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In which God has asked too much of us

I am driving home from a memorial service for a longed-for baby boy, he had red hair. I can only hold back that lung-deep cry for so long before I know it’s time to simply pull over my minivan, so littered with library books and coffee cups and one lonely shoe. Simply lay my forehead on the steering wheel, keening at the side of the road.

What is there to say? What can we do but huddle into rows of chairs, and clutch our hearts, and sob into our shredded balled-up tissues? What can we do but stand around and drink juice, red-eyed and hiccuping? We’ll sign up for a few meals when what we really want to do is lay out on the floor, beside you, and cry until we’re empty because what else? There aren’t old stories to tell, no laughter breaking through the sorrow. This is lamentation. I am fumbling for hope. Is there really comfort in the idea of a baby in the arms of Jesus when all we want is for that baby to be in the arms of his broken mama?

Psalmists, you failed to capture this kind of despair. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, weeping for their children, little boys without a brother, babies who are no more. And I want to dig a hole with my bare hands and stay there in a field and in the damp cold, and tell the world that I am so angry, so sad, so longing, I can hardly breathe.

God has asked too much of us.

But I drive home through the remaining thunderstorms, east towards the darkness, the light behind me. I am wearing black for my friend’s baby son, unbearable.  Can anyone face the sight of a soft baby-blanket carefully laid out on the altar? This is not the end, this is not the end, I am singing over and over through the hot tears and the white anger and my aching longing for mercy for us all, God. The illuminated rainbow arches impossibly bright above my head before dropping into the wet green forests, and the rain is still falling through the fading deep golden light, and the sun is breaking through somewhere behind me but right now, it’s not enough. So I pull over the minivan, open the windows, breathe in and out: too much, too much, it’s too much, You’re asking too much.

 

 

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  • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

    What to do when weeping wakes up with you in the morning, too? [thanks for this]

  • AKHF

    It’s not God– it’s just that we are mortal and babies die. God is laying on the floor weeping too

    • KatR

      It IS God. He can’t get all praise for the good and then be AWOL for the bad.

      • AKHF

        I don’t think God gets praise for all the good either.

  • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/ James Prescott

    Absolutely. I’m sick of hearing ‘it’s going to be okay’ or ‘it’s not the end’ when something terrible happens. When my Mum died, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. Some things just shouldn’t happen, and it’s okay to let it out. I’m sure God weeps with us – but that doesn’t make it easier.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com/ Matt Appling

      Yes – sometimes, even the most well-intentioned words are just not necessary, and can even hurt more. How many people want to hear that this tragedy is “part of God’s plan?” No one. Because that’s a terrible plan! Tragedy is *not* God’s plan. But He will make things all right in the end.

      • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/ James Prescott

        Absolutely Matt, totally agree. We must be so careful what we say to people in the deepest suffering. Thanks for replying to my comment, appreciate it!

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      I know how you feel, James. My mom died 18 months ago, and all those platitudes are still ringing painfully in my ears. Like Matt said, it’s not God’s plans that incite tragedy. Death is a part of life, and we need to stop trying to explain it away instead of confronting it. Mourning is healthy. Grief is necessary.

      • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/ James Prescott

        Thanks for your kind comment Bethany, and sorry for your loss. It’s 13 years since my Mum passed away, and it’s easier now to get a longer term perspective, and see all the blessings God has brought through it, and how even it was her time, as well as remember the best of her life.

        But for someone who is in the midst of their grief – even like you, only 18 months in – those words would sound hollow, idealistic, insensitive and painful.

        As you say, mourning is healthy and grief is necessary. Jesus Himself wept at the death of a friend, even knowing He was about to raise Him from the dead. God grieves and mourns with us, I am sure.

      • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

        Very healing words, Bethany. Bless you, friend.

        • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/ James Prescott

          They really were healing words – and such truth in them too.

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Exactly. Thanks, James.

      • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/ James Prescott

        No problem Sarah. Glad you agree.

  • Tara Porter-Livesay

    bawling. and needing to repeat “this is not the end this is not the end” … believing in better days and so needing them to come soon. ((hugs Sarah))

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Tara. That was from Gungor’s song on “Ghosts Upon the Earth” – pretty much on repeat today. I know you understand.

      • Jennifer Harris Dault

        Funny, since the beginning of my miscarriage (three weeks ago, my baby is still curled up inside my womb), this song keeps coming to my mind, too. Thank you for writing this. Thank you so much.

