An excerpt from chapter one of my book on the year anniversary of this story. God is good, therefore we never stop.
Tired but content I sat down at the dinner table with my ministry assistant, as “Ms Vicky” cooked us up some authentic New Orleans food. Ms. Vicky, as she liked to be called, was a wonderful southern belle. She and her husband were hosting us as I preached at a two day youth conference at her church Butte Louisiana just outside of New Orleans. Having traveled on quite a few ministry trips, I had yet to come in contact with someone as generous and accommodating as Ms. Vicky. We spent that night sharing stories about parenthood. Her kids were all grown up and moved out. I told her about my 2 kids; Natalie Sage who was the cutest 1 and a half-year-old you’d ever meet and my precious second who was still in the womb at that time. I told her about our hopes and dreams for that little one. How my wife Carrie and I had a vision of him or her being a confident, wise, yet gentle person. As we talked she unveiled the fruit of her culinary genius. She brought out a number of dishes, Shrimp Pasta Alfredo, southern cooked chili, and a “king cake” of Mardis Gras infamy. My assistant Dan and I slowly but effectively cleaned our plates, savoring every bite.
With satisfied sighs and endless praise for our chef and host we headed up to our rooms. Generally I rarely sleep well on the road. However the combination Ms. Vicky’s home cooking, and an entire day of being in front of people preaching put me into an instant state of exhaustion. I texted Carrie the menu from dinner, that I loved her Natalie and that precious little one in her tummy. I told her that I couldn’t wait to see them tomorrow. I put my phone under my pillow just in case she needed to get a hold of me while I slept. My head hit the pillow and I was gone into the deepest sleep I’d have for the rest of that week.
Maybe it’s different for you but when I’m in a deep sleep, sounds, smells, and feelings happening in the conscience world show up in my unconscious dream world. For instance I remember one very frustrating time years ago when I worked as a Concierge at a Phoenix hotel. I hadn’t slept in 2 days and had fallen into a deep sleep. I dreamn’t that I was a spy chasing an evil 7 fingered man in black gloves all around this old empty warehouse. I was about to catch him when he pulled the security alarm and vanished. The beeping of the security alarm was so loud a had to cover my ears as I chased after him. 10 to 15 minutes went by as I chased him around the known dream world trying to find a way to shut off the alarm he had pulled. Finally I woke up to find that I was late for work. The villain in my dream hadn’t pulled an alarm, but my alarm clock had been going off. Instead of it waking me from the unconscious world, my brain added its elements to the unconscious world. I rushed to work that day, and tried to get a laugh out of my boss concerning my tardiness. This same type of thing happened to me that night, only I didn’t chuckle at the result.
I was dreaming that I was leading a group of sick people out of a ravine filled with bio toxins that was making them sick. As I led them out we kept encountering Earth quakes that sent many back into the canyon. Over and over I would run to the bottom, get the tumblers, and bring them back up to rejoin the group. At some point during this unconscious Sisyphean challenge I woke up to find my phone vibrating under my pillow.
Looking at the clock without my glasses on I could barely see it was about 2am and I had a number of texts and missed calls from my wife. I read the texts first. “call me, I’m bleeding and think something bad might be happening with the baby, calling the doctor” next one “It won’t stop, called your mom she is taking me to the ER, your Dad is watching Natalie, I wish you were here or at least answered your phone!” last one “Please answer! I need you, this is so bad”. My body jumped out of bed as my stomach sank. “No!” I yelled, “Please don’t let this be what I think it is.”
Dialing so fast I dropped the phone two or three times before I could finish. My wife answered in tears. The bleeding from her uterus had increased. The doctor had just informed her that we, at that moment, were losing that precious little one in her tummy. Sobbing was all I could hear from my wife on the phone. She gave the phone over to my mom who was there with her and sobs were all she could hear as I hit the floor. I felt like someone had reached into my chest and ripped out my insides. The pain of losing this child, the pain of not being there to support the woman I vowed to always be there for during times like this, the pain of knowing I’d never get to see the face of the little one we just lost. My mom finished telling me that they would hold Carrie in the hospital until all the biological matter had passed out of her; our precious little one. They told me they’d call me back after the doctor fished talking to them. All I could do was put my head into my pillow sobbing, yelling and pleading with God for mercy not to take this one from us.
Once I had gathered myself a bit, the next call I made was to the airlines. I had to get back to Kansas City. I had to hold my wife and support her. I had to do something besides cry.
After 4 hours of negotiating, there was no way to change my flight. So I got up and got ready for the day. I still had to preach that morning at the local church. Ironically the subject I had already prepared was I Peter 1:3 on Hope. Rising to the occasion was out the window for me as I tearfully preached probably one of the most scattered sermons of my life. I felt like I was dreaming, and was waiting for Dan to shake me awake and tell me I was late for service. Since I seemed very awake, all I could focus on was getting back to my wife. After a long journey through layovers and delays that moment finally came. Instantly we fell into each other’s arms and wept together.
We talked about the dreams we had for that little one. Carrie shared how she felt God take our baby back to be with Him, and how she could feel His presence even in the middle of the pain of it all. We stayed up most of the night praying, talking and crying until we passed out from exhaustion.
Later the next day I was visiting with a friend who was checking in on how we were doing. I told him this was one of the most painful-sorrowful things I had ever experienced, but that both Carrie and I had this surprising peace or impossible joy on the inside despite the pain. There was a fight on the inside to resist the temptation of depression, or despair. Surprisingly, there was this solace in knowing who we were in the eyes of God and knowing where we are going ultimately that gave us the courage to fight for hope.
“Why so downcast O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me? Put your Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him. Ps 42:5 (ESV)
Hope. Often a sentiment to help us feel better during times of uncertainty is quite more than sentiment. The reality of Jesus, what He accomplished on the cross, in the resurrection, and in light of His soon coming, hope is a power greater than sentiment. Hope starts in the truth of knowing who we are in the eyes of our creator.
This knowledge is like a pilot light in our heart. Even when all fuel to keep going is gone, the understanding of who we are and where we are going is a flame that never dies. Once that flame is lit, no storm in life can blow it out and the slightest glimmer of hope is ignited into a roaring fire. Yet knowing who we are and where we are going because of Him who ordained it in creation and sealed it at the cross is not a subjective journey. We must reach outside of our short-sighted vision of ourselves to touch the vision of the one who created us. We are not the subjects of creation, but the objects of our creator and subjected to Him. This is good news because He is good.
Knowing is one thing, fighting through discouragement is another. We need an intentional act of our will to grasp the future we know God has ordained for us. Like the psalmist says when in turmoil, when we are downcast, we look to our soul and command it to action: “Hope in God!”
Today, exactly one year later, I remember our loss. But it’s not the pain and reliving the loss that I remember. It’s that in the pain of mourning and injustice the hand of God never left. My hope was not shaken because of pain, it was given courage to persevere because of the truth that pain has an appointed and eternal end.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.