Just about a month ago, Rick and I learned that we had miscarried. I was nearly 11 weeks along and after some warning signs, I saw the doctor and learned there was no heartbeat and the baby hadn't grown in nearly 2 weeks. It was what they call a "missed miscarriage" meaning my body didn't recognize it right away. My body was carrying along as if everything in the pregnancy was normal. Only it wasn't. We were scheduled to leave to Mexico a week after we learned we had miscarried and so we decided to have a D&C to simplify the process and not cause medical problems, or even an emergency, when we were so far from home.
As we have grieved, I have been especially grateful for my time as a chaplain at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. Northside has more births (over 18000) per year than any other hospital in the US. As part of that, there are also a number of women who experience miscarriage and stillbirth losses. I was honored to walk with them in their grief as they experienced their own losses. As a chaplaincy resident, I had to work through my own theology of life and death and pregnancy loss. Time and time again I heard family members say, “It was God’s will.” And yet I could never reconcile God “taking” a child from loving and caring parents. As I worked out my own beliefs, I finally came to believe that miscarriages and still births are not in God’s will. I don’t think God wants the death of any child. I think biology happens (statistically speaking, 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage in the first trimester) and things happen that are part of the brokenness of our world that don’t fall in line with God’s love or God’s grace.
And yet, even when tragic and heartbreaking things happen, God is there to hold us and love us and comfort us. Even when the world seems against us or our bodies have failed us or our hearts are broken yet again, God remains constant and eternally invested in us and our well-being. I’m grateful I worked those things out in my mind years ago, because when we had to walk a similar path this last month, I didn’t have to fight to find God. God was right there with me as I sat in the hospital room and underwent tests and saw the ultrasound where there was no more heartbeat. God was there when I shared the news with Rick and with family and friends and with each of you. God was there when Ruthie hugged me and asked about the baby in my belly and prayed repeating after me for Jesus to hold that precious baby. God was there during surgery and in the recovery and God has been there the whole time following. Of that I am sure, and for that I give thanks.
This year I have been terribly anxious for Christmas to arrive. I was ready to decorate as soon as I heard the news, not physically, but emotionally, I wanted the peace and the hope and the light to break through the sadness. And Christmas decorations, and the lights and the songs, and the smells all remind me of that hope of Christ. For me, that’s the heart of the Christmas message, that God’s love breaks through our deepest woes and darkest nights and instead offers hope and light and life.
It’s God’s promise of a future of abundance and peace and restoration and wholeness that allow us to walk freely into the future. They allow us to heal from our heartbreaks and embrace something new, even if that something isn’t at all what we expected.
I pray that you find Christ this Advent and Christmas. I pray that God’s light breaks through the darkness in your own life. I pray that hope and joy fill your heart and that the beautiful message of the incarnation flows from your lips so that others might know the love of God through Christ Jesus