Today is six weeks from Kyleigh’s birth and our return to the hospital for follow-up visits started this morning. It’s a two day ordeal, and while we’re longing for the proverbial “all clear,” part of me isn’t ready to go there yet. Sure – I want to know that everyone is healing physically and that our bodies are doing what they are supposed to. Did you catch that? The fact that I dare to use the plural form. My physical pain may not be as obvious as Leann’s, but it’s there. Likewise, I can see that Oliver is coping better in that his behavior toward us when it’s just the four of us is returning to the little boy that we knew. Of-course Leann is nearly back to her old self, that is to say, the self that she was physically before entering the second trimester of Kyleigh’s life. This makes me think, why don’t we celebrate the fact that babies are generally 9 months old when they are born? Why say, she is 1 day or 3 months when in fact, she’s already reached her first birthday? It may seem like a technicality and I probably haven’t thought about it since I was 15 yrs and 3 months old; none-the-less, saying that my Kyleigh is “forever one day old” doesn’t seem to properly capture the duration of her time with us. Even if it is appropriate to say that she was one day old, “forever” certainly isn’t the right term. Those of us that believe the Bible to mean what it says in all aspects of its teaching are hard-pressed not to believe in a 1000 year earthly reign of Christ (Rev 20:1-6). This occurs after the first resurrection when all graves, land, sea or air, will be commanded to give up their prize and all of those that have died in Christ are welcomed to join Him. She’s hardly forever one day old as she belongs to that chosen group, as do I, and so it is that I pray for you. Her body was temporarily one day old but that won’t matter soon. I pray that when that blessed time comes when it’s my time to meet Him that she will be in His arms.
One of the gifts that we have been given was a sketch of Jesus holding a baby – our baby. He’s rocking her as I should be; comforting and loving on her because I cannot. On the back, the artist writes of her grief in the loss of her child after only 9 hours from birth, and states that she feels for all of us that have lost a child from miscarriage, stillbirth (stupid term), from infant death and abortion. Hummm – that last one surprised me. It was the first time that I had thought of an elective loss of a child as being a source of future grief. I had always heard and therefor assumed that because this was most often a mother’s “choice,” that there was no grief. Doubt, sure. Guilt, perhaps at some point, of-course. But grief? I was reminded yet again – Who are you oh man (Job 38:4 ~ my paraphrase)? Such are the limitations that are imposed upon me with so many of them being of my own making. I’m judgmental, short tempered, brash and often times entirely too critical. But I pray that is not what people most often see. Not that I attempt to dawn a façade, but rather I try to wear my faith on my sleeve and let that be what truly defines me. Who am I to think that women or couples that elect abortion have any less grief then I at some point as they learn to cope with their decisions over time?
This brings us to the purpose of this entry. I promised on 5/10 to expound on the trip towards spiritual perfection. It sounds like such a lofty goal – something that one could only speak about if they were so engrossed by arrogance as to make them unapproachable by the rest of us mortals. And if not, we think this trip is meant for someone else – those super Christians – who seem to have an extra measure of faith that sustains them in the good times and the bad. Perhaps this was meant only for the Disciples or Apostles, the Church fathers or even those godly men and women that dedicate their lives to paid Christian ministry. Certainly this is not for us, not for you and me. Or is it?
As with any trip, there must be a starting point. We cannot get from A to B if we cannot discern where A actually is. I’ve said before I’m not a guy that needs all the answers. Every person is different. Everyone has a unique fingerprint stamped by a Holy and Loving God. Your walk is different from mine, and my purpose here is to share my journey so that perhaps you can better understand your own. For me, my “A” is God’s Will. To understand my quest for spiritual perfection, you must understand that it all starts with Him.
So here is the pertinent question – did God will for Kyleigh to die? To be clear, the question for me is not why did He will for her to die, but did He will for her to die? God’s will, or this seemingly enigmatic box that we attempt to shove all things into – particularly when life doesn’t fit neatly into our plan. To get there however, there must be a source of information that we can use as a guide and for me, that source is the Bible. A collection of 66 books bound and sold as a single book that was literally God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). In favor of my Wesleyan heritage, “if there is but one error, there may as well be a thousand.” The Bible teaches so many different things, but most importantly it is clear to me that this is hardly a book filled with commands – thou shalt and thou shalt not’s – it’s not a book about behavior. It’s a book about how much He loves you and me, how we often respond to His love, and what we can expect to generally occur when we choose to either walk in the Light or stay in the darkness. As you’ve noticed from my writing, I’m captivated by what it has to say. Its words are impressed upon my heart and I rejoice in them in times of blessing and cling to them in times of grief. I still have so much to learn and it’s as if I’m routinely pulled to its pages.