  • Elisabeth Grunert

    Timely. Our good friends just lost their 3 year old. I don’t think there’s a lot worse territory for the heart. Thank you for this.

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I’m so sorry, Elisabeth. Praying for your friends.

  • Courtney

    Oh Sarah, I read this through hot tears. Friends of ours lost their daughter, Alice, at 38 weeks without ever getting to know her. It happened two months ago and I still can’t quite catch my breath. It’s a terrible place to be when you know God is good but there isn’t any mercy to be found.

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Yes, yes, it is. Praying for Alice’s parents today, Courtney.

  • wordofawoman.com

    A modern psalm of lament. God is still speaking through voices like yours.

  • http://tracimsmith.wordpress.com/ Traci

    Wow. This is so powerful. Thank you for your beautiful writing and for sharing this. It challenges me, as a pastor, when you say “Psalmists, you failed to capture this kind of despair.” I think you are absolutely right. Sometimes I say ‘The Psalms take us through all of human experience” but I think I will stop saying that. There are some things they did not capture. This is one of them. I have been reading Emily Rapp’s “The Still Point of the Turning World” about a mother who loses her son slowly to Tay Sach’s disease. It speaks of this kind of grief… One of the lines I remember is when she found out her son had the disease and would, for certain, die. She writes: “I swallowed my own teeth.” I wish that line were in the Bible. Thanks for this reflection and love and light to all of us when we grieve.

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I wish that line were there, too, that’s powerful, Traci. Thank you.

  • Bev Murrill

    Grief is compounded when we don’t understand why. I think the peace of God that passes all understanding means you have to give up your right to understand.

  • http://www.kewp.blogspot.com/ Katherine Willis Pershey

    Oh, oh. Oh, I am so sorry.

  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    19 years ago today dear friends of mine sat in a hospital waiting to hear the results of tests on their 2 day old baby girl. She would be making plans for college in the fall. She should have had boyfriends and worn make-up and driven her parents crazy and had a million hopes for the future yet to come. But 5 days is all she got. And it is so vastly WRONG that all her mama gets is the years of wondering what might have been.

    I cannot believe, even for a second, that God would bring a baby into being solely for the purpose of giving her only 5 days. It would shatter my faith, and rightly so. All I can do is ache with the groaning of creation and say “Come back soon, Jesus. Finish bringing about your kingdom where THIS does not happen.”

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Amen and amen.

  • Ellayne Shaw

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Linds

    My daughter-in-law has had four miscarriages. The desolation. The courage needed to maybe try again. The sadness. The tears.

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      It is terrible. We have our miscarriages and losses as well here. A hard road.

  • http://www.awildsplendor.blogspot.com/ Erika Stephens

    I am breathless with the ache of this. My goodness, it is too much.

  • mizmelly

    So sorry, love. So sorry.

  • mel

    Oh Sarah, thank you for this. Sometimes I think you should add “NSFW” to your titles because I’m sitting at my desk in my open plan office trying to conceal my weeping. That grief is so unimaginable but if there’s room in our hearts, we can take solace, as others have noted, that He is weeping with us.

  • Tadah

    Perfect.

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    It is too much. Oh, Sarah. I am sorry.

  • http://dramaticelegance.blogspot.com/ rachel lee

    the shaking of the weeping. i feel you here.

    He weeps too.

  • http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/ Linda Stoll

    an untold sorrow, this raw, aching grief …

  • pastordt

    Sometimes it just is. Too.Much. Thank you.

  • http://jessicakelley.com/ Jessica Kelley

    You have tremendous gift. Thank you for sharing the rawness of your emotions with so many of us who are broken as well. My beautiful 4-year-old took his last breath last December. Through writing I explore God’s role in Henry’s death, and though I think we may be drawing from different assumptions about God, I share your pain and lift you in prayer. My heartfelt love and blessings.

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Jessica, I’m so sorry for your loss. And thank you for writing it out for so many.

  • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

    Earlier today I read this article about Newtown parents. Sometimes–a lot–the world seems like a terrible place, and it’s important to bear witness to that suffering. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-08/national/39832135_1_mother-s-day-daniel-newtown-shooting

    • Courtney

      I love what you say about bearing witness. It’s powerful to stand together and say all those sweet babies who’ve been lost? They matter, and they were here, and we will remember.

