The God who gives and takes away.
A meditation on Psalm 127.
Bedtime is sacred time. For those of us fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads, we can take this time for granted. With a new born child under our roof, every minute of sleep is precious.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.
I used to think God was in control. A wise old Santa Claus type, far away ‘out there’ making sure his children get all the good parking spots. Now, after witnessing the birth of our three children, of which we lost one. I am fully aware at how fragile, and ridiculous, and dangerous, and beautiful being born can be.
But just because God is not in control, it does not mean that he’s not not in control. Witnessing the miracle of child birth opened my eyes to all the ways the Spirit of God is present to us. From the two knots in his umbilical cord our first born had, to our second born breathing is last in his grandfathers arms, to our newborn coming unexpectedly on the night before my wife was to be induced. He showed up like the Spirit in a rush, against my wife’s plans for an epidural.
I sound foolish talking about myself during her pain, but I could have lost my wife and child a total of three times in my life. It’s during birth and at someone’s death bed where the illusion of control over our lives disappears. But this is life, it’s dangerous, and wonderful, and terrifying all at once. No wonder Jesus reminded his followers of this by saying “Do not be afraid.”
Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.”
When we lost our son we heard many comforting words. God allowed it in order to save souls. God will bless us because we were predestined to suffer. Those careless words and the wounds they’ve caused have since healed.
Now the only wounds that remain are the self inflicted ones. Should I have baptized him when the nurse asked? After all, we’re Protestant and we don’t baptize children. Should we have, as the doctor asked, been ‘aggressive’ at keeping him alive? I’ve written about this extensively before, but last night, it all came rushing back to me standing next to our newborns crib.
Trauma is a strange thing. One minute you’re singing a lullaby to your newborn, and the next you’re on your knees weeping. As Santiago began to close his eyes, I was reminded of Caleb’s last breath. So much so, that I put my hand on his chest to make sure he was breathing.
I do that a lot.
Each time thanking God that he’s still alive. That is quickly followed by a rush of guilt for all the babies in the world who don’t make it. If it feels difficult for me, I can’t imagine what it’s like for those who don’t share the same privileges that I do.
If the devil can’t get you to stop caring, he will settle for getting you to feel self-pity.
Healing is a strange thing.
One minute you don’t know how you’ll continue and the next you realize you’ve come so far. Perhaps this is how God builds his house. God sustains us through the impossible pain. Suffering alongside us. God giving us God’s Spirit, who strengthens us, as we become like Christ.
The more I surrender this illusion of control, the more I see that this Psalm is not about me and my children. Instead, it is about The One who suffered, died, and resurrected so that others can participate in the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It’s The LORD who builds the house, it’s The LORD who watches over the city, it’s The LORD’s children who are blessed.
I’ve placed my trust in the The One for whom these things are true. Regardless of what happens to me, I trust in the promise that all will be well.
It is this God who gives peace and takes away fear.