When loss catches us off guard,
God takes the broken dream and breathes hope
It was somewhere between 3 and 4 in the morning, and the bathroom was steamy hot.
I leaned my head against a folded towel and pretended that the tub and toilet were not filled with blood-stained water.
A distant faint hum grew into a loud buzzing in my ears, and I knew I was going to faint. “Daniel!” I said weakly, and immediately I heard him reply and jump out of bed.
Cold air hit my face as he pushed the door open,
“I think I’m gonna faint.”
He said something, but it was lost in the fog.
Next thing I remember I was stretched out on the floor, and he was taking care of me.
“Don’t call 911,” I whispered when I came to.
“I AM 911,” he said, with a hint of a twinkle in his eye.
Oh yeah, he WAS far more qualified to handle this situation than the volunteer firefighters just down the road at our local fire department.
My paramedic husband was just the man for the job.
He leans in over a surgery, and carefully observes every move.
He caught our last baby when she beat the midwives and was as calm and reassuring as a seasoned midwife would have been.
He’s a keeper, this brave man of mine.
He got the bed ready, picked me up from the floor, carried me gently to bed and tucked me in. He took my blood pressure and managed to gulp discreetly. I knew it was low, simply by the draped over the bed feeling I had. He got me chlorophyll and grape juice and helped me figure out how to get the placenta to pass and the bleeding to stop.
We had waited a while to even tell the children about this pregnancy because of my history of early miscarriages. I hated to get their hopes up when they had been praying so hard for another baby. But we had ventured to tell them when I nearly hit the 12-week mark, and their eyes shone, and they hugged me tightly. Tirzah even cried herself to sleep, but they were tears of joy. But it was during that night that I saw the first blood.
I put myself on bed rest and researched like crazy. It could be this or that, but I knew under it all that it could just be another lost pregnancy.
And that’s what it was.
It’s over now, and I’ve been cared for and doted on so thoroughly it’s stunning. Daniel took the day off, and arranged for my mom and then his mom to each spend a day here so I could rest and the children be cared for. Friends have stopped by with flowers, food, and coffee.
“But it seems like such a waste!” Tirzah sighed. I nodded, all the weeks of morning sickness, nausea, the exhaustion- over, just like that. I always tell myself that the baby will be worth it, the sacrifice pales in the delight of a newborn clutching my finger.
But what about when the sacrifice is poured out?
Wasted. Gone. Nothing to show for the long weeks of sickness.
We all love a good redemptive story, where the sweat and blood pays off, and our hero rides off victorious into the sunset. Vengeance is paid, good wins over evil. But when the cancer wins, the coffin is lowered, the dreams crumbled, is God still good?
Lately, my daughters have randomly asked big questions.
“Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers?”
It’s enough to make your mouth run dry; any cliche answer goes stale.
It’s these moments that parenthood undoes you. And you reach for words deeper than your mind. You reach for truth that is unwavering.
As I laid in bed, I kept getting this picture of water, poured out.
Splashed on a dry sandy ground, lost in a second.
It was hot and dusty. They could feel the grit between their teeth, the chalky grime under their nails. The price of being one of David’s mighty men was high- no comfort, no family, no luxury at all. Everything was rough, from the simple clothes they wore to the grub that kept them alive.
And a sigh escaped David’s lips, “Oh, what would I give for some of that sweet well water from Bethlehem’s gate!” It was out of the question, the enemy line laying squarely between him and the water he longed for.
It was ridiculous. It was a dream of another lifetime.
But these crazy loyal men loved this leader of theirs. They were committed to him, to his cause, and even his smallest desires were deeply personal. They got their heads together and slipped off into the crowd of rowdy and rugged men.
The words fall silent on the pages here, and we have no account of the near calls they faced, the danger they plowed into, except for these:
“Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David.
But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the Lord and said,
“Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this.
Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?”
Therefore he would not drink it.”
I’ve always felt sorry for these incredible men, whose lifeblood was risked for simple water. There it went, their very lives just dumped out on the dry ground.
What a waste. Nothing left to show for their risk. Just a bit of muddy sand at their toes.
But something strikes me deeply now, as I read these words and let the water sink deep into my own dry heart. David, a man after God’s own heart, paused.
In this crazy moment behind army lines, when he was parched- he stopped.
His rough hands, calloused from taking care of sheep in the wilderness, calloused from playing music to the Lord, calloused from swinging a sword, now held a simple flask of the very water he’d been begging for.
Sometimes the deepest desire of our hearts, in turn, becomes a song of deep offering, of letting go, of choosing to see what God sees.
Instead of seeing water, David saw these men’s valor, their dedication, their absolute loyalty, and he knew he wasn’t deserving of that. He knew this was their very lives, and it was worth far more than water.
I breathe in deep, that shuddering kind of breath that comes after a long hard cry.
When the woman in you crumbles into a small child melted into her daddy’s arms.
Our dreams shatter and slip through our fingers like fine ocean sand.
Clutching does nothing but creates anger, for we stand nose to nose with the fact that we are helpless. We cannot control this. We are forced to recognize that God is sovereign, even in the moments when all looks wrong.
He pulls us close and invites us to look through His eyes- to see beyond the desolation and waste of it all. To see the investment instead of the robbery. To see beyond just this little life we live.
With tears, we open our hands and this little one flies home.
Yes, we cry, but we smile through the tears.
Would you be poured out like wine upon the altar for Me?
Would you be broken like bread to feed the hungry?
God doesn’t call you in your strongest point.
He reaches in, past your strength, and touches your weakest area.
He meets you in your deficiency and lays it bare.
Your best accomplishments and most perfect presentations are just what he wants, but not to be waved as a trophy, but poured out on the altar of sacrifice.
He sees the water poured out, not as wasted, but as invested, directly into His heart.
He prepares us for abundant fruitfulness, but sometimes that means deep and painful pruning of what we thought were our most promising branches.
Our true joy is not in the bringing but in the giving.
Because there the story changes from the me to Him.
It becomes all about God. And when my life is about God, there is rest.
The dizzying buzz and noise falls silent, and we find we are picked up and carried,
and tucked into his arms.
No offering is wasted here.
I’ve listened to John Piper speak on suffering and loss again and again. Alone, late at night, or in the middle of the day with the hustle and bustle of children all around me. Breathing in and out, these words speak deeply to me.
They call deep to the beauty and sovereignty of God, and instead of fighting to understand and demand an explanation, there is such deep rest in WHO God is. You can find his messages on Youtube or read “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God” or Timothy Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”
Another one of my favorite all time reads is Ann Voskamp‘s book One Thousand Gifts, where she pulls back the beauty hidden in our loss, where joy kisses sorrow and we find God in our moments of deepest brokenness.
When I look back over my life, it is marked deeply not just by the joyous moments, but also the deepest, most gasping ones as well. Because when life feels like it ends, God’s presence there is more than I could have dreamed of.