Friday, April 29, 2011

730 Days: Still missing you

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24)

This is a profound mystery.

How many times have I thought those words-- "this is a profound mystery"-- to myself over the last two years?

How many times have I admonished myself with Friar Lawrence's words--

A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;

Happiness courts thee in her best array;
But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,
Thou pout'st upon thy fortune and thy love:
Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.
(Romeo & Juliet, 3.3.141)

You are alive-- there art thou happy.
You lived through surgery-- there art thou happy.
You have a beautiful home and a job you love-- there art thou happy.
You have a husband who loves you and takes care of you and makes you laugh every day-- there art thou happy.
You are surrounded with faithful, loving friends and family-- there art thou happy.

A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back, Samantha-- happiness spreads itself out at your feet every day in a thousand ways, singing and springing forth in a thousand voices, but, like a spoiled child who is used to everything working out just as she wants it, you pout when your foot stumbles down a tough path. Watch out! Pay attention-- this is no way to live your life, and if you choose to do so, you might as well have died that day, too.

But, oh, Benjamin Joseph Swaney, I love you. Oh God, I long for him. I crave his presence in my life today.

You wanna know the key to the fact that this line of thinking is not crushing?

Because my Father does not ever, not for one second, begrudge me my grief, even 730 days later. Oh, my Father is gracious in His mercy-- He is boundless in His compassion. He alone perfectly understands every thought and emotion that races through my head and heart at warp speeds. He knows each one. He does not indulge me: He understands and loves me.

I've been told that I am remarkably in touch with my emotions.

My poor husband. I'm hard to follow sometimes. My dad says he's watched me do it my whole life-- I can feel a thousand emotions all the way through and name them, all in about 20 seconds.

Losing Ben took me to a level of feeling stuff that I never knew existed.

When your child dies before he ever had a chance to live, your mind rushes through a seemingly endless list:

-Wait-- what? I took all my prenatal vitamins.
-I went to every dr. appt, I didn't drink Diet Coke or anything even questionable.
-What did I do?
-I thought you loved me, God.
-Why did you even let me get pregnant in the first place if this was going to happen?
-Did You know this was going to happen?
-What do I do with his things? Why did You let me buy those clothes, Lord? Didn't You know?
-What do You know? The knowable? What does that even mean?
-Was this Your "will"?
-Am I to believe You were trying to teach me something? Couldn't You have just led me to a book or something?
-What's going on up in heaven that You decided to bring him up there now?
-Did you know that I would be a terrible mother so you just saved him from countless hours of therapy?
-Was he going to have a dread disease, so you took him before he could suffer?
-Was he going to be a criminal, so you took him before others could suffer?
-Are you mad at me? Did I disappoint You? Not pass a test?

But if you don't take this list and submit it as quickly as possible to Jesus, the King of your soul, the Lord and Keeper of your everything, you can drown in it. Bitterness and fear and anger and misery will overwhelm you. More than one time, I have had to picture myself running to Him, stapling my list to His throne, pushing it into His hands, and begging for more mercy-- more grace, more patience, more faith, to be able to wait until my faith becomes sight, to understand "Oh God, why?"

Did I say "why?"

I meant "Oh, God, whhhhhhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?"

The Lord reigns. He is the answer to every question. The fact that He can see all of the things that I cannot see has become one of the most comforting things I've experienced this last two years. Oh, friend whose heart is aching-- oh, dear woman whose arms are empty, He knows. He hears the cry of every aching heart-- and we are deceived by one who hates us if we believe that He is uncaring, or powerless, or cruel. Our Father sees that we are made of clay and we live in a world that is made of clay. We live in a place where things that hurt happen every day. He saves us from more things than we actually walk through. Can you imagine what all this will look like when He shows us all the things we didn't see? When we see this life from heaven's perspective?


The Lord reigns
Let the earth be glad
Let the distant shores rejoice
clouds and thick darkness surround Him
righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne
fire goes before Him and consumes
His foes on every side
 His lightning lights up the world
the earth sees and trembles
the mountains melt like wax before the Lord
before the Lord of all the earth
the heavens proclaim His righteousness
and all peoples will see His glory...
Psalm 97

The earth is the Lord's, and everything that is in it.

If the earth is the Lord's, and I am the Lord's, there is something sacred and eternal that I am touching when I touch this thing that has happened to my life. My child, my son, was taken immediately to the Most High God for reasons that He has not chosen to reveal to me, but if I can fix my gaze upon Him... If I can strap the blinders to my head and focus on Him alone, suddenly things are not hopeless.

