I have spent all day pushing my tears down. Pushing, pushing, pushing, because diapers need to be changed and food needs to be made and because no amount of my tears can make anyone’s baby come back.
It’s times like this when we all, Christians included if we’re honest, question God’s sovereignty. We all wonder how God can be fully in control and fully loving when terrible things happen. Why does God allow babies to die? Why theirs and why not mine? Why why why???
These questions simmered in my brain as I sat outside of F’s school today, way too early for my pick up time. As soon as I heard the news my arms longed to feel his weight in them. I wanted to smell his slightly syrupy scent. I wanted to feel his warmth on my face. I knew I couldn’t pick him up too early or he’d be alarmed and it would be disruptive to the teacher. My brain told me to wait, but my senses told me to run. So I sat, idling in my car, waiting for the time where it would be considered early to pick him up, but not obnoxious.
He ran to where I was waiting and leaned past me to collect his things. I watched his chubby little fingers reach for his lunchbox and I thought about how just six months ago, I could see a faint trace of a line where his baby wrist fat used to be. Going now are these last remnants of his babyhood. Today he is still pudgy and dirty, tomorrow I will wake up and he will be lean and hairy. His run won’t have an awkward gait; his speech won’t have a slight lisp.
I could not take my eyes off of him, all the while thinking, This was the age of the babies that were murdered today. Kindergarteners still have their baby remnants. They are still unashamed to hold hands in public; they still want to be sung to at night. They are on the cusp of being big kids, but not today, not quite yet.
As he walked away my gaze stayed on the rows of lunchboxes. And I thought about the rows of uneaten lunches left in Connecticut today. All lined up. Someday in the near future those lunchboxes will be returned to the parents whose children were not. Those parents will remember what they packed inside without having to look. They’ll remember how they hurried their children out the door today. They’ll remember if they snapped at their kids. They’ll remember if they said they loved them. Maybe they’ll remember how even after everyone was strapped in the car, one of them forgot their lunch and mom had to go back in the house to get it. Maybe they’ll remember yelling at their kids, as I did today when that same scenario happened to me. Maybe they’ll regret it like I did, but on a scale I cannot even fathom.
I have never lost a child, but I can imagine the feeling being on par with having a cannon shot through my abdomen. Then having the world expect me to go on living, and walking and breathing with a gaping hole where my baby used to be. And this is where I have been all day: trying to imagine the unimaginable and make sense of the senseless.
I believe that “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” (James 5:16). But I do not feel effective or powerful. I feel weak and so very sad. I’m reminded of how I felt when C was hospitalized as an infant. I felt powerless and scared then too. I knew God was real and loving, but in all honesty I was a little too pissed off at Him to pray anything more elaborate than, “help me help me help me.” I asked people to pray when I couldn’t and they did. Her birth defect didn’t magically go away and she remained very sick. But we were given a good doctor; we were shown love by our friends. People brought casseroles and compassion. We felt peace in the midst of pain and I attribute that to the prayers of the righteous. Even just knowing people were praying brought a sense of relief. In a way I’m not smart enough to understand, praying carries some of the pain and displaces some of the burden.
We are in a season of advent, of waiting for Christmas. Advent means to wait, and I will wait with those parents and families. I will expect God to show up. I don’t have any good answers but I will leave room for the answers to come.
“Let every heart prepare Him room”. Our hearts may or may not have made room for Him but we have some precious brothers and sisters whose cannon sized holes are gaping wide. My prayer is for Him to fill those holes, to make room in our own hearts where we have left Him none; to fill up the vacant spaces. I will wait for and pray for His love and peace and light to fill them up.
I know for the next few weeks, like every parent in America, I will be more patient with my kids. I will yell less and hug more. I will be so grateful that they are safe. I will battle myself not to worry about a day when they are not. But in a few months you and I will forget because we are a forgetful people. Those families will never forget. Because of that I will stop pushing my tears away, and today I will let them flow. I will pick up my piece of this grief that belongs to us all and carry it with me. I will do my best to carry some of their burden.
Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”