Saturday, August 25, 2012

Miscarriages & Outrageous Grace

April 28, 2011: "this is the baby's head and the baby measures about 8 1/2 weeks, but I'm sorry I cannot find the heartbeat"... September 7, 2011: "I am sorry, but it is a miscarriage"... February 7, 2012: "I'm so sorry..."

This could get awkward and personal but here goes... Nothing in my life has broken my heart the way 3 miscarriages have. I'm writing this post as a testimony to God's grace, a place to collect lessons learned on this journey, and as a reminder to myself I'm not the person I was before. Does that sound melodramatic? I mean, there are worse things than miscarriages. But one thing I've learned in all this is that comparison is a dangerous game.  It kills compassion, it stunts growth, it belittles pain. My own emotions have run the gamut from putting on a good face, to deep bitterness and anger, to flippancy, to hope, to despair, to hope. And nothing has made Jesus more real and lovely and tangible and life-giving than the death of 3 babies in my womb.

The morning after that first terrible ultrasound, I woke up at 2am. There is a worship song called May Your Power Rest on Me that began playing through my head and hasn't really stopped since. I cry every time we sing it at church. I fear hearing it being sung at church if I happen to be pregnant again. It's become a portent of bad news as we've sung it the week before or after every miscarriage I've had. But it's my song now. Or rather the song God has me singing to Him:

Let me hear my Savior say
"Your strength shall return"
Then I'll rejoice in my weakness
As I lean on your grace.
As I lean on your grace.

May your power rest on me.
You are strong when I am weak
For you sustain me all my days

Let me know my Savior's face
Let my hope be secure
Then I'll rejoice in my weakness
As I lean on your grace
As I lean on your grace

Once from the Lord withdrawn
I thought that I could live my life alone
Leaving the solid ground
I sank beneath His wisdom
The harder I tried to climb The closer I was to find how
great is my weakness

May your power rest on me,
You are strong when I am weak
For you sustain me all my days
Though the trial still goes on
Your grace will be my song
For I can bear all things when temptation springs
For you sustain me all my days

Each Sunday following the miscarriages, the Lord had specific messages to me in the sermons given at church. One: Created things (children) are a great glory, but a terrible hope. Two: This one was a whole sermon worth listening to again and again. Just when I finally think I understand God's grace, He blows me away with how amazing it is. This sermon is about outrageous grace, and it is beautiful. (It also doesn't hurt that the pastor has a great English accent.) Three: God still works even through frustrated and confused people.

Lest it sound like my faith in God has been stellar through all this... yes, it got ugly at times. I'm a sinner. I sinned in anger and bitterness, but there's nothing spectacular or unusual about that. I know the kind of anger that throws and breaks a kitchen chair and the kind of bitterness and despair that puddles helplessly into the sofa. There were plenty of "words for the wind", as John Piper calls them (Job 6:26), things that should never be repeated or given any credit. There's also something incredibly frustrating about having the grace to believe that God is sovereign when you're facing something so painful. It's frustrating because you know God could have changed the outcome. All you want to do is throw in the faith towel, yet by God's grace you don't. And then incredibly He begins to restore your hope and stretch you and grow you and bless you. So there's been a lot of ugly sin over these miscarriages, now let's move on to the spectacular.

Some truths God is working out in me:

1. We need to see the depths of our sin, so that we can see the depths of God's love for us. The miscarriages stirred up sins of anger and bitterness and despair that were already a sediment in my heart. The world would say here: "Don't be so hard on yourself! Don't be so negative and down on yourself!" But the world misunderstands. This isn't about getting down over my sin, but about having my heart warmed and hope restored by God's love towards me in spite of my sin.

2. Elisabeth Elliot says that acceptance brings peace, and there is a difference between acceptance and resignation. I am still learning to accept these miscarriages.

3. One of the great comforts through these miscarriages is this: I want nothing greater than for my children to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. I have no doubt where those babies are, and that where they are the love of Christ abounds.

4. We Christ-followers should be known as a thankful people.

5. We Christ-followers should bask in God's grace. Nothing we do can make us any more acceptable to God, & nothing we do can make us any less acceptable to God.

6. C.S Lewis said, "they say these things are sent to try us...But of course one must take 'sent to try us' in the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't."

7. Emotions and feelings are not the truths I need to focus on and often are not even truths to begin with. C.S. Lewis wrote, "unless you teach your moods 'where they get off', you can never be a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion."

8. Finding joy in God is essential for life. John Piper says, "You glorify what you enjoy...What you take joy in is magnified and God made you to magnify Him. The fight to be happy in God is the most important thing in your life because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him...whatever makes you most happy is your god."

9. When bad things happen put all your eggs in the God-is-good basket. (also John Piper)

10. God's mercies are new every morning. And they are perfectly suited for that day. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases: His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion," says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him." -Lamentations 3:22-24

11. And the greatest truth that has come out of it all is how the Gospel applies to suffering. When suffering makes it feel as if God is punishing me or no longer loves me, I can look to the cross. Sinclair Ferguson said, "If the Father loves me so much that He did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up to be crucified for me, no further guarantee is needed of His wholehearted and permanent commitment to me and to my blessing Whatever happens to me must be seen in that light."

