I have fathered four children. Two of them live with me here, Auriana and Luke, and two of them await me in heaven. Their sun set before it ever rose. The Lord formed them in my wife’s inwards parts, weaving them in their mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully making them (Psalm 139:13-14). Each had a body and soul. Each bore the image of their Creator. And each child was redeemed by the Son who, so as to pass through every stage of life that we do, and fully be who we are, and make us fully who he is, began his redeeming work as an embryonic Savior in a virgin’s womb. But for reasons that I do not understand, and never will, what the Lord gave, the Lord took away. He does that sometimes. Actually, he does that a lot. When God takes away, I have been known to scream at him, or to boil in mute anger for days or weeks or years, or—worst of all—to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” and not to mean a damn word of it. I don’t think Jesus was ever more human than when he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” Why have you taken what once you gave?
There is a time for everything under heaven. And just as there is a time to bemoan the loss of a gift, so there is a time to find in that loss the continuing presence of the Giver. For the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, but he never takes away himself. We may scream at the silent heavens, but his ear is never farther than our lips. It is, in fact, never farther than our heart, in which, mystery of mysteries, while we yell heavenward, the Spirit of God intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. God in us, praying to God, though all we hear may be our soul’s veil being torn in two.
The moment a child is conceived, he or she is the subject of a divine conversation. From the Father’s, “Let this child be,” and he is, to the Son’s, “I have redeemed this child,” and he is, to the Spirit’s, “Let this child be ours now and forever,” and he is, the God who is love is loving this baby and talking about him. And as if that is not enough, the church, the bride of Christ, is praying for this baby. She prays to the Husband who has promised, “Ask, and you shall receive,” the Husband who is able to do “exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” And if that is still not enough, the mother and father pray for this baby; saints and angels pray for him; loved ones and total strangers pray for him. For every child in a mother’s womb, the whole host of heaven and earth, indeed God himself, intercedes.
So it was for my first baby that died, as well as my second. And so it was for my friends who know the grief of staring into an empty cradle, of saying goodbye to an unfulfilled future. We grieve, but not as those who have no hope. For as David said when his baby boy died, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” I shall go to him. And in the meantime, I will learn to give thanks for what the Lord has given but not taken away. And I will try to be more like the Job who says we should receive good and bad from God, instead of the Job who curses the day of his birth. I will fail. There will be days, perhaps years, when I will still scream at heaven. But when my sobs have ceased, and I begin listening again, I will strive to hear within me the sighing of the Spirit, who fills all my empty cradles with the fullness of hope that is found in the Child conceived and born for us all.