Hopefully that gives you the context by which you can understand how I can delight in telling Kyleigh’s story. So did God will for Kyleigh to die? The short answer – yes; but this time a short answer is insufficient. Some things deserve explanation, and this is certainly one of them. I split God’s will into two types. His original will and His permitted will. Psalm 139 tells me that all of Kyleigh’s days – all 9 months of them – were planned from the foundation of the world while Matthew 10:30 teaches that the hairs on her head were numbered, intricately placed there by the only One that could see her perfect form in the womb. This is true of-course for you and me as well.
We see both types of God’s will in the Bible but we only get a glimpse of God’s original will. The Book is largely about reconciliation, which is not a word that was necessary when God first spoke the universe into existence and His Spirit hovered over the newly formed waters (Gen 1). His original plan never included tears of sadness, feelings of brokenness or shame. It’s a marvelous state, which is foreign by our thinking today. Adam and Eve were created as adults in His likeness, and were naked and not ashamed. Imagine that, to exist in such a state that we could be unaware of our own nakedness. I’m hardly advocating living in such a manner, that’s absurd, but it describes a state of being – an unawareness of strife – that people today spend a lifetime seeking. Amazingly, the Bible concludes with this same experience. The last two chapters of Revelation, as with the first two chapters in Genesis, exist as bookends to a divinely orchestrated program which demonstrates God’s perfect plan for humanity. It’s this period in between, from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 that we find ourselves today and it’s this same period where God’s original or designed will is not in affect – hence a period of His permitted will when bad stuff, stuff not part of the designed plan, happens.
The first parents were no strangers to grieving for one of their children. They had the same grief then that I feel today when Cain killed Abel. Death is a byproduct, a consequence of the choices made by our first parents. But we mustn’t judge them. We’re just as guilty today. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) That includes those super Christians from earlier. I’m in that bucket and so are you. And so many times we think of our sinfulness as having no adverse effect on anyone. This includes ourselves, or anyone that surrounds us. At some point however, somewhere along the line, all of our sin matters. But not only that, it matters profoundly; its impact is truly cosmic. While it’s true that we only ultimately sin against God (refer to David’s response when confronted by Nathan – 2 Sam 12:13), we cause animosity and strife between ourselves and our fellow man. All the events of life, those of yours and of mine, are interconnected into a single, remarkably beautiful tapestry that transcends one life and influences others. “All things work together for good…” (Rom 8:28) doesn’t just mean that the events in my life are ultimately for my own benefit, but that God uses them for the benefit of all of those that love Him from the moment they happen in time to the future time when clocks are no longer meaningful.
Let’s consider Job. Many readers today look at his life as recorded for us and marvel at his fortitude or even the resilience that he demonstrated in the time of his calamity. The part that I think is most relevant here is the first part, when God and Satan are having this cosmic introduction to some strange Shakespearian version of Job’s life. We’re told in Scripture that Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”, (1 Peter 5:8) but it’s not Satan that initiates the struggle that Job encounters. Read it closely, “Have you considered My servant Job?” (Job 1:8) asks God. He is the first to direct Satan’s attention to Job all the while intending to use his experiences as an example, an illustration for everyone that has read his story from the moment it occurred to today. No doubt that it continues to offer hope. It’s been truly humbling for me to return to over these past six weeks. But the difficulty doesn’t stop there. It’s further compounded twice in 1:12 and 2:6 where God gives the command to Satan to go and do his best yet sets the parameters by which Satan is allowed to operate. Even though Satan is as real as I am sitting here writing these words, he’s incapable of doing anything that is outside of the permitted will of God.
This brings us to Kyleigh and the events leading up to her birth and death 6 weeks ago today. Did God will for Kyleigh to die moments before she was born? Absolutely. Does this alleviate any of the pain I feel for her or make her any less important and influential on my life? Definitely not. I’m re-reading A Grief Observed, and Lewis makes a great point. When an amputee looses his leg, does he ever “get over it”? He writes, “There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed.” I lost a pound of flesh – or more exactly, we lost 8.8 lbs. of flesh and there will never be a time when we are “over it”. But just because she was only with me for 9 months and I only had 4 hours with her outside the womb, it doesn’t mean that her life was without purpose – or any less purposeful than mine in God’s master plan. I don’t know why God’s permitted will allowed such a brief time for her to be with us; but her impact has been so meaningful that I have no doubt I’ll be thinking about her until that clock ticks for the last time.