Sunday, October 3, 2010

What it Means to be Held

Children are a blessing from the Lord. This I have been told my whole life, and I believe it. Yet what if that blessing comes with pain beyond measure? Is it still a blessing I would want?

Let me explain. This is my beautiful friend, Debra. Isn't she a Scottish stunner?

Debra and I haven't actually met -- in person, that is. She is an advocate with Compassion UK, while I am an advocate with Compassion USA. We met each other on Compassion's social networking site for their volunteers around a year ago and quickly became friends.

Debra is incredibly passionate about the work that Compassion does, especially for children from Ghana. She is kind, gentle and from what I can tell, always puts others first. She uses phrases that my British relatives do, which always makes me smile, and has a penchant for "hill-walking." I'm pretty sure that means hiking.

Debra shared with me a while back her and her husband Matt's desire to have a 3rd child. They already have 16-year-old Shannah and 4-year-old Jude. Thanks to some medical issues, Debra had been struggling with conceiving #3. That's why I was off-the-charts excited for her when she shared the happy news with me: another one was on the way, just a month ahead of my own.

We quickly began sharing plans for our babies, including what strollers ("prams") to buy, the perplexing question of why the UK doesn't have garage sales like the US so Debra could buy inexpensive baby clothes, and where and in what our babies would sleep. It was quite fun hearing from another pregnant mother on the other side of the pond.

During some tests, it was determined that Debra's baby would most likely have spina bifida and some other medical problems. Despite the odds, Debra and Matt felt confident that Jesus would take care of their son, as they now knew he was, and that they would continue with the pregnancy with a positive, thankful attitude.

Debra often shared updates with me, and perhaps because I am pregnant with my 2nd boy, too, I began praying fervently for Baby Samuel. Every time I did (often out on my runs in the morning), I felt God's presence and voice saying that it would be okay, that God already knew the outcome and that Samuel was loved. I marked Debra's scheduled induction date on my day planner and prayed even more as the day approached.

Samuel was born -- beautiful and precious. Yet he was not physically perfect. I don't know every detail, but I do know just days after he was born, Debra and Matt buried their beloved baby boy. Debra, with her ever-giving spirit, took the time just the day after Samuel's funeral to write me and tell the news.

I can't lie -- I cried. I grieved. I wondered and prayed and pondered for a solid 24 hours, thinking of nothing else.

I never knew this baby and I don't "know" his mother. Yet he touched my life, and I think he taught me something.

I think Natalie Grant can say it better:

Two months is too little/They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence/Would take a child from his mother/While she prays, is appalling
Who told us we'd be rescued/What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We're asking why this happens to us/Who have died to live, it's unfair

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life/And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know/That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and/Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly/To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

If hope if born of suffering/If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our savior

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life/And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

You are loved, little Samuel, and safe in God's arms. We, meanwhile, are held, too.

I interviewed a world-champion cowboy last week, and while he was in no way talking about babies entering heaven before we planned, I think a quote of his applies:

"Life isn't going to be easy. Rain falls on us all. It's how we handle it, knowing we're not by ourselves."

No, we are not alone. And now their is another little "wee one," as Debra says, watching us while holding the hand of Jesus.

Which, no matter how grievous or heart-breaking, is the best place to be.