Perfect Ways

gebroken hart beeld
The picture is a statue of artist Albert György, located in Switserland, at Lake Geneva. It has been posted a lot on Facebook, in light of bereaved parents month. It touched me deeply.

Yesterday I sang and played guitar in church. I really enjoy doing that, but some songs are hard for me to sing. One of them is Good, good Father. It is a beautiful song, but also very painful for me, especially since Amanda died. We sang: You are perfect in all of Your ways. You are perfect in all of your ways. You are perfect in all of your ways to us.

I woke up that morning to first have some time alone with God. It is what I am used to do: get up early and go downstairs. The children are still sleeping or playing in their bedrooms. I make coffee and sit down to read the bible, thinking and praying. I just finished reading Job and it stood out to me that it comes different to me than in the past. I used to read this book as a story of someone who was very ill, like I was when I was younger. The groaning of pain I heard through the verses was familiar to me. But now I see the father who mourns his children. I feel and see the pain that I now know myself. The deep pain of loosing a child. A pain that is still indescribable.

I continued reading the Psalms and I am so grateful that in there are so many exclamations of despair in this book. So, that’s allowed: your pain, your raw complaints: ‘God! where are You?’ Throwing all your misery at the feet of your creator. He can handle it. He doesn’t feel threatened or insulted by my emotions. I once wrote a small song about this. It is in Dutch and means something like: I am safe with You, can quietly breath in and out, I can be who I am, with You.

I got the melody in my head while reading the Psalms. It is so important to know that you can come to God with all your pain, anger, bitterness and misery. I am very grateful for that. The anger in me  seems to go deep. I am so angry about what happened: First I had to wait years before I was pregnant, then we found out our baby wasn’t doing well and some weeks after that we learned she had died. In the months following I found some peace. Amanda is doing well and that is what I want. But there also has been torn something from me. It seems that my heart partly is damaged beyond repair.

They say that time heals all wounds, but that is not my experience yet. It still seems as if my grief grows bigger instead of diminishes. A little bit desperate I asked a sweet lady from church who buried her newborn son ten years ago: ‘Will this ever become less? This deep, sharp pain?’ I point to a place near my heart and she points to the exact same place on her own body and says: ‘No, it still hurts só much. Maybe God doesn’t take away the pain, but He does go His way with it.’

I said to my Love on a day that I cried a lot (fortunately, I don’t do that daily anymore): ‘I thought this would be like when you break your arm. It hurts a lot, but when it is set correctly, it will hurt less and then heals and grows even stronger than before. It doesn’t feel that way at all. I actually always miss her. She is so present absent.’ ‘Yes’, my Love said, ‘you should not compare it with breaking an arm, but with amputation.’

I did not experience physical amputation, so I need to be careful here. If you did experience this: please come back to me if I am making a wrong equation. I imagine that if your arm has been amputated, you learn to live with that but also have lots of times that you bump into missing your arm. You can function, you are creative, you find ways to compensate, but you also feel the lack, you see other people having two well-functioning arms and that sometimes make you feel jealous. You would also like to play piano, to cook, to play tennis, or whatever you see other people doing. And sometimes, when the weather changes, when you suddenly remember things or when you hurt what’s left of your arm, you feel the pain even physically, as bad as it was in the beginning.

If this is what it is like, then the loss of our baby indeed feels like amputation. I learn to live with it. I do what I have to do. I enjoy life intently intense because I know how vulnerable it is. But this deep sharp pain does not go away and pops up, unwanted and unexpected. I think I need to do the same as the Psalm writers did: call out to God, honestly share what I feel and meanwhile – even when still grumbling and feeling resentment – proclaim what I know deep down inside: You are perfect in all of your ways.

Or, as I had to sing on a wedding lately: ‘Lord, I want to praise your love, although my soul doesn’t understand. Blessed he, who dares to believe, even when the eye doesn’t see. When Your ways seem dark to me, I do not ask: Why. One day I will see your glory, when entering your heaven.’

With this side note though: I do ask why, because I read that Job did that and David did that and this question is in my heart and I want to be honest. But this surrendering to God, even though you don’t understand a thing, is only possible if you believe that Gods way eventually is the best way.

Life may be far from perfect and my life bumped, broken and crooked. If His ways are perfect, they lead somewhere. And then it this is really true: I am safe with You, I can quietly breath in and out, I can be who I am, with You. So I read another Psalm and feel the pain and the joy and find that this is what makes me human. Broken but real. With my anchor in the God who is perfect in His ways with me, even though it doesn’t feel that way.

This blog was first posted in Dutch on July 23 2018

Rejoice

This blog was first written in Dutch on 22 July 2017

This week I read a different Psalm each day (using a book about the Psalms by Derek Prince). I noticed that these Psalms all started with these words: ‘Praise the Lord’. And I also found that often it says that we should sing joyful songs. I find that hard. Praise the Lord? Be joyful? I wrestle with grief and anger. My child died! And at the same time it feels familiar and it makes sense. If God is really God, He is worthy of our praise, isn’t He?

And now I read Philippians 4:4-9, because Our Daily Bread, the devotional I daily use is talking about this passage. ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ Again, my first response is to object. Rejoice? Really? I don’t want to be glad and I don’t want to rejoice, I do not want to invite happy thoughts.

It was our wedding text, Philippians 4:4-9. When we got married in January 2001, there were things we weren’t happy about and our pastor was very surprised that we chose this text. I was chronically ill and it would not become better. I could barely walk (outside of our home I needed a wheelchair), I could not use my hands very well and the prognosis was that it would become worse in the future. I was in constant pain. With great effort, I managed to get my degree at university. It had its effect on me mentally as well. But still, on our wending day, we thought that there was a lot to be happy about. We had found each other and we saw a future together. We knew God, although in the years to come, we found out that we needed to get to know Him better. We were grateful and we wanted to stay grateful, whatever would happen.

And today, exactly four months after the birth of our stillborn daughter, our fifth child, I read this text again. ‘Rejoice’. And: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

And this really is true, you know. That’s what I am constantly reminded of in the past weeks. It is really true that there is a peace that transcends all understanding. I experienced that peace when I had to that incredibly hard thing: giving birth to a child that had already died. I experienced that peace when I sat down with my little girl in my hands, overwhelmed by how beautiful she was. Grief and amazement and joy and anger, but in the midst of  it all, there was peace.

Is that perhaps what this rejoicing is about? That it is not about being glad about what has happened or is going to happen? But that it is about thinking of what is good and beautiful, and then rejoicing in a good God? When I saw my little girl, I was full of admiration and pride. I could see God had wonderfully and carefully made her, although her life in my opinion was far too short. I was glad that He took great care in making her. Little nails, little hair, little eyes, little ribs, little feet, she was so complete and perfect. If I think about that, I see I have some reason to rejoice. Or, I have to say it differently: by thinking about that, I am rejoicing.