My Three Other Children
Between my son and my daughter, are three children who are in Heaven:
Even though we didn’t know whether that baby was a boy or a girl, we named her Mara. Maybe because we had a vibrant baby boy in our arms, it was easier for her to be “other.” Mara means “bitterness.” In the book of Ruth, Naomi chose it for herself after losing her sons and husband.
Miscarriage in the Parish
People often refer to life as a pastor’s family as “the fishbowl,” because people are always watching.
The congregation didn’t know about the first miscarriage. We didn’t know them well enough to tell them what was going on. Dealing with a miscarriage in the congregation means that a lot more people know and feel the need to say something.
I cannot begin to express the pain of enduring the other two losses in the public eye — putting on a brave face while people assured me with:
- “it was God’s will”
- “you can always have another,”
- or worse “at least you have one.”
As Christians, we need to learn what to say to grieving mothers — even after going through it myself, sometimes I am wary. But the phrases above deny the reality that these children were real and their deaths were real. All that is needed is a simple “I’m so sorry.”
People have asked how I would handle being pregnant in a congregation. We’ve announced excitedly the moment we knew, and so had to announce the miscarriage. We also waited a while before we announced the last two pregnancies.
I haven’t had to decide again, but I think I prefer the first way. It is better to have the prayers of the Body of Christ than to be in silence. It is also better to have people grieve with me, however awkwardly, than to grieve alone.
The Two Words that Brought Me Comfort
There were two words that brought me comfort. Words directly from the Bible…words that usually only seem to draw attention for their smallness…the shortest verse in the Bible.
Jesus wept outside of Lazarus’s tomb, knowing full well that He would be raising him from the dead in just a few moments….knowing also that he would soon conquer death.
Jesus wept because it was NOT His will that any of us should ever have to face death.
The Lord of Life Cries over Death
Jesus knew so completely the eternal horror we would face because of our sinfulness. So often, we glibly dismiss what to him was so tragic that to rescue us from it, He Himself took on flesh and endured our punishment so that we would not be utterly consumed by it.
Whenever I encounter this text in the pericopes, I remember the comfort these words bought. For me, it is one of the richest texts in the Bible.
- It shows Thomas’s loyalty to Our Lord, encouraging the other disciples to follow Jesus even unto death.
- The much-maligned Martha being the first to confess belief in the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns triumphant.
- And it shows how tragic death is, that death even brings the Lord of Life to tears.
It was not God’s will that my children died. I will see them again in Heaven, but to know that Christ wept with me over their deaths even though He is victorious over death brought so much more comfort than “it was God’s will.” That didn’t ring true. God never made man
That phrase does not ring true. God never made man to die — He didn’t want us to know what evil was. He wanted us to eat from the Tree of Life.
Satan and man conspired to bring to bring death and evil into the world. It was not God’s will that Adam and Eve should die, or that Lazarus should’ve died (twice), or that as we age our bodies should break down and turn on us, or that the babies that He creates to live should die before even taking a breath.
His tears proclaim it. His own death and resurrection annunciate it through the heavens.
He is risen, He is risen indeed. . .
and because He rose from the dead, I know that I shall rise also. I also know with confidence that my children are safe with Him.
My heart misses them and I will always grieve that I was not allowed to hold them and know them. We still grieve even when we know that we have the comfort of salvation. We grieve the separation and that is a very good thing to grieve, because it never should’ve been.
We grieve the separation, and that is a very good thing to grieve, because it never should’ve been.
My children are at the feast in Heaven that I was at today when I knelt at the communion rail, and someday, these eyes shall look upon them and know them, because He is risen.
(this post was originally published on March 22, 2008 and has been edited)