14 August 2008

There have been a handful of times in the past year that I have woken myself up to the sound of my own crying. I know, that sounds pitiful, but it's true. Crying in my sleep sounds really depressing, but I think it's just part of grieving.

Most of the time I'm crying because of something real (like Evie). Sometimes I cry because of something imagined (yesterday I woke up from my nap weeping because I dreamt that we took Oliver to a well-baby check-up and after observing him for only a few moments his doctor reported to us that Oliver had a dangerous brain tumor). Every time it's because of fear.

I'm afraid of forgetting Evie. I'm afraid that this could happen again. I'm afraid that, now that we are acquainted with grief, that death is not a stranger to us, we will never escape it. What is safe? A 6-week ultrasound? A 20-week ultrasound? Will we have another live birth? What about after that? Will Oliver wake up in the morning? Will Ryan make it home safely from his meeting? What is certain?

About 2 months after we buried our Evie, another family we know buried their 10-week-old son who died suddenly in his crib one night. Around that same time another family we know lost their 5-year-old to an accident in their driveway. I remember waking up in the middle of the night a few days after. It was storming violently outside and I ran out to the driveway in the rain to close the windows in the van. As I stood outside, and even as I continued to pace, dripping wet, inside the house there was a deafening voice in my head that was repeating, "Death is a thief. Satan is a thief. Death is a thief. Satan is a thief!" I ran upstairs to check on Oliver, half expecting to find him cold and still. He was fine. I was not.

There were many nights after that one that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep because of my anxiety. I developed a habit of getting Oliver up out of his crib and taking him into the guest bed or to the sofa to have him lay with me. Feeling him breathing helped me know he was okay.

As these months have passed I have found a new definition of "normal". I have also come to a new understanding of what is "certain". Benjamin Franklin once said, "Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes". We have no promise of another day or even another breath. How can I accept that and not live in fear of it?

I propose an amendment to Mr. Franklin's quote. As Christians, we have the glorious benefit of yet another certainty. One in which our Evie is already safe. We have God's promises to us. We have the promise of death (a result of the Fall), but we also have the promise life eternal (a result of Christ's death and resurrection).

I cannot escape the truth that my life and the lives of those I love are fragile. But I don't want to live in fear either. When I wake up crying or when I am paralyzed with anxiety during the day, I have to remind myself that, no, nothing is certain. The big step then is to remember and be comforted that that is a GOOD thing - that though nothing is certain to me, God is in control.

In the April 29th devotional of "My Utmost for His Highest" Oswald Chambers writes:

"To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sign of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God... Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come."

These days are sometimes marked by fear and anxiety. But because of God's grip on my life, they are also marked with an air of peace and of breathless expectation.

He will come!

Since I posted this, I checked my email and found an encouraging (and amazingly appropriate) letter from my sweet friend Susan. Her timing always seems to be just right; sending me encouragement and scripture right when I need it. I want to share with you a part of what she shared with me from a book written by Darrow Miller:

The End of Life

Death was not part of God’s original intention for his creation. Rather, it was a consequence of Adam and Eve’s rebellion (Gen. 3:19). For most people, their inevitable death generates more fear than anything else. They will do nearly anything to delay its onset. Yet from the perspective of God’s Kingdom, death is a defeated enemy. We need not fear death. To those in the Kingdom, the almighty King says, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17- 18).

The apostle Paul described this fearless approach: "For he [Jesus] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Co. 15:25-26, author’s italics). Jesus has authority over everything, including death. He even had authority over his own death (Jn. 10:17-18). He also conquered the fear of death. Humans grapple with the fear of dying, and Christians are not immune. Death evokes an apprehension of the unknown and a separation from loved ones. Even Jesus struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane over his approaching death (Mt. 26:38-39). Yet the cross defeated Satan and the fear of death.

Jesus conquered death so we might experience eternal life in his Kingdom. The writer of Hebrews explains, “He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15, author’s italics). Because Jesus conquered the fear of death that enslaved us, we might also think he died to set us free from suffering. Instead, being set free from the fear of death, we are free to risk, to suffer, and to give our lives for the sake of his Kingdom, regardless of the personal cost. The blood of the martyrs gives testimony to this (Heb. 11:32-40). The Kingdom of God is characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17), but also by suffering. The Apostle Peter explains that “to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Pe. 2:21).

We have not been set free from suffering, but we have been set free from the fear of death. With the Church through the ages we proclaim, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Co.15:54-56).

~ Darrow Miller God's Unshakable Kingdom

Dear friends, the Gospel is true!


Christine Case said...

You might like to know that I initially read the title of this post as "Death and Texas." I enjoyed your thoughts immensely, but was confused to reach the end and not have read anything regarding Texas. Oh, boy.