THE SAMUEL SERIES 7: LEAN INTO THE GRIEF
I am the type to want to fix things. I want things to be at peace, buttoned up, and clear. If there is conflict or trial, I want to strong-arm it under control. I don’t like to go to bed angry, I don’t like loose ends, and I don’t like unknowns where my mind drifts off to worst-case scenarios. Anybody with me on this? This is part of the makeup of who I am, and it’s a part that has been a painful trial through the last couple of years as our son battled the medical odds stacked against him. When I was still on bedrest, the Lord revealed so much to me, ministering to my heart in such unique ways. When I read in Isaiah 43:19, where it says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland,” I had no idea that it would unravel so many truths to my aching heart.
It was the second time I saw Samuel, and all my mommy instincts were bursting at the seams. There he was in this machine, alone and tiny. He hadn’t been held or comforted, he hadn’t been cuddled or swaddled or breastfed. I wanted nothing more than to have a chunky full-term baby wrapped in a swaddle laying on my post-labor exhausted body. I wanted nothing more than to fold his arms and legs close to my chest and lift him close underneath my chin. I wanted nothing more than to embrace and engulf and be his strong mommy. I wanted to hear him cry for the first time and latch onto my breast, and change his diapers and gawk over him. I wanted nothing more than to smell and rub and caress his baby soft skin. But this time it was nothing like that. This was not how I had experienced birth before, this was not how our first two babies and I connected or bonded. I was lost in how to transfer my care that I’ve always physically shown to this untouchable, unembraceable, still developing and growing micro preemie body. It was eating me alive as to how I would gain control, how I would bring order, how I would strong-arm the trial out of our life!
He was born 3 months early and he was tiny in every way imaginable. He was Inside his isolette and it was like another world. It was humid and warm and there was a clear barrier between him and the outside world. The outside was chaos and the inside was peace. The outside was fear and the inside was rest. The outside was cold and the inside was a womb-like secret place. The secret place that God created Samuel within my womb was now there, in that isolette. This place was the “something new” He was doing. He was doing something very new in me, in my expectations, in my brokenness, and in my faith.
You could see his veins through his translucent skin, his eyelids were tight against each other, and his fingers were skinny and long, and it was like you could almost see his struggle to breathe; in, out, in and out. He was fragile and I found myself afraid to hurt him. I wanted him to know I was there, I wanted him to hear my heartbeat and smell my skin, and I wanted him to feel engulfed in my embrace. All I could do was obsessively wash my hands and forearms, touch the button on the isolette to open the two windows to that secret place, turn off the alarm, and reach inside, hover and barely touch him.
When I asked about how I should touch him, they said not to rub, but just to be still and gentle. As I placed my arms inside the rainforest-like climate, he was wet and sticky and warm, just how they would be if they were still in the womb. His skin needed more time and although my instincts said I needed to hold him close, I was able to finally feel the severity of his prematurity. When I was able to cross the barrier of outside to inside his isolette, my hands and forearms felt the gravity of his situation. All I could do was to simply place my hands gently on his dewy skin and hope that he understood my love. It wasn’t engulfing or obvious and it certainly didn’t interrupt the brokenness I was experiencing. It confirmed how out of control I actually was, how there was nothing I could actually do to make this go away; that this was the reality of our life at that time, and that’s when it happened.
This was among the “new things” God had been promising. It was like all the roles were reversed. Samuel held me. He folded over my hand, he squeezed my fingers and brought my hands close to his heart. He squeaked and his thin legs curled around my hand. He embraced me. It was God’s gift to my (wanting to make everything better) broken heart in that moment, that when all I wanted to do was embrace my son, all I wanted to do was bring him close, and not being able to, God gave me the feeling, the connection, the intimacy through the embrace my son offered to me.
The ability to be in control was gone. The ability to strong-arm the situation was impossible. And what did God do instead? Something new, mysterious, and unexpected: He used the perceived weakness and powerlessness to reveal His strength that would sustain. He used our 2lb son to minister to my weary heart and He reminded me that my longing to be close, mattered, and my brokenness was not forgotten. The Father was there, even in that humid isolette speaking the goodness and rescue over our dire situation and the bleakness we faced. He used the tiniest hands and feet to point me back to his faithfulness; that even when I was faithless, He still remained faithful.
His strength was made perfect in weakness.
Sometimes, we, in our humanity run away from the pain, the grief, the brokenness. But I assert that it’s there, smack dab in the middle of the pain, that we would fully realize our need and desperation for the Father. When we sit in the reality of the pain, fully engaged in it, we recognize our need, our desperation for the Father. When I stop looking for the answers, stop trying to muster up the strength and the fire from within my own humanity and be completely humbled back down to such a place as a baby, He makes perfect what is trying to destroy and weaken. When we allow the grief and the pain and the brokenness to further expose the goodness of God, we are met with the healing we so earnestly seek.
He is there, offering himself in the middle of it all. No anxiety or fear, no circumstance or death or weakness is not already claimed as victory through He, himself. His victory is before us, behind us and all over us even in the midst of trial. And in that trial is where we can either reign ourselves or bow and let Him reign and rule. He reveals His Kingdom here on Earth, here where we need it most. We cannot drum it up, we cannot fake it till we make it, we can only lean in, embrace and feel fully whatever we are facing, so that His power would be made perfect, and His strength would fulfill and heal and transform us to His likeness. Because frankly, in those moments, all I knew was that I needed more Jesus, more Jesus, more Jesus. That’s what was revealed that day in that isolette, that even in the bleakest of moments, even a 2lb baby clinging to life can unveil the mystery that is the faithfulness and power of Jesus. May we fully know it and feel it in our most vulnerable and weakest moments. May we lean into the grief and find Him there and let our brokenness be married to his rescue and covering.