Many were well-intentioned in those weeks after we lost our baby last summer, but condolences only go so far, only help so little. The babe we should have met this month was barely gone and friends and loved ones quickly quipped, "well at least you can get pregnant" or "you'll have other babies" or "God had a different plan." I understand. We say all sorts of nonsensical things when we lack the faintest idea of what should be said, what possibly could be said. There's a lot of grace.
But now, as I put one foot in front of the other through the week we would have welcomed that little person into the world, even as I sit here in stillness, relishing the womb-contained kicks of a growing baby girl, the grief undergirds every tender inch of my heart just a few inches north.
Loss lives under the surface of every scheduling conflict with Stephen, every pang of loneliness after almost a month of various contagious illnesses, every short fuse that's lit by toddler-ness in James. Waiting, wringing, twisting hurt simmers, boils over without notice, drips hot and hard down cheeks and chin.
On Tuesday I cried on the yoga mat, in the shower, on the bed, in James' rocking chair, and again later on the couch with friends.
No amount of gratitude for baby girl has remedied the sting of death.
And that's what the Spirit whispers as the tears just keep on coming.
The reason this hurts so deeply is that it is death. And there is only one Remedy for the sting.
Baby girl is not the answer, never made to sustain the weight of undoing cosmic decay. Only One defangs the fall by crushing the head of the lie-breathing serpent, by giving His innocent life over to death and rising victorious, leaving death in the grave.
Death stings today, and it will until Life reappears in the clouds. Until the One who is called Faithful and True declares "death shall be no more!"
This is why, those eight months ago, as I drove back to the blood-draw station again and again, submitting my skin to breaking just to be sure the signs of life were disappearing from my blood stream, I could only cry and sing along to one song.
Once for all the greatest sacrifice was made
Once for all His perfect love for us displayed
The Lamb was slain for all my sin and shame
Once for all, Amen.
It is finished! It's finished! Our God has made a way!
It's accomplished! King Jesus has risen from the grave!
It is finished! It is finished! The veil's been torn away!
Come ye, sinners, unworthy,
Come one, come all, and say!
In those moments I relished the refrain because of the comfort of the promise that my bleeding could not be punishment. All sin and shame were bled for on the cross, not in my body, not of my baby, not ever poured upon my own guilty head again.
But eight months later I keep relishing the promise that the remedy has been secured, once and for all. He never promised another baby or a healthily growing family. He never promised no more miscarriages or an escape from pain and heartache.
He promised that death had been defeated. And He promises still that the day is coming when every remnant of grief will be wiped away, when every sad thing will come untrue, and when He will give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life without payment.
Once more I find deep comfort in that shortest verse in all God's word: Jesus wept.
Just before He undid death, Jesus let His heart be crushed by the death of a man He loved. Just before He called Lazarus out of the grave, Jesus cried hot, heavy, hard tears down His flesh and blood cheeks and chin. He let the sting of death wrap snug and jagged around His heart of flesh, His soul embracing the scars of what it was like to live on fallen earth, be made of dust, and let beloved dust die.
And so there is sweet release in not wrapping a bow around grief today, of living in the tension of death's "already" defeat and its "but not yet" destruction. This is reality. There is no sugary coating, but there is a fierce, if subtle, thrum of steady, reliable, victorious grace.