Before, And After
I love public speaking. I love the process of dreaming up and writing a speech, I love the practicing, but most of all, I love the final delivery in front of an audience. I know many people would call me crazy, for public speaking is a common fear. But not for me.
I have the distinct pleasure and honor of occasionally being a guest speaker at my church. I was scheduled to preach two weeks after we lost our son. Of course, the speaking team covered my Sunday spot, as I was not able to preach due to grief, physical hurdles, and, you know, my anger with God. I look back now and find it strange how I could be so excited to preach the Word, and in one instant, everything changed. I confess, I still have trouble walking into church. Such an odd before, and after.
In January of 2018, my husband and I found out we were pregnant. We were so overjoyed, and having had our first son successfully, we ignored the, “wait to tell people” advice. We told our family and close friends only to miscarry the child two days later. We were 6 weeks pregnant. It was my first miscarriage, and I was heartbroken. My body ached, and mourned the loss. No amount of Tylenol could ease my cramping. And I sobbed as I flushed my dear child down the toilet. I took many baths and drank wine while covered in bubbles. But I do remember feeling better and more like myself about two weeks later. The sadness faded, and I was ready to try again. Such a bummer before, and after.
To our great surprise, Charles and I were pregnant in one cycle after the miscarriage. February 2018 brought us our third child. You can imagine my fear mixed with anticipation. I was sitting in church, and at eight weeks pregnant, deep rooted fear was beginning to take hold. During the message, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “Do not be afraid, this is a good seed.” My fears were instantly dispelled! Charles and I rejoiced and began telling our friends and family we were pregnant again. We retold the story of the “good seed” word from the Lord many times believing it as a promise over our child. Then, at six months pregnant, as you know, we lost Jasper. To be pregnant twice in one year and have nothing to show for it... Such a devastating before, and after.
My family has been on quite the roller coaster. One I really would like to burn to the ground. I know that life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan. But sometimes, I sure wish it would.
During the last couple months, I have often thought about Jesus and his trip to earth. I know the story of his life and his death practically by heart. He performed so many miracles, helped thousands of people, and then, he left. I know he didn’t leave us alone for he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in and among us. But he left behind a bunch of followers who had some difficulties.
The apostle Peter was a fisherman whom Jesus called to be a disciple. Peter watched Jesus live a perfect life, defy leaders, redeem the sick and the hurting, and even raise the dead. And despite who Peter knew Jesus to be, he still denied his savior three times.
When Jesus rose again, he commissioned his followers to tell the world of the one true God. Peter heeded the call only to be welcomed with persecution, imprisonment, and beatings. But Peter was not broken by his less than wonderful circumstances. The bible recounts in Acts 5:41 how the apostles rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering for Christ. Peter was ultimately crucified upside down for his faith.
Thinking of Peter and his life humbles me. I know I shouldn’t compare our situations, and it really isn’t a fair comparison, but I can’t help it. Peter makes me think of my cozy home, my loving husband and son, a warm cup of coffee each morning, money to splurge with, and a closet full of shoes and I begin to wonder if my view of my circumstance is slightly off kilter. I doubt Peter had a warm cup of coffee in prison. I know he didn’t own a closet full of shoes. So I sit and wonder, is my pain worth suffering for Jesus?
It’s big question. One I think most people would like to run away from and never confront. I have tried to answer this question with a big, fat, NO. But for some reason, I keep revisiting it. Maybe because, deep down, I know the truth.
The world believes and exudes that the purpose of life is to find happiness. Our own Declaration of Independence declares that every man has the right to happiness. But as Christians, we have a higher calling. We are commissioned to live like Jesus and share the knowledge of his grace and love. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think we can have happiness along with doing this Jesus walk. But if we are allowed happiness, I believe we will also encounter sorrow.
Matthew 11:28-29 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Before we lost Jasper, I read this verse always focusing in on the receiving of rest and the gentleness and humbleness of God. I realize now that God wouldn’t need to offer those sweet things to me if He already knew I would encounter burdens and become weary. And believe me, I am weary. As are you.
True rest must be divine. How many of us have woken up from eight hours of sleep and felt exhausted? Or taken a nap and felt worse afterward? Sleep may rest my body, but it doesn’t rest my mind or my soul. Especially not in the midst of grief.
I have done some hiking in my time. And everyone knows that at the beginning of the hike, your pack weighs the most. But by the end, you have eaten all the snacks and drank all the water, and your pack is practically empty. I think this is how God unburdens us. The weight magically disappears, but we never stopped walking forward. We carry the remnants of our loss but not the weight.
Peter must have known this. For his life looks catastrophic and burdensome to me. I am awed by how he could have lived like this. If you asked me to trade places with him, I would choose the death of my son over his story. Here lies the rub.
I would choose to suffer my loss rather than change my story.
When my husband, wise as he is, chooses to share his thoughts with me, I listen. He began to talk about the finality of heaven, and how, as parents, we will try to raise our son in the ways of the Lord. But, ultimately, we cannot make Jaxon’s salvation decision for him. But our two babies, who didn’t make it into this world, have made it safely to heaven. My husband went even further saying the only foolproof way Jasper and our other child would make it into heaven was if they died before they were born. As a parent, you never really want to dwell on the finality of your child’s eternity, but in this case, the two I lost, are the only two I know I will see after this life.
A sad before, but a joyful and concrete after.
Peter knew his suffering was temporary. He understood this life is only the before to an unimaginable after. What lay ahead was the ultimate goal. He would shed no more tears and feel no more pain. So he did it. He suffered the difficulties of this life and rejoiced.
I know Peter was just a man. So if he found a way to rejoice in sorrow and tragedy, then I have to believe I can as well. I can find some rest for my soul and my mind. I can rest in knowing my two babies are waiting for me in heaven. I can suffer because I know Jesus is on the other side of my suffering.