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There’s been a slow deconstruction happening in my life over the last few years. My sister refers to it as a divorce, but I don’t know that I would describe it in that way.
Two years ago my husband and I lost twin baby girls when I was 5 months pregnant. To date, and likely forever, that experience continues to have its effect on us. We now speak of our lives before the babies and after the babies. Before Summer and Malia and after Summer and Malia. What we were then and what we are now. They are the line that demarcates the story of us before we had children and after we had children.
It’s hard not to think of our lives in this way. These girls were our own–two small, helpless beautiful babies whose lives ended far too early, needlessly. Nothing compares with that weighty pang that comes over you when you feel your breathless baby’s tiny hands resting on your finger as you hope, with every ounce of your spirit and body, that she will press on your skin to let you know she’s okay. Nothing. Nothing compares.
Since that fateful day two years ago on March 7, 2016, our journey together has taken more twists and turns. I don’t think that any couple who goes through what we have comes out of it unfazed. Some are, undoubtedly, stronger than others and are able to move beyond an experience like ours with only minimal disruption to the fabric of their marriage or faith. For others, like me and my husband, you have to fight harder to stay alive together. Past hurts, resentments, doubts, truths unsaid–these things have a way of sprouting like weeds when the storms of life flood your world, and then there you are in the aftermath, faced with the tremendous work of plowing and scuffing those weeds or making the choice to see those weeds as beneficial* for strengthening your relationship and/ or your faith.
While my husband and I have been forever changed by the loss of our daughters (how could we not be?), I am thankful that we have not given up on each other. Our journey together has been far from easy, but also easier than some. There are hurts that have been profound and heartbreaking, but also efforts to reconcile, be vulnerable, and to “suffer long” for the other, graciously and patiently. My husband and I were two people in our mid-20s when we married, completely oblivious to what lay ahead, but also full of so much hope for the future. We may be a little more bruised almost 10 years later, but those realities haven’t changed–we are still oblivious to what lies ahead, but hope for the best in the morrow. And despite being together for nearly a decade, we are finding that there is still so much to learn about the other. In fact, to some extent, we feel like we are, only now, truly seeing each other for who we are.
But more than the journey we are on in our marriage, I am grateful for where we are in our spiritual journey. I was introduced to Jesus more than 30 years ago as a child and yet I feel as though I am meeting God for the first time all these years later and un-learning and re-learning the things that matter to Him and what makes us human. It’s one of the reasons why this blog has been so inactive in the last year. I have been re-meeting God–in the silence and in the noise.
In What is the Bible, Rob Bell refers to the rabbinic tradition of giving different interpretations for the same passage in the Bible, likening this tradition to turning a gem over and over so that the light refracts in new and unexpected ways. In many ways, I feel like this is very true of God. Just when you think you’ve got Him figured out, you realize that you don’t. You can’t — but not because He doesn’t allow Himself to be known (He does), but because figuring Him out would be like my brother’s dog Zoey knowing what makes me Me, my past, my present, my likes, my entire personhood. I can, however, allow myself to be known by Zoey (as much as she is capable of knowing me), to let her know I love her, to speak to her even if she only understands a very small fraction of what I say to her (like “lie down” or “good dog“). But God — He surprises, and I can’t help but marvel how His surprises oftentimes boil down to ridiculously simple truths when we tend to over complicate the things that matter. Truths like, I really don’t need your burnt offerings (e.g. your polished worship program, your impressive knowledge of the Bible, your daily devotions, your dietary restrictions, your WWJD bracelets, etc.), but I want you to love those around you–the poor, marginalized, the forgotten, that boss you can’t stand, your worst enemy, your gay son or daughter, your spouse. This is your calling: to love one another as I have loved you.
Faith Set Free
One of the most important realizations I have had is that I no longer need other people to vindicate God of any wrongdoing in the death of my babies. I don’t need someone to reassure me that this Bible verse and that Bible verse teach that God was not responsible for what happened on March 7, 2016. When everything is stripped away, all I need is something that other people can’t give me and that God can’t impose on me. What I need is faith — pure, extravagant, unrestrained, vibrant, wind-beneath-my-wings, life-changing faith that the same still, small Voice that spoke to His people many ages ago speaks to me now and tells me that He loves me.
Not “loves me, but would subject me to hurt and pain to achieve some higher purpose“, but loves me FOR REAL, without agenda, like a new parent with a newborn baby, loving tenderly and sweetly; like a wife caring for her dying husband, loving fearlessly to the end; like a Dad watching his son graduate, loving with pride and inexplicable joy; like a friend holding your hand in the doctor’s office, loving resiliently and in solidarity; and loving like countless people across the globe (of all shapes, sizes, races, religions, economic and social status, and sexual orientations) love and care for each other, taken to the depths of forever.
And this faith that I need? It’s enough. It’s enough to connect me to Jesus. It’s enough to get me through the day. It’s enough to light the dark paths. It’s enough to take me through the course of my days.
Ironically, this same faith is also responsible for the recent deconstruction that has been taking place in my life. This same faith — faith that God is good, that He loves us every bit the same way that we love the people closest to us (multiplied by infinity), and that we are, as people made in the image of God, called to participate in the divine healing of this world–this faith has been tearing down old beliefs, beliefs that many in the Church consider essential to being a “person of faith” in the first place.
How does faith do that?
Maybe faith-let-loose needs to tear down old beliefs in order to stay alive and flourish. Maybe faith can’t thrive under the weight of all the things we place above it, like rules and traditions and (gasp!) even the Bible. Maybe for faith to move mountains it needs to be the faith of Jesus: easy and light.**
This is faith unbounded. And it’s exhilarating. Freeing.
Let us begin again, for up until now we have done nothing. – Saint Francis of Assisi
*For the non-gardeners out there (like me!), there actually are such things as beneficial weeds. Have a look at https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-pest-control/benefits-of-weeds/
**Matthew, Chapter 11, verse 30.
Comment Rules: This post contains some content and reflections that may be disagreeable to some. By sharing online, I recognize that I am making myself vulnerable to all sorts of responses. If you disagree with any of today’s content and wish to comment, you are welcome to do so, but please be respectful. – J.
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