A Story About Life and Death

21 Apr

This is a story about life and death, but it’s not Ben’s birth story. Hang with me.

When you go through trauma—gosh, when you go through life!—you pick up on acute coincidences, divine dealings of our God who cares and is involved in it all. In our everyday, here and now. I know and believe His Holy Spirit is always teaching, showing, and molding those who follow Him. Also comforting, loving, watching.

In his grace, He sanctifies us—yes, even through a birth story like Ben’s.

And the only appropriate response I can give, the one required of me, is to look for those mercies, those graces, and recognize them, learn from them and share them.

So, here’s what I have learned and here’s what I will share. I’m going deep to write about Jesus and the gospel—because I’m utterly compelled and can’t not write this down.

To know I was there, right in the middle of the moment, when Ben was born—when doctors, shocked at what they found, removed him from me, and when for seven minutes his little lifeless body was compressed and given breaths—to know I was there, a witness who didn’t see, is strange. I can imagine how sad it looked to behold a mother under anesthesia while her baby was worked on just nearby.

All of Ben’s medical papers, which there are many and all are so interesting by the way, make a point to say “resuscitated while mother under general anesthesia.” As if the papers themselves are saying Phew! I feel protected from much of this. But still, my brain has tried to fill in the visual gaps, to see those things it didn’t see at 8:41 p.m., time of birth. Taming my brain has been and will be tricky.

But I’m reminded, others did see. The doctors, the nurses. Some told me they were frightened and traumatized.

Still, my Father in Heaven saw, and He knew, and that has been a key focus of mine, the main comfort I find. In His power He held it all in His hands, calmly and lovingly, watching, knowing. And he foreknew it, too. It wasn’t fast and chaotic to him, frightening or traumatizing.

He looked on Ben’s birth, grieving the things of our earthly lives, the horror and sadness we face in this fallen world that were never a part of the original plan. When man sinned, as they so appropriately say, all hell broke loose. And it grieved and continues to grieve our holy God.

He grieves, and He knows, because He walked these roads, this place, as Jesus. Here’s our God, who wept when Lazarus died, and when He saw the hurt and pain and depravity on the faces of Mary and the others there, He was greatly troubled, Scripture says. He wept. (John 11) He wept over his friend. Over his friend’s family. Over their feelings. Over darkness and over death.

So I know, when God looked on in the OR when Ben was born, He recognized in the room the sad, out-of-place products of this world and of our lives—the grief and pain, downright horror, the chaos and the never-will-be’s.

But these were things He would one day right, one day redeem, if not there in that operating room on March 28, 2019, then some day, and for all time.

All of this, the entire story, has made me see in great detail something I already knew: none of us is exempt from living this life that is oftentimes very well marked and marred by the fallen things of this fallen world. The night Ben was born, Drew and I, and Ben, were subject to those things, facing them head on.

And for whatever reason, in that moment, on this side of eternity, this particular time, God delivered us. He redeemed the day. It was not of my own power or doing. He delivered us.

Ben, one week old in NICU.

I don’t have an explanation for why, but in divine mercy and grace He delivered our son from death and worked through the doctors and nurses to restore our lives.

I have (perhaps) a lot of years ahead, and it may not always go this way for me, or for Drew, or for Ben. It likely won’t. I may not always see such sweet restoration this side of Heaven. I sure know many of my beloved friends and family have not, and they await full of hope the day when Jesus returns and restores all things, all lives, all hurts, all voids, all losses, all horrors, all the never-will-be’s.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” Isaiah 65:17

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” Revelation 21:5 

We keep referring to Ben having lived as a miracle, and it certainly is. But I know deep in my soul that the true miracle is ultimately still coming, and that miracle is life not on this earth, but life in eternity with Jesus one day. That’s the actual miracle. This, our story, was and is but a glimpse, and a glimpse I’m so thankful for.

I think of my utter powerlessness and vulnerability, and Ben’s, during his birth. There I was, under anesthesia and basically dead myself, incapable of saving my son’s life or mine. Yes, I couldn’t even know we needed saving. And that’s just it. That’s the picture! That’s all of us; everyone starts in that state.

The gospel says we were dead, in a complete and devastating place of depravity. We couldn’t save ourselves. We didn’t even know we needed saving. It’s why we need Jesus. Because we are all dead without.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

Now then. Look at that. The very gospel, showing up in our story. This can’t really be about me, or about Ben. This must be about Jesus. I can see the correlations so clearly. It may take me years to refine my words and articulate them correctly, but the gospel is my takeaway.

And I would have learned to know these things even if we’d lost Ben, because they would have still been true.

There are countless themes of life and death weaving through this birth tale. Ben’s, mine, all of ours, Jesus’. There is much to be learned about eternal life even within a story about physical life. I’m not the author of this story, but I’m enjoying watching it play out.

And what a nice little tidbit—our precious baby boy was due on Easter Sunday. How’s that for a twist? Our creator is quite creative, right?

I don’t have all the answers or explanations. And this is my layman’s attempt to write out what I’ve learned, what I feel, and what I’m discovering. I’ll never be able to wrap this experience up neatly, tie a pretty bow on it and put it on a shelf. Man, I still hardly even know what the heck happened, to be honest.

So for now, I can only offer my praise and reverence to a holy God who is sovereign, kind, in control and, most relevant to me right now, knowing.

I can’t help but think—not think, but truly understand—that this experience was all a mere window into the great redemption, the making right of all things, that’s still ahead.

The miracle of life has multi-fold meaning; the true miracle is coming!

Songs

Lord From Sorrows Deep I Call (Keith Getty)

If I could go back, I would obviously change a lot about Ben’s birth. Or maybe I wouldn’t, knowing what I know now. But if I could have had this song on repeat in the OR, I would have. It perfectly sums up what I was trying to pray and say to God during my ordeal, and depicts true hope in the face of raw desperation.

Lord, from sorrows deep I call
When my hope is shaken
Torn and ruined from the fall
Hear my desperation
For so long I’ve plead and prayed
God, come to my rescue
Even so the thorn remains
Still my heart will praise You

Storms within my troubled soul
Questions without answers
On my faith these billows roll
God, be now my shelter
Why are you cast down my soul?
Hope in Him who saves you
When the fires have all grown cold
Cause this heart to praise You

Should my life be torn from me
Every worldly pleasure
When all I possess is grief
God, be then my treasure
Be my vision in the night
Be my hope and refuge
Till my faith is turned to sight
Lord, my heart will praise You

And, oh, my soul, put your hope in God
My help, my Rock, I will praise Him
Sing, oh, sing through the raging storm
You’re still my God, my salvation

Living Hope (Phil Wickham)

I have loved this song for the last year, and its words are so poignant and perfect for this time in my life. There are many themes in the lyrics—death to life, new breath, darkness then hope—that in my mind link to both my story and to the gospel.

How great the chasm that lay between us
How high the mountain I could not climb
In desperation, I turned to heaven
And spoke Your name into the night
Then through the darkness, Your loving-kindness
Tore through the shadows of my soul
The work is finished, the end is written
Jesus Christ, my living hope

Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my living hope

Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope

Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus, Yours is the victory, whoa!

Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope

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