Sunday, May 31, 2009

from silence to silence

Today is the one-year anniversary of my friends' baby's birth...and death. If she were still with us, she would be eight months younger than Israel and ten months older than Eden. As it is, she is preserved in all our memories as a brand-newborn that no one gets to play with. At the time I remember thinking to myself that one of Israel's friends had died and it still feels that way when I think about it. Many of us, if not all of us, are still dumbfounded when confronted with the reality of her brief visit here. I thought about her nearly every day when I was pregnant with Eden. I still wonder about her and why her life was as it was...if there is a reason. And if there is no reason, what, then? I am humbled to have two healthy kids and will be much less likely to take them for granted, knowing what I know. But surely that is not a good enough reason. That does not even begin to approach it being "worth it." And then, well, I can't imagine that parents would ever say losing their child was "worth it." So I think of Job's friends and consider it wiser just to leave such lines of questioning alone, for what is there to gain besides foolishness? I'll close the book of my own words about it and put it back on the shelf, then.

Even when I give up on my own analysis, I still don't know how to pray for the situation. I wrote before Eden was born of struggling to pray with my friends for her when I am not sure what prayer does sometimes. But even if I knew that God would do whatever I wanted for them, I still don't know what I would pray. Take the pain away? Well, how could you remember her very well if you were just made numb to the feelings that go along with your remembering? It sounds akin to asking God to help them forget just a bit. But I would never want to forget a child I lost! I wouldn't wish it on anyone! Would I ask God to give them more children? As they are expecting again, I do pray a lot for them to have a healthy child. I know the account of Job seems on the surface to read that everything was fine because God gave Job more kids after he lost his first ones, right along with more stuff to replace all the stuff he lost. But kids aren't like stuff; you can't just replace them. And I don't buy that that's what made Job's difficulties in life "worth it," anyway. Asking for things like peace during this time is probably along the right track, but in my mind it still feels a bit like asking God to just gloss over the past -- to wave his hand over it and smooth it out. I know peace is not supposed to be linked to circumstances, but the circumstances of her life still feel so not-okay to me that I don't even want to ask God anything close to, "Make it all okay." It's not okay.

So in church we took some time to pray for various difficulties people are having. This anniversary was one of many things that was prayed for. One person was supposed to pray for each request, but several prayed for our friends on this anniversary. I didn't take a stab at it, but a young teenager did and her prayer brought me to tears. She prayed something like this:

"God, I don't know what it's like to have your baby die. But I know what it's like to have someone you love so much die -- like my grandpa who died. And you just love them so much and they aren't there. Even if you didn't get to spend as much time with them as you wanted, you still love them. And it just hurts so bad. God, I know you can't just come down here and hug 'em, but do something. God, you've gotta do something for them. I know how it is."

I agree with that. God is the one who has to do something. I know it's correct theology to believe that God showing up is what made Job's life worth living. So I can pray that God would show up and do something. I don't know what it is, but He should know. And praying that God would do what it is He does is about as good a prayer as I can imagine. I have a hard time swallowing that things will ever feel okay on this date each year for my friends and the rest of us, but if anyone can show up and wipe away tears for good, it is God. And if He doesn't, I pray he will at least come cry with us and sit in our silence.

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