For the last year, almost every time I’ve gone grocery shopping with my kids someone has come up to me and said, “Wow! You’ve got your hands full!” Almost. Every. Time. I’m not exaggerating. A pregnant lady with three kids in the cart makes for quite the shopping spectacle these days. But now, when I go grocery shopping and hear those words, something inside of me breaks. Someone says, “You’ve got your hands full,” and I think, “You have no idea lady.”
It is one million times easier to take four kids shopping…then to go shopping with three kids and the broken heart I now carry. I would so rather have so many kids in my cart that there is simply no room for groceries, than what I have now…a little bit of room left in my cart. A little bit of extra space…because the baby boy who would have been there has died. Now, I truly have my hands full. And I feel utterly overwhelmed at times by this weight of suffering.
The last few days have been really hard. Sundays are always hard for me. It’s probably because every sunny, relaxing Sunday reminds me of the last Sunday of our “old life.” The Sunday we found out Charlie had died. The Sunday we were hit by the incredibly staggering loss of our innocence, our happiness, and our precious baby boy. I said “happiness” intentionally, because I believe we will again find joy. Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit at work in us…but happiness is based on happenings. And I really believe that that was the last of our carefree, happy Sundays. Charlie is not here. Someone is permanently lost. And he has been replaced by the weight of suffering. And the wait of suffering. One day this will all be made right. Until then, these days feel long and hard. Especially Sundays and Mondays.
But yesterday, on the 6th Monday of my life without Charlie…I happened to be read one of my favorite parts in one of my favorite books, “When God Weeps.” And there…God met me.
“Try this story. You are walking down a street, minding your own business, when you are accosted and forced to carry a huge and heavy basket on your back. You’re ordered to walk three blocks, turn left, go two blocks, turn right, then proceed straight on. Staggering under the weight, you stumble on, bewildered and angry. The weight of the basket is crushing. Your back is breaking. The whole thing is meaningless and haphazard. You resent how the heavy burden consumes you, becoming the focal point of your entire existence.
When you are halfway down the third block, reeling under the burden, you finally bellow, “What gives!”
The truth is then revealed. The burden you are carrying is your child, injured and unconscious. “What?’ On top of that, you discover you are not trudging through a meaningless rat-maze but the most direct route to a hospital emergency room.
Immediately you straighten. You inhale new vigor. Your knees quit buckling. Adrenaline and fresh energy quicken your pace, and you move forward with a new attitude. Why the change? The suffering your going through involves a relationship. Not just any relationship, but one with your child. It is the love you have for your child that quickens your step and buoys up your heart. Your relationship gives your burden meaning. Even your twisted path makes sense. You know where you are going. Your journey has a positive end- the hospital- and this instills hope.
Suffering has no meaning in itself. Left to its own, it is a frustrating and bewildering burden. But given the context of relationship, suffering suddenly has meaning.”
Suffering suddenly has meaning. What if this is true? Can you imagine how much it would change our lives? What if these heavy burdens each one of us carry…what if they actually meant something. What if a relationship we have with Someone we love deeply was actually what was at stake in midst of all the senseless, blinding, raging pain?
The broken heart. The empty womb. The cancer treatment. The adoption wait.
The baby’s grave.
What if someday we will actually look back with Heaven’s hindsight and see beauty and purpose in the miserable weight of the sufferings we carried?
In the blinding and searing pain of today I would be tempted to dismiss this simple story. Some days I honestly don’t think I’m going to make it because the weight of losing a child feels so heavy. But I know that this analogy of suffering was written by someone who has suffered deeply. It was written by Joni Eareckson Tada who has spent almost fourty years of her life confined to a wheelchair, carrying the heavy weight of being a quadriplegic.
What if its true? What if this is actually a very good picture of God’s beautiful and redemptive purposes in this broken world filled with broken hearts?
And most of all…what if it is true what the apostle Paul said that knowing Christ is to be treasured above all things? What if it’s true that that relationship gives great meaning to our suffering, and eternal worth to all our pain?
“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” -Philippians 3:8
Most days, I still feel like I can’t even breathe. But maybe there is meaning in the weight of a relationship more precious than breath. More precious even, than life.