It seems like pastors have this unspoken rule where they MUST use stories from their wives' pregnancy or labor/birth of their children as leading anecdotes to begin their sermons. For those of us who have horrendous birth stories and sadness surrounding pregnancy, these personal anecdotes hurt.
Sitting on the fourth row at church, I am transported back into the delivery room, laboring for a child who is already gone. The only sounds in the room are cries, but not my child's cries...my husband's, my mother's and my own.
No fetal monitors.
I am laboring for my son. But he is gone. I am praying for a miracle. But none comes. I am praying for mercy.
Is God listening?
Our pastor says something that shakes me from my memories..."God was gracious to us, our son came home in only 11 days, not the 3-4 weeks we were told to expect."
God was gracious...
I am back on the hospital bed; my son is born, perfect stillness. The doctor looks expectantly at me, 'Do you want me to place him on your chest?'
I look at her bewildered...'Yes, yes of course, he is my son. I've been waiting 9 months for him.'
And he is beautiful. He is more than I could have dreamed possible; tiny, perfect, all pink newborn perfection.
I am back in the fourth row. I realize that my head is down, tears streaming from my eyes, quiet sobs escaping my throat, my husband's hand holding mine.
I realize where I am. I am listening to a man remember his son's birth. He is remembering the fear, worry, joy and relief, and I am feeling the line rise up between us...a stark distinction between our experiences, our sons' birth stories...our own stories.
I am not trying to minimize my pastor's pain when he learns his son's lungs are not working well or the worry that he feels when his son is sent to the NICU. I am not playing a game of comparisons.
Or am I?
Is there are discrepancy between our two stories (beyond the obvious)? Was God gracious to my pastor and his wife, but not to us? Was God merciful to them, but not to us? After all, our son died, theirs still lives.
It hurts to hear the other side...the stories where the baby lives, he comes home, he grows up.
It doesn't hurt because his child lived. It hurts because mine died, he didn't come home, I won't watch him grow up;
I had to say goodbye to my little boy.
I am not angry at my pastor or the precious little boy who lived. I am angry with God. Why couldn't He allow Owen, my son, to live?
I suppose I could argue this all day. I have spent over a year trying to reconcile these issues.
How do I trust God when He chooses to work differently in my son's life? When He sees fit to take him home to Heaven, instead of healing him and allowing us to raise him?
Do I trust that He loves Owen as much as the little boy crying in the row next to me?
Does He love me the same too?
If I take other people out of the equation, if I stop looking at their lives, at the story God is weaving in their lives, then what am I left with?
As the months wear on, 15 months to be exact, since the day I held Owen in my arms and marveled at his beauty, I am forced to examine my personal story, my son's story, and see God's grace and mercy permeating both.
It does not look like my pastor's story. It does not look like the stories of the people sitting next to me in church, but it is mine and it is Owen's...and God was gracious in ways I cannot express.
God was gracious, though the outcome was not what I wanted; though we are separated from our son for a time,
God was gracious...
This is our story.