And this from an article in Christianity Today by Linda Falter titled Beautiful Anger: In the crucifixion "God held the limitless force of celestial wrath in check...The blameless, beloved Son of God is mocked, tortured, and murdered while His Father watches...Surely God would need no further justification to manifest His wrath toward evildoers. But, amazingly, this is the point at which God chooses to reveal the strength and beauty of His holy love...God's anger is not like ours. It is infused with holy purpose...The hands of almighty God at the pinnacle of His anger are outstretched, nail-pierced, bleeding, forgiving...His holy rage is under the perfect control of limitless love. He suspends final judgement for a time, until every good purpose is fulfilled."

The future is unclear. More miscarriages? Adoption? When? How? It terrifies me to think of how tempted I am to abandon God and turn from Him when suffering comes. I am at war with my flesh, but I am learning to fight with the strength God provides. That's why I've written this...a rock of remembrance when suffering comes again. Because it will come again in one form or another until we are home with Jesus. I understand what the writer of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing meant when he penned these words:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above...
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Cloth├Ęd then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Community Matters

At least it should. It does for us in a huge way. Although I don't think most people know what is meant when you talk about community, especially in the Christian context. Community has become a bit of a buzzword in a lot of churches. Which is good because we are called as believers to be apart of and to live in community (Gen. 2:18, Eph. 2:19, 1 Jn. 1:7). The problem is very few people take the time to define what they mean by community. When I say the word community I mean having a group of friends with whom you do all of life. The people who know what trials you are facing, what joys you have experienced. They are the people who have permission to point out things wrong in your life. They are the people who have the courage and the love for you to openly confront sin, especially sin you may be blind too.
A lot of people read that and think that does not sound appealing. Having people who are so in your business that they know everything about your life sounds miserable. I would contend that the reason people feel this way is because they don't have a true grasp of the gospel. In the death and resurrection of Christ, which is the central content of the gospel, we see pride torn down and thrown aside. We see the need to earn our salvation nailed to a cross so we do not have to bear that unliftable burden. It is hard for us to draw close to people because we are afraid of what they will think when they really get to know us. This is what the gospel destroys. Through the cross of Christ you are freed from the weight of having to impress people. You do not have to out work other Christians in the game of holiness. The ground around the cross is completely level. No one gets to lean against the cross because they are more deserving of the love of God than someone else. When we begin to truly grasp the gospel then we will truly be drawn into community.
Community matters for us. 2011 was a very difficult year. Between the normal busyness of work, school and family we walked through 2 miscarriages in 5 months. I know God would have helped us through those difficulties if we were not involved in community. But the grace of God in our life placed great friends around us so they could comfort us and encourage us and bring us dinner and cry with us and speak words of truth into our lives. So thank you Adams, Askins, Haddoxes and Morgans for being apart of our lives. We love doing life with you and we are so thankful for all God is teaching us through our community.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Art of Remembering

The start of a new year always makes me reflect on life, especially in the last year. There are so many moments that seem to influence and shape your life in a given year. This past year we have had triumphant events, finishing two more semesters of school, and tragic events, losing two babies to miscarriage. In between those two things are hundreds of more little events that moved our life along. How are we suppose to remember all of these things? Is it even worth trying to remember?
In thinking about this I have decided it is absolutely worth remembering. But I want to remember in a very intentional way. I want to remember not just random events or difficulties we experienced. I want to remember God's hand in those moments. I want to remember how He taught us through joys and pains. I want to remember how He provided exactly when He needed to. I want to remember these things not only for my own soul, but also for our son. I want him to know, that when I talk about the greatness and faithfulness of God, it is not mere words, but a life where He has shown himself faithful.
So I have come to the conclusion that the best way to remember is by writing things down. Since we have this blog what better place for us to record the ways God is revealing himself to us as we walk through this life. In a few days we will mark living in Louisville for 2 years. It is hard to believe it has been that long. I wish we had started recording the ways God has moved in us and for us these last two years much earlier, but today is a start. Here is a list of just a few ways God got us to Louisville and how he has guided us ever since...

1. An amazing church that is centered on the gospel,
2. A community group who has become like a family to us
3. Love and encouragement from our families as we stepped out in faith to move here
4. Money for moving expenses, insurance, tuition, textbooks, and the list could go on
5. A job within two weeks of moving here (I had absolutely no job prospects lined up before moving)
6. A great place to live with bills included in the rent
7. Gospel-centered counselors to walk us through the difficulties of two miscarriages
8. An amazing education from Southern Seminary that has deepened our love for God (I say our because Meredith has been able to take seminary wives classes that have really stirred her heart and affections for the things of God)
9. My job providing enough for Meredith to stay home with Benjamin
10. A healthy and rambunctious little boy
11. Celebration of 5 years of marriage

This is just a small sampling of the many ways God has shown himself faithful. Hopefully over the next months and years we will be able to add many more post to this blog about what God is doing in and through us.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Through the Love of God our Saviour

1. Through the love of God our Saviour,
All will be well;
Free and changeless is His favor,
All, all is well:
Precious is the blood that healed us,
Perfect is the grace that sealed us;
Strong the hand stretched forth to shield
All must be well.

2. Though we pass through tribulation,
All will be well;
Christ hath purchased full salvation,
All, all is well:
Happy still in God confiding;
Fruitful, if in Christ abiding;
Holy, through the Spirit’s guiding;
All must be well.

3. We expect a bright to-morrow,
All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow,
All, all is well:
On our Father’s love relying,
Jesus every need supplying,
Then in living or in dying,
All must be well.

by Mary Peter