do in the face of death? How did he become the savior of the whole world in the face, and right through the very cross of death?
He agonized. He allowed the path of life, the world as he knew it, to have its grievous way. He surrendered to the plan of God right in the suffering. He said yes, and allowed his heart to break. In his full humanity, he wanted the cup to pass . . . this is not what I want . . . it’s not what I was anticipating, dreaming of . . . it’s not how I would have penned the story of success. But he looked to God and said if this is what has to come to pass, if it be your will, I trust you, because you are God and you will not allow this to happen unless it is for the very reason I was called to earth—to fulfill the loving plan of transforming resurrection and ultimate, eternal goodness.
As I look to him today, Jesus is tenderly asking me to believe that the very reason God has called me to the vocation of motherhood is being fulfilled. He is inviting me to surrender to his divine protection guarding my heart and filling me with the wonder of the kingdom of heaven. In the face of death and loss he is asking me to believe without knowing why . . . to believe in the silvery linings of hope found here and now that stretch into eternity.
Sweet Jolly! How we have suffered with you! Thank you for this beautiful reflection. We love you and your family here and in heaven and grieve and rejoice along with you.
Oh Emily! I could write a whole post… a hymn of love…for how I have been cared for, fed, and held in prayer by you and a whole community of faithful mothers. I am overwhelmed with gratitude!
Wow Jolly. Our hearts grieve with you my dear sister. I love how Emily speaks of loving your family here and in heaven as we feel the same way. We love you guys so much and know that through all things God is always speaking, gently guiding and showing us how to navigate through our lives on earth as he prepares us for eternity. You have so much to give and so much to share… so many lives you have already touched and so many more to be touched and changed by your precious experiences and your desire to share God’s love through your carefully articulated writings. I am blessed to be your sister and to always receive God’s unconditional love and unending joy that you so generously give. May God continue to give you peace that our own understanding. So very proud of the incredible mother, wife, sister, and daughter you are to many.
Oh sister! And, you walked this road..through this valley of tears . . . years ago before me. Your witness, your surrender then gives me strength even now. Your loving words mean so much. I look back and you have been an anchoring force of faith through so many seasons for us. Because of the hope of heaven, I know the best is yet to come!
This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Jolly, I am praying for you and your dear angelic boy.
Oh Karen, thank you for receiving the testimony of what God is doing with eyes of love. I cherish your heart overflowing with prayer that is looking to heaven!