I have it all planned out.
My wife, 36 weeks pregnant, is due with our third child…on Easter Sunday, just 4 weeks away! How exciting! For a pastor who seemingly always looks for symbolism and shrouded holy reminders around every corner, this is gold. The articles/sermons/whatever-else-I-might-want-to-plan, they practically write themselves. Easter. Spring. Life on its way. God ever-forming something new and beautiful in the world around us. It jumps off the page, doesn’t it? – just begging to be voiced in a hundred different ways…
Except that, today happened. I guess it was misleading to use the present tense above, because what I had planned out as recently as 24-hours ago certainly has not played out as we intended. This morning – or I guess yesterday, at this point – my wife was having some pain, so we went to the doctor. What they found, to our horror, was no precious little heartbeat on the monitor, and now any plans we had have been thrown out the window.
It is hard to know what to do at this point as I sit – several hours later on what is now this first day of Spring – typing away on the 2nd floor of Cleveland Regional Medical Center at 4:00 a.m. in the morning with my wife resting (thankfully) across the room. In these moments, it would be easy to get caught up in all the what-ifs, what happened, and what could have been. Truth be told, I have spent the majority of yesterday doing that already, and I imagine I will spend the next several days and weeks doing much of the same. Questions, I tell my congregants, are good for the soul. They have a way of “frustrating us into holiness,” to borrow a phrase from my friend Guy Sayles. Frankly, though, I like sharing those words with others more than I like accepting them for myself. It’s 4:00 in the morning in the hospital. Questions are overrated. At this point, I would much prefer some answers.
And yet… somehow, through divine grace, the love of God continues to flood over our family, and especially, memory of my sweet little daughter Anna, whom I never even had the privilege to meet. From out of the blue, texts, phone calls, and messages on social media overflow, and they remind me – even at 4:00 in the morning in the hospital – we are not alone. We are not alone foremost because the Spirit of God wraps us up in love and refuses to let us go. But we are also not alone in that our families by blood and faith hold us close to their hearts. In that sense, insignificant things like miles and years and theology make little difference when it comes to lifting up the brokenhearted.
And so, it seems, I still find myself thankful in these moments… though it is certainly not thankful in any way I had planned. I am thankful for the gift my daughter was to us, if only for a little while, and I look forward one day to telling her that face-to-face. I am thankful too for the gracious outpouring of those who love us dearly – whom we have the honor of loving in return – and who walk with us when the road is dark.
But I am most thankful, to be sure, that Easter is still coming. Life is still on its way. God continues to create the world and form new and beautiful things around us, and trivial things like death will one day be but a faded memory of what used to be… what used to be before the all-consuming, nothing-can-separate-us resurrection power of God blew it away like a whisper on the wind. I know this to be true because it’s the one story that has sustained me since before I can remember. Frankly in these moments, I don’t feel it at all, as all I can seem to muster here and now is sorrow, regret, and sadness for what might have been. But by the grace of God – confirmed by those who love us most – somewhere deeper than my feelings, down inside me echoes the voice of the One seated on the throne that reminds me, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
And so it is, on this day especially, we are reminded – built into the very fabric of nature by the Maker of heaven and earth – that life is always rising from death. And for that, especially at 4:00 in the morning in the hospital, I am truly thankful. Spring is here. Easter is coming. Life is on the way.