This December we fill the base of a thirsty Christmas tree with water. It’s hanging on for just a few more days. We sing hymns by the fire while the littles wrap their fingers around big mugs of hot chocolate. My house is full of anticipation. We tromp through a live nativity in 45 degrees and sing the Hallelujah Chorus just like it’s an everyday anthem.
All while my insides ache. Again.
This December, we lost a baby.
In the fall we whispered shouts, to each other, about this crazy miracle: Twice — this long-barren womb, opened twice? Could it be?!
Every diagnostic came back as a reassurance, but really I didn’t need it. The miracle was had. This configuration of his DNA and mine was warming in secret so that we could say again, out loud: “He is the God of the impossible.”
I didn’t count the years to see how old I’d be when this babe graduated college. I didn’t count beds or bedrooms or even myself as “one of those” who hears don’t you know how babies are made? with a one year-old underfoot. Sometime around age thirty, with already years of waiting behind me, I knew that any brush with life inside me — no matter how old I was or how many years my crew had been potty-trained — would leave me in awe.
So I when we stared, giddy — expectant, at a sterile screen with no blink of life, I plunged from quite a height.
I walked through the waiting room, past round women with life bulging out of their girth, and realized I was no longer one of them. My frame had become a casket.
This wisp of a life had only found a temporary home in me.
I assumed that a baby who didn’t consume my food or energy for the better part of a year wouldn’t also consume my emotions. I didn’t know the color of her eyes or where her birthmarks were or whether her toes were stubs or long, like Nate’s. This unknowing, I thought, would make it easy to let go.
But I woke up to unexpected pain and fell asleep in grief. I missed her, the babe I never held.
Can you grieve over someone you never knew?
I wanted to feel the lumpy flesh of newborn legs and uncurl infant ears. I wanted to see a three-year old twirl and watch her learn to read. I wanted her lanky teenage frame to lay across my bedspread and laugh with me well after what was (once) bedtime.
But I never saw her heart beat.
All of a sudden, 6pm dinner plans and the laundry pile that’s spilled on the floor and the long task list don’t matter. The toilet handle that’s broken and the dentist appointments that need to be scheduled and the extra practice I’d planned to give her, writing her letters, all fade.
Grief pares your life back. It makes life simple, if we let it.
I fold myself up under pillowed down, near the fire, with a candle lit on my bedside table. I cry on my Bible and add tissues to the growing pile next to my bed. I read phrases, not chapters — over and again — and listen to worship songs on repeat so that they would tell me truth that my heart might not feel.
This time, I don’t need to resist the urge to harden and push through — I don’t have any of that powerless fight left in me. I let the loss of this babe and this life — this season of thrill and delight that slipped through my frame — crack open new parts of me and make me bare before God.
I bleed my tears.
As I do, my heart receives that which my mind can’t yet catch: this place is the one where I fall in love.
The new breath of God resuscitates long-dead parts of me when I slow down to undress my grieving heart before Him.
Feeling nearness to God, here, isn’t about Him being near. (He is). I move from knowing to feeling the nearness of God when I finally let the weakest parts of myself unfurl, exposed and raw, before the One who knows what to do with them … the One who knows what to do with me when I’m a mess.
Grief removes the option.
My ordered life with labeled bins for socks and toys and books and a calendar with lists and checkmarks (every day marking accomplishments ) and those neat and tidy goals … well, it makes me want to bear down in loss. To keep my head down and lock my jaw and gut it out.
But in those few, rare moments of life when you face the kind of grief that you just can’t push through — when you serve dinner on paper plates and you can barely show up to work (forget performing well), and you choke down sobs at the grocery store — the line between our humanity and God’s unseen reality is thinned. Suddenly, He has eyes that hold within them fresh corridors of tenderness to explore. He has hands, rough with once-worn flesh, that cup my tears.
He knows my pain in a way no one else can.
He holds me in the place where death has dropped me …
this place that is now is becoming the one where I fall in love.
Dear mama who’s lost your baby — or one who’s walking through this advent, living loss,
When you push through the grocery store line today and everything in you wants to scream on the inside while life happens (gleefully ignorant) around you, come home to your bedroom and cry.
Undress your heart before Him.
There are a dozen reasons around you telling you to stuff this grief and get on with life. They tell you: just.keep.moving. Plow through.
But might I suggest this: take this rare moment to breathe. Him.
We crave the unseen — the radical life in God — yet we often have no idea how to get there. Mama, with your baby, gone, (or you with your pain and your grief) this ache can be your road. Radically encountering the radical love of the God of Bible life happens when life gets quiet on the outside and we expose our insides to Him.
And grief brings that inevitable exposure. (If we let it.)
Underneath this babe you never dressed, mama, is your bare-naked heart, invited to meet the One who is beauty. You’ve been ushered into line with the growing number of those who’ve lost — who can no longer survive life by staring at Him from afar.
What if this child and your loss is the entry-point to an encounter with God that paints a forever majesty over death’s sting?
What if it’s at the tomb that you fall in love … with God?
For Your Continued Pursuit: Matthew 5:4 | Psalm 30:5 | Hebrews 13:5 | Isaiah 41:10 | Isaiah 43:1-3 | Romans 8:38-39 | Joshua 1:9 | Deuteronomy 31:6 | 1 Corinthians 3:16 | 1 Corinthians 15:55 | Song of Solomon 8:6 | Psalm 34:18 | 2 Corinthians 1:3 | Psalm 106:44
Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.