My Ben is gone, but he is not dead.

He is, to take from Shakespeare again, "some other where."

What fruit is being birthed from this death? His life and death have changed his mother and father in a way that no light trial could have ever accomplished. His coming into my life, the most precious and tragic experience I have ever known as a woman, has changed me intrinsically. I am not the same. And it's for the better. Oh friend, this is a profound mystery.

This life is not about you or me. It's about Him and His beauty and His great worth, and there are very few ways to really get to Him-- the way is narrow and straight. It seems the more desperate I get for comfort, the more willing I am to stay my focus on Him. The more I search for His worth. The more I am grateful for His redemption.

Here is what has begun to happen to me in the last two years: I have begun to realize that all of my stuff is in heaven. I have a beautiful home on earth, but my home isn't here. Everything looks different in the light of eternity. If my whole purpose and goal in life is getting to Jesus without doing too much damage to the Kingdom between here and there, suddenly the crappy stuff that happens here is not as heavy. You and I are in a race-- if we're running a race, do we stop to check stuff out along the race route on the way to the finish line? Do we get worried about what color some of the shops have chosen to paint their buildings (well, if it's lime green, maybe, but if they're nice people we'll let it go...)?

Do we get caught up in the things of this world when we were created for the reality of that world?

All of my hope is focused on Him. All of my life springs from Him. He is where we are going. And only He can see the answers to all of our questions-- I have faith that He will reveal it when it is time. And my son? He is safe-- he is completely safe, learning about Moses from...Moses. He's got the whole Red Sea thing down cold. He heard all about Noah and Jonah and Ruth... from the stars themselves.

Jesus's death and resurrection and our redemption are the point of this life. To worship Him in the face of darkest difficulty is wine culled from the bitterest grape that somehow comes out sweet.

I'm not telling the truth if I say that it doesn't still hurt like crazy, especially not knowing if we'll ever have another baby, but I decided a long time ago that my remedy for the sadness that would overwhelm me is worship. How is it that what is meant for Him is like water to my soul? It's like an embrace in some ways, I guess-- our aim is to hold Him, and we look up and find that He is holding us.

But this morning, Don and I woke up and talked about the day Ben died and we cried and we prayed, all before getting out of bed. It was an intense time of remembering. And then
we got up and washed our faces and waited for mom and dad and Nathan and Ella to get here. And then Don came to get me-- "Samantha, you gotta hustle. Get out here right now!" I thought Ella must be doing something outrageously cute, so I rushed out to the porch...

Oh, our friends.

Last year, Don and I decided that we would spend Ben's birthday planting and working in the yard, and that we would try to sort of make that our tradition-- celebrating LIFE on his birthday, and remembering his death, too. Last year, very precious friends decided they wanted to bless us with azaleas and cut flowers and peonies and we were so thrilled. This year, Caroline thought it would be fun if they could amp that up a bit. And let me tell you, when my girl Caroline decides to flip the switch on something...well...

Our porch was crammed with Gardenias and Hydrangeas and Tiger Lillies. A blackberry bush and a blueberry bush. Rose bushes galore. Gerbera daisies. A butterfly plant. Hanging flowers. A Japanese Maple. And so much more. Our friends had gotten them together at Caroline's house and a small group of them-- Rob, Robert, Brandon, and Caroline (Flower Ninjas)-- brought them over before 6am so we would wake up on this sad day and be blown away by their love and friendship.

It worked.

I wonder if Ben sees all this stuff. You know? If God lets stuff like that happen. I bet yes.

Day 731 without Ben has begun, but heaven is my true measure of time: this life is but a moment. There's so much we don't know. When our faith becomes sight and we are finally looking at the Him of our souls, this life will seem like a fragment of a second. In His light, everything else will make sense. Until then, He loves us and holds us and pours beauty out on us every day, if we'll only open our eyes to see it.





 



God will provide rain for the seeds you sow. The grain that grows will be abundant. Your cattle will range far and wide. Oblivious to war and earthquake, the oxen and donkeys you use for hauling and plowing will be fed well near running brooks that flow freely from mountains and hills. Better yet, on the Day God heals his people of the wounds and bruises from the time of punishment, moonlight will flare into sunlight, and sunlight, like a whole week of sunshine at once, will flood the land.... Isaiah 30:26
 

What a pack of blessings lights up upon thy back...and these are some of their names...