  • Sarah Silvester

    Thank you Sarah. I spent the weekend in hospital with my daughter on what should have been her 5th birthday party day. Watching her unable to move unless she was puking and im thinking “where is the space, and time, to just lose it?” She’s just starting to get a bit better now, gosh and I’m so lucky it was just a nasty bump on the head and nothing more – I still have my girl – and I’m thankful for your words and how you have described it, yes this is the real thing. Too much indeed and I never want to see another little white coffin in my life.

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Me, too, me, too.

  • Nikki Webber

    Thanks for this, Sarah. When I lost Theodore in April, the worst sting would come from well meaning friends and relatives (not to mention the strangers) who would tell me that God knew what He was doing and things would be fine. To me that is more profane than taking my hand and saying, “oh shit, I am so deeply sorry”.
    I’ve never been much for Amy Grant but she gets it right when she sang that the honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a hallelujah. My heart longs for the day when my sweet baby will be restored to me.

    • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I agree completely. And amen. And Nikki, I’m so so sorry, luv.

  • http://sacredeveryday.ca/ Jenn

    Oh Sarah. I know, it really is too much. This is a psalm of lamentation.

  • HisFireFly

    this lament
    the power of tears and wailing
    when there are no words
    and you can’t ask questions anymore
    and the weeping is the best thing you can share…

    much too much indeed

  • Tiffany

    That very song got me through the deep despair of losing a friend to cancer. Oh, the anguish. Praying for your friends as they mourn.

  • michaboyett

    Sarah, last week was a week of too much around my house as well. Too many lives being taken. And how to balance that with the too much joy of all those wild children running around my house? I’m rereading 1000 Gifts with my mom’s group and today we discussed that passage in chapter 3 when Ann talks about choosing not to reject joy in the midst of “poor and hideous suffering.” I keep thinking about that, how I have to learn to somehow hold all of it at once, how that’s what Jesus did: Lean into the suffering and still hold hands out for the grace. Thanks for this.

  • Beth Anne

    Everything I wanted to say when the Diana to my Anne lost her boys. A year later, you’ve written it for me.

    Thank you.

  • Lori Gard

    His name was Jesse.
    And he died in a cold, dirty hospital sink. He would have been eight months in utero. But still they left him there. The medical files do not tell a lie. Although sometimes family stories change. Evolve.
    Then fade away. And all because
    tragedy such as this one is too horrific to bear. That sweet little boy, my cousin. Could have survived life outside the womb, I’m
    sure. But as his mother lay on a stretcher,
    hooked up to machines. (Herself, at the
    mercy of the doctors, a snow-plow blade having sliced through the left-hand
    side of her brain.)

    That baby boy died.

    His mama might have heard the cry, but she could not utter
    so much as a sound. Tubes constricting silent
    sobs. And now, thirty years later. She still sits slumped in her sheelchair. Shut up inside a manor. Silenced, by the years and years of being
    locked up inside. Silenced, by the
    irreparable decision of one man to drive a wintry road and cut it too close to
    the yellow line. Silenced by the world
    she once knew.

    Silenced.

    And I have often asked that question. “Has God asked too
    much?” For He had already demanded much
    of us- so many trials in this life. So
    many heartaches. So much death, and
    sickness and tremendous sadness. And
    that is just my family. We are so small
    and insignificant to the greater world and its problems.

    “Have you asked too much, God? I want you answer to that question? Have you?”

    It was a balmy, summer evening the night her car
    rolled. My daughter’s namesake, she has
    become. MaryAnne. She was driving to what should have been the
    crowning glory of her achievements: her graduation celebrations. She was only eighteen.

    The two officers came to my grandfather’s door at midnight
    to deliver the news. And what my dear
    Grampie said will forever be etched in time.
    Preserved for generation upon generation. Words which have been echoed over and over again
    throughout the history of our family.

    “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    Blessed.

    For He is giver.

    Blessed.

    For it was His and His alone to take.

    Blessed.

    For He sees the bigger picture.

    Blessed.

    Because He feels the deepest pain.

    Blessed. Because one
    sweet day, we will know it: perfect joy, love and peace. What hope!
    When pain and suffering and heartache are obliterated. No more.
    That will be the day…when all that has been lost will be returned. Brought back and laid at our feet. For He will return it. His promises are sure. That which has been snatched away will be
    ours again. Brought back to us once more.

    And although the here and now is wretched. Foul and soiled. It is sometimes enough to steal our
    soul. But for God and His higher purpose
    to remind us: there is more. And this is
    hope eternal: life is not the end.

