“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” -Romans 12:1
It’s so easy to read those words and picture well-fed, well-dressed Americans, with hands raised, singing “Take, take, take it all…!” in an air-conditioned building. But I’m sure that when the church in Rome first read those words…that was so not the picture that came to mind.
They saw blood. Blood pouring from the temple as priests offered sacrifices to Yahweh.
They heard pain. The gentle cooing of doves and bleating of sheep…suddenly turned to screams of pain.
And they felt loss. Because there was loss every time a sacrifice was made. Loss of a lamb. Loss of a dove. Loss of a bull or goat. It didn’t matter the gift…there was always, always loss…if a real sacrifice was to take place.
And then they heard silence. Because at the end of a the bleating, hacking, bloody mess of it all…there was deafening silence at the end of sacrifice. I cannot fully articulate how much silence comes with grief. You cry until you weep, and scream out questions to the sky until you can no longer speak, and yet in the end…like one of our kids wore out after a long temper tantrum…there is always silence after grief.
So, why am I saying all of these things?
Well, first, because this is our heritage. And if it wasn’t for the infinitely precious Lamb of God whose sacrifice rendered this whole process unnecessary…you and I would still be making temple pilgrimages today.
And second…because there is a critical word in Romans 12:1 that is the New Testament paradigm of sacrifice…
Paul is saying, in affect…“Beloved believers in Rome, remember that noisy, bloody, messy, aching scene of the Temple sacrifices? OK, well, that’s how it’s going to be. Not as a means of earning your salvation, but as a means of living it out with fear and trembling. You’re going to die…and then you’re going to have to keep right on living.”
And that’s how it feels when all around you, and all within you, is endless suffering.
As I read about the five stages of grief…Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance… I’ve wondered a thousand times what Acceptance would look like, and if I’d ever even get to that place. And while they are not linear, and we will continue to double back into various degrees of each of these stages for the rest of our lives, I finally understand what acceptance looks like.
And though it was, and still is, incredibly difficult to accept the death of a perfectly healthy, deeply longed for baby…and then to have to do that ALL over again a second time…the hardest thing to accept is that my view of God, my view of what I had thought God would do or not do, would protect or not protect, and would allow or not allow to happen in my life…has been permanently, irrevocably changed.
I am realizing that “acceptance” is not so much a conversation about the past, but one about the future. Acceptance is not so much saying to God, “Ok…I understand that that happened in the past. And it hurt so much…but I will accept it.”
Acceptance, real, biblical acceptance, is actually saying, “Ok…I don’t understand what happened in the past, and I have absoutely no idea what is going to happen in the future…but I’ll accept it. I’ll die to you. And…I’ll keep on living.”
I thought about this paradox…as Reid and I sat in yet another doctor’s office this week.
About a month ago, I went to an endocrinologist who specializes in incredibly complex conditions like mine. He ordered a battery of tests, and we met this week to go over his findings.
Apparently, I do have hypothyroidism, which does makes it difficult to stay pregnant, and even conceive. But I also happen to have fibromyalgia, leaky-gut syndrome, adrenal fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, a rampant, head-to toe Candida albicans infection, and two serious genetic blood disorders: a 4g/5g genotype of the plasminogen activator inhibitor and a genetic mutation called MTHFR (for all of you medical types). This is a genetic blood disorder that can cause your blood to malfunction, especially during, and at the risk of, pregnancy. They are things I was born with, and quite honestly, not tested for, because most doctors don’t even know how to and wouldn’t think to since I’ve already had three easy pregnancies.
It’s hard to fully describe what it felt like to sit in that office and hear this complicated diagnosis…as yet another little person continues to grow inside of me.
But the immediate picture that flashed to my mind is that dark day in Job’s life when, after the Sabeans came for his oxen, the fire of God fell on his sheep, the Chaldeans finished off his camels, and he had wept himself dry by ten silent graves…
Then, the boils arrive.
Just when he thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, he found himself with a potsherd in hand, alone on a dusty ash heap.
And as we sat there in dust and ashes, listening to all of the things that are broken in my body, both currently and permanently…a new picture of surrender came to mind.
There was no temple. No streams of blood. No bleating of sheep. No laying of oneself upon an altar.
It was just us, laying on the ground. Still breathing in and out…but completely and utterly resigned.
And I’m realizing that that’s ok. It is ok that this is what surrender has come to mean. Because there is another kind of surrender that comes to mind. The- “Freeze! Put your hands in the air and kneel down and surrender” -kind.
And that’s where we’re at today.
In a few days, we’ll go in to check on the baby’s heartbeat. I had wanted to wait to write this post until after we saw the heartbeat. But even if we see a heartbeat…what then? What do we expect? What do we hope for? How do we pray and breathe and live and fight for faith in such a permanent state of uncertainty?
Because, we’ve been there already. Twice.
We’ve already sat there, in the cold, sterile doctor’s office, spending our only moments of life with our babies, this side of eternity.
And in the end…in spite of the heartbeats…we did not get that glorious moment when you walk through the front door with the little person who has come to join your story. We never got to see their eyes. We never got to see the sweet and funny things they would do and say. We had only an ultrasound wave. Only a tiny, unformed body. Only a heartbeat.
And seeing a heartbeat, is so not the same as knowing a life.
And that is why I’m asking you to pray. Each one of us, in our broken and bleeding little family…long so desperately to know this new life.
The other day, I was spending another day on bed rest because my body was too weak to do absolutely anything…and Freddo came into the room and said to me, “Mommy, why are you still laying in bed?” And I said, “Because Mommy isn’t feeling well today.” And then he paused and said, “And…because you want to protect the baby?” From the mouths of babes.
Yes buddy, Mommy desperately wants to protect this baby.
And yet, ultimately, we kneel surrendered. Hands above our heads. Absolutely resigned. Because we have to be. The gun is to our heads. There is nowhere to run. There is no way to fight.
And yes, I will continue to undergo an endless battery of blood testing, and continue to take my (yes) 67 vitamins a day…but in the end, we are resigned. Resigned to being sacrifices who feel absolutely beaten down by death, and yet, called to somehow, keep on living.
Because that is the Christian life. And though I would never have chosen this endless suffering to be our lifelong story…we rightly owe the surrender of our lives…to the God who owes us absolutely nothing.
Many people, would probably say that, deep down, they feel a little like God owes us this baby. And there are moments I’ve thought the same thing. I’ve cried out a thousand times, “Haven’t we suffered enough! Lord Jesus, please just have mercy.” We love how God gave so much to Job in the final chapter, and we consider that to be a tidy and proper ending to a good story.
But deep down…I know that this is God we’re talking about here. The God who carefully and lovingly made each one of us, and who has the absolute Sovereign right to demand the surrender of all of us, all of the time, in all possible ways.
This God…owes us nothing.
This God…owes no one a chapter 42 ending.
Every detail of the eternal story of yet another Baby Zeller we long for…is His choice to make.
And our only part is to walk with Him, and in view of His mercies…surrender.
Dead. And yet, still living.
And in faith.
We would so appreciate your prayers for this little person who is fighting against so very much…for an earthly life. And even more, for faith in the God who can do anything He choses, in His wisdom and sovereignty, in these lives He has made.
With love and gratitude,