I’ve learned that in my deepest, darkest moments, writing is my catharsis. I purge the cluster swirling in a non-stop loop between my heart and my mind. Because, sometimes I reach what feels like the end of my rope, my full capacity, my limit in totality. I’m more afraid of the consequence of holding it in.
This weekend, I attended a gathering of wisdom. I turned down the volume of the noise that seems to be drilling into my head in so many areas of my life right now. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to get out of the conference – I simply wanted to be present; I wanted to be able to listen. I was one of hundreds of thousands of women around the world who listened to the same speakers, but did we hear the same messages?
I attended this conference after a tough week. I was challenged as a mother, as a designer, as a believer, plus my immune system shut down. I was drained, weak and clothed in a thin layer of apathy from being faced with a week of life’s opposition. I needed refueling.
What I didn’t expect was a reckoning.
Profound were the words that packed their way into my soul over a day and a half. Every quotable line dripped like honey and was worthy of being in a song. Eventually, I had to stop writing each and every astute point because word-for-word dictation was not actually my goal for the weekend.
When I put down my pen, in my stillness, I winced when I realized that there are still some dark corners lurking in the story of my faith. You see, a few years ago, I was faced with an opportunity to be obedient to God. After three decades of being the “good little girl” and being patted on the head by God, or so it seemed, obedience looked like choosing life for our baby girl growing within my womb who was imperfectly made.
Growing an imperfectly formed child was a daily opportunity to allow God to meet me where I was. I did the best I knew how. The truth is, I hadn’t “needed” Him on a daily basis in my then 30 years. We had an understanding, so it seemed. “Be a good little girl and I’ll pat you on the head, mmkay?”
We chose life. She was born and miraculously lived against the odds. You see? He kept His end of the bargain. He affirmed my obedience. It was well. Though, not perfect. She was sick and needed a host of medical interventions, but alive and breathing when medicine thought she might not.
The days went on. We knew tall peaks and deep valleys. I stood on the foundation of the faith that had been instilled in me through the years. And remember, He and I had an understanding.
It was at exactly four weeks old that her heart was cut open and her life was somehow saved by a host of cape-wearing surgeons, nurses, and the like. Another pat on the head, whew. “Keep the faith, Rachel.”
This daughter of ours recovered eventually. She would never be normal by the standards of the world. She would never look quite like most or live without complication, but she was on her way home to us, her family. We had prepared her room. I had become educated on her feeding tube, infant CPR, oxygen, pulse ox, ordering medical supplies, and the list goes on. We were ready.
Throughout the pregnancy, her terrifying birth day, seizures, open-heart surgery, and so much more…my mutual understanding with God remained. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t comfortable. But, I truly felt blessed.
He took her anyway.
As quickly as a wave can destroy that in its path; He took her anyway.
After 30 years of “good little girl” moments; He took her anyway.
My obedience of choosing life for this child; He took her anyway.
What I realized in my stillness, gathered by a host of faithful, incredible women, is that I have some dark corners to illuminate.
I am confident that I have appropriately and bravely grieved the death of our darling Audrey. I am in a healthy place with our second born. Sometimes I suffer from my own version of “phantom limb pain”. I say that with respect to those who literally do. I occasionally ache for something, someone that is no longer there. It hurts when I want to hold the child I grew, the daughter I embraced, the baby I knew. I believe I will feel a certain amount of pain and longing for her until the day she races back into my arms. And, I know she is whole, perfect and surrounded by the giggles of other little ones in Heaven.
What concerns me is the wrestling match I find myself in. I recently heard a man I deeply respect speak about what it means for us, as believers, to say “God let me down”. I am harboring some resentment toward God and I am only just now coming to recognize it. Is it possible that I have felt a sense of grief for the “mutual understanding” that I thought I had with God? That I was sort of “mourning” the realization that my theology was incredibly flawed and my worldly goal of making the “right” decisions was less about His glory and more about my reward?
Have I really been keeping one foot out the door just ready to bolt when I am faced with turmoil again? Because, what He taught me is that, He’ll take her anyway.
Will I temper everything against the death of our daughter for the rest of my days? Will that ever end? What I heard this weekend is that “when we don’t give things to Him, we forfeit His grace.” I know this to be true, but my own journey of faith seems to be knotted with the life and death of Audrey. And that is complicated. When I think of God, it is hard to separate Audrey.
He took her anyway.
He took her anyway.
Yes, Rachel, He took her anyway.
And the light bulb pierces my bloodshot, teary eyes as I type is this: I. Am. A. Sinner.
I am broken, flawed, imperfect and in need of a Savior.
In various ways over the past several years, I have been deeply focused on the purpose of our Audrey’s life. When asked, I speak, although I am not a public speaker. I do this to honor her. I write, although I am not a writer. I do this to honor her. I raise money, although I am not a philanthropist. I do this to honor her.
What if part of our daughter’s purpose was to show her own mother that I. Need. God.
What if, because of her, I have to grow up.
What if her life and death taught this woman that, without Him, I. Am. Nothing.
What if she is my arrow to Him – the reminder to honor HIM while loving her.
I’m on my knees.