    There is more. So
    much more. Than wretched this.

    • pastordt

      Stunning – in every single sense of that word. Thank you.

  • Nikki

    And stories like this make me hold my miracle 6-week old son ever more tightly. I might be tired, frustrated or otherwise out of sorts at a particular moment, but that little boy is also loved and was very much so longed and prayed for.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    Perfectly expressed. Heartbreakingly perfect. Thank you.

  • http://lovingfromtheinsideout.blogspot.com Connie

    Sarah…no words are adequate.

    P.S. If you’d like to be of real help–way beyond food–to your friend as she walks this road…may I make some suggestions?…1) Provide info on where she can find peer support. I can’t overstate the power of connecting with those who *do* get it because they *have* been there. An excellent place to start: http://tcfcanada.net/chapters/british-columbia/ . 2) In a couple months, after most have stopped calling, gone back to their lives, apparently (to her) forgotten about it? Call and invite her to coffee or dinner, ask if she’d like to tell you all about her little boy (even if you knew him), listen listen listen, and cry with her. 3) Rather than “if you need anything let me know” (I can say with near certainty that for a long time, she will not even know what she needs)…pick something practical and do it for her. Your providing a lifeline, your tears, your thoughtfulness…will be immensely appreciated.

  • Felicity White

    I only take exception to one thing in this post. I think the psalmists got it pretty close with this one from Psalm 44:

    Our heart has not turned back,
    nor have our steps departed from your way;
    yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
    and covered us with the shadow of death.

  • thelifeartist

    Oh, Sarah…. Tears.

  • http://www.lovewellblog.com/ Kelly @ Love Well

    This is a lament, Sarah. A lament for the ripping we see here, every day, a lament for the weeping mothers and the sick and dying children and a lament for God to SEE US and DO SOMETHING.

    It is good, and it is right. Praying for your broken heart, friend.

  • http://coolquotesandstuff.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth

    Sorry for the lost of this boy. It is awful when a child dies.

    I do think the Psalms cover this though. While I can’t think of one that specifically mentions the death of a child (although this is covered when the child of David is dying.) I suffered the loss of 4 babies by miscarriage, which is a different kind of loss to that which this mother is facing but thinking of those little ones in the arms of Jesus is comforting. There were many times when I railed against God and asked ‘Why?’ but the Psalms, the story of David and other scriptures have helped. Please hold onto them.

    I have discovered recently that the flippant comments of some modern day Christians do not really occur in the bible. Many people who went through awful situations ask a lot of questions of God. And that isn’t wrong. And that has helped me through my recent most difficult life trial.

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  • Jessica

    Thank you for this. We are in the middle of an adoption. We started out adopting twins but the little boy died. It has been so hard to grieve or to even explain the grief. I have struggled for several months. Thank you for this.

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  • seniorcit

    We lost our first two babies, the first stillborn, the second lived five days. This was back in the ’60s when people (and pastors) were much less open about grief. Ignore it and it will go away and we’ll all move on, right? We moved on to become adoptive parents and foster parents, and eventually birth parents again. The whys still surface after all these years, especially after the death of my young husband from cancer. Why, God? If you are in control, why have I been dealt such sorrow, such personal physical problems and health issues resulting from a car accident that was not my fault. The only way I have found to live with these issues is to see them as random occurrences because we are human, events not God caused. We all have the choices how we are going to react to the situations in our life. The “why” as I look at it lies in what we choose to do with the tragedies and sorrows of this life that are inevitable. We can choose to bring growth and good out of a devastating situation.

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  • Sarah k

    My own longed-for baby boy was buried 2 months ago. My three young living children are confused. I am broken forever. Thank you for speaking this simple truth: it is too much to ask of anyone. And no amount of hope that my baby son is with Jesus, and that I will see him again, makes the agony any easier to bear. People who think it should clearly have not experienced this pain themselves. Friends like you, who allow themselves to feel the horrible hurt with their bereaved friends, give one of the greatest gifts you can give a sufferer.

  • Stephanie

    I found the Bundle Project through some friends on facebook. Sometimes it helps to just hold onto something and cry.

    “The current project of artist Emma Saperstein, The Bundle Project works with families who have experienced the loss of a child before, during, or soon after birth by making bundles to the weight of the child at time of death as a gift for the mother.”

  • Tanya

    Interesting that you post this on the day of my baby girl’s funeral. She was born on June 9th and lived for 1 hour. I wonder if my closest friends feel this way at all…

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