There’s a picture on our fridge of Happy. It was taken at Freddo’s third birthday party three days before Charlie died It is the last picture I have with Charlie alive inside of me. We’re standing on the platform, waiting to board the train for Freddo’s Party. The whole crazy party was on a train. The whole party was fun and sweet and a wonderful memory. The whole party was so very happy. At the end of the party we stood on the train platform with our friends and our sparkling cider and toasted Freddo and his wonderful, glorious, amazing life. Fred felt super loved and celebrated, and it was such a great day.
So there it is…our last captured moment of happy on a 2 by 3 inch polaroid.
I miss happy.
I miss that innocent feeling I once had that everything, for the most part, would probably be ok. Or rather, that nothing truly, truly important to me was so very (this side of heaven) permanently broken beyond belief. I miss that kind of happy. That kind of happy will never, ever again be our life.
That isn’t to say that we never have joy.
We are still, sometimes, very much surprised by joy. Joy that pushes up from the eternally wrought, Christ-blood bought wellspring deep inside of our lives.
Joy that stands superior and set apart from circumstances and feelings and happenings.
Joy that comes from knowing that all of this (insert everything our eyes and ears and minds and hearts can conceive) is not the end of The Story.
But I still desperately miss happy.
Some words like happy are just permanently and irrevocably no longer a part of our vocabulary. And then there’s other words like trust and “trusting God” that have now been permanently redefined.
This week I had the opportunity to meet one of Charlie’s friend’s moms. Though her story is very different than mine…in the end…it’s exactly the same. She too had to say goodbye this spring to a baby she had so very much wanted to keep. She too lives in a life so permanently changed from the one she knew before her baby girl died, that she feels like an entirely different human being. She too, remembers…but only as if from distant dream…happy.
But what I was struck by the most as we met together and talked and cried and shared and prayed…was how deeply we have both experienced how our view of God and “trusting God” has changed. As we shared our stories, we both felt the exact same staggering reality that we no longer believe that “trusting God” means He will basically give us what we’d want and like. You don’t realize how much you’ve bought into this “prosperity Gospel” of sorts, until God so distinctly gives you something you didn’t ever, ever, ever want…to the point that you now believe that “trusting God” means an entirely different thing.
For example, in the weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, I used to drop Emma off at school each morning and think, “I’m just going to trust God in this place of fear in my heart…and trust that He will protect my daughter and keep her safe.”
I don’t think that any more. Because God didn’t do that. He didn’t do that in the lives of those sweet kindergarteners at Sandy Hook Elementary, and He didn’t do that in the life of my precious baby boy. Or at least, “Safe” and “Protected” did not look like I had wanted it to…it did not look like keeping Charlie here on earth with me.
And so, now I think…“I’m just going to trust God that anything…ANYTHING could happen to my precious girl when I drop her off at school this morning and walk away. And that, by the grace of God, no matter what happens to Emma today…she belongs to God, and I belong to God…and we are His for eternity.”
I used to go through each one of my pregnancies thinking, “I am NOT going to fearfully obsess about my babies health and safety. I’m just going to place my baby in the hands of God, and trust Him that He’s going to take care of this baby and bring this baby safely into my arms in 40 weeks.” I don’t think this anymore. Because God didn’t do that for me.
And so, now I think, “Even if God gives me ten more babies, and choses to take ten more away, I’m going to trust Him to hold my babies, and my heart…through the deepest sorrow and suffering of my life. I am going to trust Him TO BE GOD, in the midst of ANYTHING.“
I cannot tell you what a radical paradigm shift this is to the American, happy-go-lucky, God’s-got-our-backs, prosperity way of thinking that I’m convinced we ALL think at times. It’s not that we never think of what could happen…we just chose to believe that it simply won’t happen to us. Well, sometimes it does. Sometimes God does what you didn’t really ever think God was going to do. And then you no longer have the luxury of thinking that “trusting God” means it’s all going to be “OK.” (Read: the way you want.) Then, you live in the knowing that it’s NOT all going to be “OK.” Some of it, might actually be miserable and painful every day of the rest of your life… and yet God will be GOD. And that’s what you’ve been promised, and that only.
And there’s something deeply soul-altering about realizing that this is the only kind of thinking about “trust in God,” that is grounded enough biblically that it WILL NOT DISAPPOINT.
There is no disappointment in the hope that God will hold unto me and carry my broken and bleeding heart through every single valley of life. Because He has promised this to me. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
There is no disappointment in the hope that the Jeremiah 29:11 “plans” that God has for us are actually about seeking God and finding God. What these verses are not about are all our “wishes” coming true…even the wishes packaged in faith, and prayed for fervently. That kind of hope…sounds a lot more like Disneyland, than Yahweh. The God of the universe has promised something so entirely different for those who trust in Him. He has promises that He is GOD. He has promised to “do all things according to the counsel of His will.” And He’s defined the hope and future He will give in the verses we hardly ever read when we quote Jeremiah 29:11…the ones in 12 and 13. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
This is what we have been promised. GOD. Finding Him. Knowing Him. Being loved by Him…if we search for Him with all our hearts.
There is no disappointment in the hope that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This, He has promised us.
There is no disappointment in the hope that God will one day literally carry those who are His to the place where FINALLY there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain. Because this He has promised to me.
And this He has given each of us as a foreshadowing of our first, real, permanent, always and forever, eternal…happy.
All of these promises will be happening.
And when they all come together at once…it will be happy. The happiest moment of our entire lives.