I have seen people stand at the front of the church and proclaim how God is good. I’ve heard them mention that something bad ALMOST happened, but God performed a miracle. They were rescued from heartache and pain and suffering and wanted to proclaim it to the world and show what God did for them. Don’t get me wrong, that is fantastic! Those are great stories. But, I have found myself a time or two, suffering in the back row, thinking “Would they still be saying that if they didn’t see a rescue?” Would they still be saying God is so good if their child got hit by that car? If the cancer didn’t go away? If a husband didn’t repent and return? Bad things still happen. Not everyone receives their miracle in the way they had hoped or prayed.
But, God is always good. He’s the same God to the people standing at the front of the church as He is to the ones sitting in the back row. But, you don’t see the people getting up to talk about how their miracle didn’t happen. You don’t see people rushing up to the front to proclaim how God didn’t save their child.
There is this passage in the Bible that I have come to love. It has spoken to me in a new way since we lost Sayge.
The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Gideon replied, “But if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our ancestors told us about?”
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel. Am I not sending you?”
Gideon replied, “But how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest, and I am the least in my family.”
The Lord answered, “I will be with you.”
There is so much here – so much questioning and uncertainty and wavering and hope and inspiration. There is a God that has bent down from Heaven and named one of His sons a mighty warrior. This God has patiently listened to the questions, the accusations, and turned to the one He loves and keeps gently, patiently nudging him forward. The man He watched as a child grow up and be shaped through circumstance after circumstance for this very moment. He has created this man to be capable and nudges him in the direction of his fate.
Then there is a man, uncertain of who he truly is, but all too aware of the suffering and heartache he and the people around him have endured. He’s aware of his feelings toward a God that had surely abandoned him. A God he was ready to have words with. Gideon is aware of his weaknesses, along with his heritage of unimportance, that he felt was imprinted across his forehead.
We prayed. No, begged God with everything in us for Sayge to be okay. We cried out in desperation and anguish for this to not be our story. For this all to just be a bad scare or a close call, where we would look back and say, remember that one time that thing ALMOST happened?
Suffering and heartache were all around us.
I was feeling the furthest from a mighty warrior that there could ever be. So wholly unqualified for the road that now lay before us. I wasn’t sure how I would even make it to the next hour.
The weakest and the least.
But, this is where I tell you about our miracle. This is where I stand in front of you, with my daughter’s body in the ground, and say God is still so very good.
What I have learned is that I see a child no longer in my arms, but God considers a child brought home into Salvation. Where I see a long life without her, He sees a lifetime as only a moment compared to the eternity waiting for us. God considers my life transformed. He sees a miracle in the making. My life was the one that was saved that day. And, I believe, if you ask him, my husband would say the same. I could have quickly been buried with my daughter. Everything that I was broke into a million pieces, leaving me crumpled on the floor when I heard the words, “There is nothing more that we can do.” I know, at that moment, God stepped in. He stepped in, and He carried me. Held my broken pieces together as loved ones gathered around with no words as we kissed our youngest daughter for the very last time.
And, He whispered to the one who felt like the weakest and the least. He whispered, “I am with you. I will continue to be with you. I am here.” And I felt it. If I knew anything, I knew God was going to have good come from this. It was the surest thing in my heart. It was the thing that helped me keep breathing. Kept me able to put one foot in front of another. Help me face all the mornings I continued to wake up without her.
And, He stayed, consistently by my side. As the prayers poured in, I was covered. We all were. And, somehow I was able to gather the strength and courage to get up and speak at her funeral. To share with everyone the hope I was holding on to. We stood there together, her parents, in front of the smallest casket I have ever seen and proclaimed our love for her and our faith in our Father. Together. It was a miracle.
But, God didn’t stop there. He continued to get me out of bed in the mornings. He put family and friends in my life that would help carry me and pick me up off the ground. He guided me towards a healthy way to cope with all the heartache that was burning through my body—strengthened me. He steadfastly poured His promises into my weary, broken heart. He covered my girls in grace, with all the ways I felt I couldn’t. With all the ways they, too, were needing healing. He protected our marriage as we pulled closer together and leaned in on each other. We learned to open up and trust each other with all the thoughts we were holding and the feelings we felt at different times. Each was working through things in our way but still united. He bent down and showed me the examples of strength and courage that were in my life – moms that had walked this road before me. I fought this battle ahead of me and He walked with me in the garden. He sat with me by her name written in stone and turned the sprinklers on when I was begging Him to let me lie there. Stayed with me. He was gently nudging me forward. Listening when I yelled out, “How can this be my life?! How can this be real?!” He was patiently putting me together, one piece at a time, through our adventures and defiant joy.
He was putting me back together as something different than before: through the letters I wrote to my daughter somewhere over the rainbow, through our acts of kindness and all the glitter and little notes. We overcame the anniversary of the worst day of our lives with goodness. We sprinkled wildflower seeds across the ashes. I was allowing grief to carve me into something new. Until one day, I was able to look in the mirror and see strength instead of just pain. I saw so much more than weakness or the least. Now I see courage and hope, laugh lines, and smile wrinkles. A face that knows what it means to enjoy the moments truly. A body that knows how it feels to force itself up off the ground. A bereaved mother that is still standing, and not just existing, but learning how to thrive and live richly.