Today marks four weeks exactly for the date I count as the “date of death,” the official day we lost our baby.
Today marks the first time I needed to write a sermon, post-loss. When it’s my turn to preach, I take Thursday morning to write from home, looking out at the drizzly rain. Today I couldn’t do it. The last time I preached at our church is the day the miscarriage began. I couldn’t conceive of going back to writing sermons — what would I say?
How do you talk of the Good News when sometimes there are no words? How do you reassure people they should have hope, when you might not have hope — or, at least, might not be ready to talk about hope just yet?
As with every other Thursday, I finally wrote the sermon. I decided to make this sermon’s Good News simply that we can express all our grief and pain to God — that God gave us books like Lamentations (a.k.a. “Complaints”) for just that reason. We have permission to bring it all to God and not force ourselves to rush to hope.
My comfort comes in knowing God gives us this freedom.
* a quote from my dad after I called him for help this afternoon
I had just finished a hospital visit and was texting a joke to my colleague as I walked through the parking lot. I looked up every so often, between finger taps, and stayed on the edge of the lot.
A car slowed down and the driver, a man, said something out the window.
I stopped texting. “I’m sorry — what was that?” I ducked my head to peer into his car. There was a woman in the passenger seat. Both were smiling.
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m worried about you texting. You can’t tell what’s going on around you.”
“I know,” I said, “and I know it’s bad, and I do it anyway.”
“I know. And you never know if someone’s gonna sneak up behind you and steal your pocketbook.”
Both he and his passenger seemed kind, and embarrassed.
“Thank you for looking out for me.”
“I care about you,” said the man.
“Thank you.” We exchanged have-a-good-days, and then I said something I rarely say, even though I’m a pastor: “God bless you.”
I sat in my truck to finish the text, zipped the phone into my purse and drove off.
He wrote these poems while receiving cancer treatment that made his skin sensitive to the sun. If he wanted to take a daily walk, he had to do so in the dark.
I read these poems four years ago, on increasingly dark mornings. I read them slowly, aloud, while taking slow steps around my bedroom. I came across one I copied in my journal on October 22, 2014. Will God grace me with a marriage someday, I’d asked, — a good one? Will my childhood self finally know what she has only daydreamed about? Will it be all she hoped?
Windy and cold.
All night, in gusty winds, the house has cupped its hands around the steady candle of our marriage, the two of us braided together in sleep, and burning, yes, but slowly, giving off just enough light so that one of us, awakening frightened in darkness, can see.
The sermon is based on John 9:1-7. The title is “Everything Happens for a Reason.” If you, too, are done with that saying, click here to listen to the person who inspired me to delete that phrase from my vocabulary.
Now you know why, in lieu of wedding gifts, we asked people to donate to Reality,
and in lieu of album money, all proceeds go to Reality.
Living in North Street neighborhood for two years taught me that the kingdom of God isn’t about “inclusion,” as though some are “in” and some are “out” until those “in” deign to “include” them. No. It’s about plain belonging. We all belong to God, and to each other.