It’s been 19 months since my world came crashing down. I often have to remind myself that 19 months is nothing in regards the loss of a child. But society’s expectations leave me doubting my grief deadline. The world has moved on. And shouldn’t I? No. I can’t. I won’t. And I shouldn’t be expected to. But I have come a long way in these 19 months. Many assume that holding onto my faith has been the reason. But I think it’s just the opposite. This has been a messy, messy spiritual ride. I can see now that believing in God is different than trusting Him. It’s different than honoring Him and it’s certainly different than loving Him. I have a dirty secret to share…I have failed at all of these things since losing my baby boy.
Initially, Jesus was my oxygen. This reliance lasted for about a month. Then the shock slowly began to reside and the reality began to set in. The truth is, I was so hurt by my Savior. I couldn’t utter a prayer for several months. I couldn’t understand why the God I loved so much would allow such a thing to happen. He saw my tears and heard my prayers for a family. He blessed my heart and womb and then he allowed this blessing to be taken from me. Who would do such a thing? Certainly not the God I trusted. Certainly not the God I honored. Certainly not the God I loved.
He became different to me when grief began to seep its way into my bones. He became the one who could have stopped this. It became all about me and the God I thought I knew. The God that I created in my own mind. The God who does well by my plans. So when my plans came crashing, so did my trust in His goodness for me. I felt forgotten. I felt that somehow he completely overlooked me and in my mind, that meant that He couldn’t possibly love me. How could you love someone that you have forgotten? It was a dark time. Peace was non-existent and purpose seemed irrelevant. Deep inside I felt that the less I trusted Him, the less disappointed in Him I could be. But instead I just felt empty. I lost my son and I now I was losing my Father. At least that’s the way it felt.
Here’s the caveat; I still believed in Him. I was confused, angry and so hurt by Him but I always believed. The more people would tell me to trust His plan, the more angered I became. What exactly was I trusting in? I just buried my son that I spent years waiting for. Years working for. Years planning for. This plan was not something I wanted to trust in. Those words stung like venom through my heart. They still do. It’s always easy for people to say “trust His plan,” when the shattered plan doesn’t belong to them. I hope those words never slip from my tongue in the face of someone else’s tragedy. Even if it’s true, it is far from comforting to the ones who are aching. When a mother is reeling in grief, the last thing she wants is to feel something good. Even if that’s God himself. For some reason it feels like betrayal. I wanted no reason to feel good in the face of my baby’s death. My heart refused it.
When I hit rock bottom, about 6 months after we lost our son, I lingered there for a while. Then slowly, my chin began to rise it’s way upward and my attempt to pray looked more like moans and raging fists with the same words, “Why God, why?” Over. And. Over. Again. Eventually my prayers expanded to “Please God, Please” or “Help me God.” But at least I was praying, even if it looked more like begging. I started to pray for others and left out my needs without even realizing. I can see now that it’s because I didn’t trust Him with my needs. I was still afraid He would fail me. Me, the one that’s so easy to forget.
I dragged myself back to a new church. I couldn’t dare imagine sitting in the pews of the same place I rubbed my belly full of life before tragedy struck. I missed the church community but the emotions that came from sitting in that sacred space were beyond my capacity. I often left sobbing, unable to catch my breath. But slowly, very slowly, my heart began to expand for Jesus again. I clawed my way back from the dead. And that’s where the good stuff in my walk with Christ really began to take place. See, when I had to find my way back to Him, it took all of the courage I could muster and all the strength I had to surrender to Him. It’s still a work in progress. There are still Sundays I sob in church and on my way home. I still have to push myself to keep on trusting, even when I can’t see the good stuff yet. My prayers are extremely intentional and no longer a ritual. But it still takes personal reminders to submit my needs and give them to Him. I give myself grace for this. I am a messy human who has had a messy 6 years. I wouldn’t be very honest if I claimed that it isn’t still a struggle.
It takes a lot of courage to climb a mountain after stumbling so violently to the bottom. Had I always been on the top, I don’t know how my relationship with Christ could have grown. Aren’t the strongest relationships in life the ones that endured some really rough patches together and made it through? And the people that helped get me back to Him are not the ones who boldly told me to trust in His plan. No. The people who helped me were the ones that wept with me and validated my struggles in trusting His plan. They reminded me that God’s plan wasn’t for my baby to die. They reminded me to that it’s normal to be broken. They prayed for my heart to grow bigger for God in the midst of the suffering. But they let me fall first. They lovingly gave me permission to because they knew that I had to.
And I am glad I did.
Because this messy walk has shown me the one thing I needed to see through it all.
He is always with me. He always has been with me and He will always will be with me. There will be no sin big enough to separate me from His love. No matter how ugly my heart looks, He still chooses love. He will always come running after me. He will not be sitting on the top of the mountain waiting for me. No. He will be right beside me helping me find my way up the jagged terrain, no matter how many times I get off track. And at times, He will literally carry me-when my legs are too weak to take another step forward.
What a loving God.
I am still confused as to why He didn’t intervene and save my baby. I still desperately want to know the answers but I have more peace that it will be revealed to me in His perfect timing. I no longer live for the reason because I don’t think the reason would help during my time here in this world. My son is still gone and the ache of that is still very raw. If the reason can’t bring him back, then it serves me very little purpose, for now.
My faith is slowly but gradually maturing. Just like all things, the struggles are what really help us to grow. And I get the best wisdom from my messy friends who love Jesus. The ones who have faced great tragedy, trauma and loss. There is a different sense of strength and wisdom within them. There is a sense of normalcy that sits between me and these friends. The normalness of being broken, being far from perfect and completely failing at being a flawless Christian.
They remind me that it’s okay that I have failed. And they encourage me to keep trying, no matter how far away the top of the mountain is.
It’s not easy to admit our faults. It feels shameful to expose our weaknesses. But God is big enough for this and He has already washed it away. I think He knew I would struggle with trusting Him after all we have endured. I think that He has allowed me to take my time knowing I had to literally feel His grace in order to trust His goodness and love for me.
I am so far from forgotten.
My ability to laugh and genuinely feel joy again is proof of that.
*Photo Credit to my best friend, Meredith Boone. One of the friends who suffered great tragedy and loss and has been instrumental in my journey. She painted this canvas as an expression of the rough waters we were riding after we lost our son.*