I’ve talked before about how I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts.
How a Shocking Heartbreak Led to an Unexpected Gift of Love
The story of how God gave me the amazing gift of a husband when I opened my hands
It’s a book about gratitude, yes. But it’s a book about healing — identifying the hurts you’ve experienced in your life (Ann calls them “soul holes”) so you can heal from them and move into a space where you’re living more abundantly. This is not unlike the work I’ve been doing as I’ve taught and worked through the Celebrate Recovery curriculum with the girls at Scarlet Hope.
But it’s easier for me to remember and identify the hurts when I see or read something that triggers them for me, like this:
Does anyone whisper in the dead boy’s house, “God’s grace … God’s grace?” What in the world, in a world of certain loss, is grace?
We praise Him for His grace when the tests come back showing no cancer…when the hospital patient comes home healthy…when the baby is born with all 10 fingers and toes, and every other body part is in place, as it should be.
But what about when the cancer is at Stage IV, with no hope of remission or treatment? When the patient dies in the ICU? When the baby is stillborn, or afflicted with birth defects…or is born healthy but then dies later, inexplicably, from SIDS or flu or RSV…or grows to be a teenager and then, all of a sudden, decides to take his own life?
God is still gracious. He is still full of grace. He still loves us and longs to give us every good thing.
But He is still God, and we are not, and He knows what is best for us — and how to work out the best from the worst the world has to offer because of the destructive effects of our sin.
I named my first baby Sean
I didn’t know I was pregnant the first time. My period was late. I knew that, but I thought it was because I was sick. I had symptoms of a sinus infection…something I’d experienced many times before. I’d never experienced pregnancy before.
I was dizzy. The doctor prescribed meclizine. Never asked if there was a possibility I was pregnant. Would I have said “yes,” if I’d been asked? Pregnancy wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Yes, we had sex, but we used condoms — except that one condom broke that one time….
Was it the spermicide on the broken condom that caused the miscarriage? Was it the meclizine? Was it something I had no control over whatsoever?
I don’t know; I’ll never know. But I know it happened.
The day after I took a pregnancy test that came out “negative,” I started bleeding in the toilet. Black/brown blood that came out in clumps with the streams of red. Was my baby in one of those clumps that I just flushed down the toilet because I didn’t want to look at them?
I knew, then…doubled over in pain like I’d never experienced with any “menstrual cramps” before. Blood and tissue coming out the color of death.
I was having a miscarriage.
I’d been pregnant, and then I wasn’t.
I named the baby Sean — good name for a boy or a girl. I don’t know which that baby would have grown up to be.
Sean means “God is gracious; gift from God.”
The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21b, CSB)
In that moment…in the wake of the death of my first child…I whispered, “God’s grace.”
But it wasn’t really that automatic
It took days and weeks of wrestling with God to understand. His grace hadn’t disappeared. But I wasn’t ready to see it…not until later.
One in four women have had — or will have — a miscarriage, at some point in their lives. And some evidence suggests that half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Many of these happen before a woman even knows she’s pregnant, as was the case for me. I read these statistics — and others — shortly after I experienced my miscarriage, and I wondered:
How could God, the Author of Life, let so much new life end in death?
A soul hole opened…but He filled it in, over time — when I let Him.
Death is the consequence of sin, and sin it was…the sexual act that had resulted in the pregnancy that didn’t last. My husband and I weren’t yet married.
David and Bathsheba lost the baby that resulted from their sin (see 2 Samuel 12). Why should I be any different? Maybe it wasn’t the meclizine or the spermicide. Maybe it was my sin.
And I raged about that — other babies are born out of wedlock, why not mine? Where is the justice in that?
God is just. And He is God. I am not.
I cried and grieved and listened to Casting Crowns’ “Praise You in This Storm” over and over on repeat.
It was my heart’s cry. It was my soul’s cry. It was the putty I stuffed in to fill the soul hole…before God healed it completely with more good things when I turned back to Him.
The gifts that came after the hurt
I was about 6 to 8 weeks pregnant when I miscarried. Sean would have been born in December 2006.
On January 25, 2007, my husband — who had been with me through the grieving process and so much more — asked me to marry him. And I said “yes.” I finally felt that perhaps we did need to solidify our love and commitment to each other within the bonds of marriage, after all.
We were married less than nine months later. And less than seven months after that, I became pregnant again.
I don’t remember tears when I saw this for the first time — this picture that was taken when my older daughter was just about the same gestational age as the baby I had miscarried. I remember joy — sheer joy. And smiles and laughter.
Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from Him (Psalm 127:3, NLT)
I do remember crying when I heard the heartbeat for the first time — a few weeks later.
The rhythm of life.
And just about two years after that, I cried again when I heard the heartbeat of my second daughter…after a terrifying moment or two of the technician not being able to find it.
Those babies were (still are) gifts. But the miscarriage was too, in a way. If I hadn’t had that miscarriage, the heartbeats of my daughters might not have sounded so beautiful.
Light means nothing without the absence of light.
Life means nothing without the absence of life.
Lack is a gift because it magnifies and defines the gift of abundance.
Sean was a gift from God — both in the having and in the not having
Had Sean lived, he/she would be a teenager now. I like to think of Sean as a boy — a fierce protector of his two younger sisters. But I always dreamed, when I dreamed after the miscarriage, that Sean was a girl — another bundle of estrogen and curls to add to the mix.
God knows; I don’t, because I’m not God.
How to cling to God’s grace
These are all things I learned in the days, weeks, months, and years following the miscarriage.
1. Remember that God’s grace is always there. It never left. God sends good, not evil. Sin causes evil. Satan causes evil. God doesn’t, although He does allow it, and He uses it for His good purposes.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28, NLT)
2. Identify why you think God’s grace is missing. Maybe your perspective is off. Sometimes it’s hard to see the gift in the difficulty. It took me almost a decade to be able to see the gifts God was giving me through the trouble. I didn’t see them at first in the days following the miscarriage. I wanted answers. I wanted control of the situation. I couldn’t see His grace at work because I wanted to take over His position as God. When I let go of that desire and started doing things His way, I started seeing and experiencing more gifts — including a stronger relationship with Him.
3. Thank God for the trouble. I know this sounds strange, but bear with me here.
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NASB)
“Give thanks” — eucharisteo, which is what Ann says is the key to living an abundant life.
Thanks in all things.
If you’re experiencing difficulties — lack or loss of some kind — it means that you’ve had abundance or gain at some point. You’ve had something with which you can compare the current trouble.
Thank God for the abundance of the past. Thank God for the lack in the present. Thank God because the current lack will make the future gains that much sweeter.
Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? (Job 2:10b, NASB)
Without the adversity, we wouldn’t know how good the good really is.
They are two sides of the same coin (Ann calls it the “ugly-beautiful’), like the bitter herbs and the sweet charoset on the Passover seder plate that are eaten together to produce a new flavor that, by themselves, neither one can give — the ultimate physical, concrete representation of this abstract thing we call life.
When we remember these things and put them into the proper perspective, God’s grace doesn’t seem so fleeting. It is a gift He never takes away from us because He loves us. We just have to keep on believing and hanging on to it.