Twenty-four years ago, when April was eighteen months old, we lost her. We had been her foster parents for six months when she was returned to her birth family in New York. It was horrific–Baby Jessica played out in our own driveway–a social worker picked her up at dawn, we buckled her in the carseat after giving her last desperate kisses, she protested, ripped at the straps, kicked and raged.
It was a thousand-mile, permanent good-bye.
One of my best friends said to me simply, “Just remember God loves her more than you do.”
I wanted to punch her in the face.
When we are sorrowing, what we want is for people to see us, to notice our pain. We don’t want platitudes, seemingly hollow assurances of things we already know.
We want comfort, and when I was twenty-five, there was no comfort in her words. Because, then, they were just words.
I am not a good Christian. I stay away from church during flu season and sometimes sit during the welcoming of visitors. I haven’t listened to Stephen Furtick in over a year, and I don’t know if it’s Lisa or Donna Terkeurst who has done more with her talents than I. Were it necessary, I could not recite too many Bible verses to you through a prison wall.
In fact, sometimes, I feel like the only Bible verse I live out is Romans 7:19, “I do not do the good I want to do.”
I feel my cannots stack up.
But I recognize now–and it has taken almost half a century–that there are no cannots for Him, this God whom I serve. This God who is ever-present, who is in the bottom of the ocean, who is at the mountaintop, who never grows weary. He is always where we are.
I know that now.
On January 18, 2016, I wrote: “I may not survive April’s pregnancy.” This was before we knew about Stephanie Grace’s anencephaly–this was when I was a fool.
In the 1,145 days since then, I have held my granddaughter’s lifeless body. I have held her ashes. I have stood alongside my husband as his body was destroyed, as he was sewn together like Frankenstein. I have seen our marriage change and our girls move and joy all but leave our house. And I am still here.
Because I was rescued.
I don’t think we really get, we really fully understand, how little our Christianity is about us and how much it is about God. His might. His power. His plan. His will.
So very little is about what we want, and we don’t understand that until we go through the hard and ripping things–places where everything is torn away. Until we get to the place of total powerlessness, when we realize that there is absolutely nothing we can do.
We say that in conversation all the time: There’s nothing I can do. We throw it around just as easily as please and thank you. Usually, however, there is still something we can do. Some small action on our part that might improve things.
But a true tragedy brings us to a place that we have never seen before, a place where we see only our inadequacy and inability. A place where we understand: there is absolutely nothing but God.
There is beauty in that moment–it is different from the beauty of salvation, although it, too is salvation. In that optionless solitude, we see open-eyed: He is our all in all.
This is not some Hallmark-channel-worthy moment where there are rainbows and unicorns dancing in a conga line–no, He becomes our all and all in our brokenness. Where we are. When we can’t even lift our own heads. When we can’t be kind or patient or loving, when we are just destroyed. it is then that He begins truly revealing Himself.
For me, at least, there wasn’t an aha moment. There was just a little light, and then a little more light, and then I could finally see again.
I was so grateful just to see.
I think that’s what time in the wasteland does–takes everything away except for the one thing that cannot be taken away: Him. His love.
It is in the miry pit where we realize that He is truly our only salvation, our rescuer–and clinging to our one rescuer is such a comfort. We were lost, alone, without hope, and yet now, He is here. And, since we are no longer alone, it doesn’t matter when or how we will be rescued. We can rest, even in the pit, and wait to be freed.
There is something to be said for our pit time–for the resultant assurance we have after our rescue, for the confidence we have in our Savior. We were rescued when we did not deserve to be! And, having been rescued once, having felt His fierce grip, we know that we can trust Him to save us again.
Twenty-four years ago before Christmas, April came back to us–the story of the prodigal son played out in our driveway. She ran through the house as fast as her twenty-one-month-old legs could carry her, shrieking in joy, rubbing her belly and laughing ecstatically.
I remember both those days–the day she left and the day she returned–with tears.
There was anguish. And then: such joy.
Photos: Ginger Holmes George