Category Archives: birth defects

Sacred Reverence :: Part 3

(This was originally posted on August 5, 2011.  It has been pulled from the archives and edited.)

Note: You may want to read “Sacred Reverence :: Part 1” & “Sacred Reverence :: Part 2” if you have not yet done so.

I laid out the situation in the Part 1, my “theory” that took God out from any blame for my birth defects and subsequent pregnancy losses. Then in Part 2, I explained how God entered the situation and showed me how my “theory” was wrong. In this post, my goal is to attempt to explain how God and the situation reconcile together ~ in giving God the utmost sacred reverence in the face of being made with physical imperfections that caused huge grief.

<<>>

Let’s start at some basics. As I was coming to grips with this, I sat down and outlined the reasons that bad things happen to people. In very broad, basic terms, it seems to me that there are probably five reasons, at least that we as humans can see, why bad things happen. These include:

  • an individual making a bad choice and having to deal with the consequences personally
  • an individual making a bad choice that affects another individual’s life badly
  • spiritual warfare (attacks from the devil/demons)
  • God allowing things to happen
  • God disciplining His children (although not all discipline is in the form of “bad” things)

In light of the subject of birth defects, I know that they are not a result of me making a bad choice ~ they were in no way, shape or form my fault. Some birth defects, including the ones I was born with, can be the result of the mother taking drugs or even some prescription medications. However, that’s not in my case. I don’t believe that my birth defects were a result of spiritual warfare. I don’t believe that the devil has enough power to be able to “butt in” to the creation process and cause birth defects. There was no where else to turn except to God. I have come to believe that He allowed and willed my birth defects to happen ~ that He made me exactly the way He had intended, birth defects and all. And then as I’ve matured and grown up both with God and with the birth defects, I feel that He has used them as a tool for discipline (spiritual growth) for me.

Discipline, Not Punishment

I feel that I should explain something about discipline here. A lot of people interchange the word “discipline” and “punishment”. However, if you look at the actual meanings of those two words, they simply cannot be interchanged or looked at as similar. Discipline means “to teach” or “to direct”. As parents, our goal is to discipline our children, and not just when they do something wrong. When they do something wrong, we discipline them to understand why what they did was wrong and teach the consequences and why it was an undesirable thing to do, and to do that, many times there is a punishment that goes along with that. But as they live their lives, we should be teaching them, directing them, and growing them up into maturity – proactively guiding them – this is discipline.  (Not living reactive where punishment is usually at the forefront.) 

An example of discipline is something as simple as making a toddler take a nap. God showed me this analogy very clearly not long ago. My toddler was playing and having fun in her own toddler world, laughing and giggling. I looked at the clock and it was 1:00 – nap time! I went over and scooped her up and told her its nap time and took her to her room. Her smiles quickly changed to crying, whining and protest. Her fun – going along minding her own business, doing whatever she was doing, had been rudely interrupted by me. I don’t like interrupting her fun, but for her sake and both of our sanity, I know that it’s best to stay as disciplined as we can to stick to her nap schedule. She wasn’t doing anything wrong to be sent to her room in exile for a nap. It’s just one of those things where “Mamma knows best”, done out of love, though she can’t understand that now. It probably just looks mean and cruel to her, for no good reason, much like “punishment” actually is. Punishment is like terror and revenge – it’s what constitutes abuse.  

God is a God of love and is Love. He disciplines (teaches, trains, directs) His children out of love to bring them into spiritual maturity and a closer relationship with Him. He doesn’t just rain down punishments for no good reason, to poke at us with folly, or to abuse us for some sick, twisted reason. He LOVES us.

Perspectives & Perceptions

This is where I want to touch on perspectives or perceptions. As God’s children, just like my toddler, we can be going about our lives, having fun, minding our own business, and BAM! Something comes along and happens to us that rudely interrupts our fun, our lives. All we see is the rude interruption, the bad emotions rising up within us (sadness, grief, anger, irritation), and we don’t see a reason. Some people do think God is punishing them. It just seems mean and cruel and not fair. That is our perception of the situation. And as humans on earth with finite thinking and knowledge, we can’t know or see or understand the whole perspective from God’s view. We can’t know exactly how He’s working. We have to trust that He knows best and is working out of love. (Which He has proved to me in my life, and thus my trust in Him, my love with Him…as well as my surrender and obedience to Him, has grown by leaps and bounds by this proving – this discipline.  There’s no denying, though, that it is still hard.)

Is it any wonder, then, why God put four verses about perspective right in the middle of the most famous chapter about LOVE in the Bible? 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 says this,

For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete, imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect). But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded). When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside. For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].” AMP (bold mine)

Again, we can’t know exactly how He’s working…our perception is dim and blurred, incomplete and imperfect… it’s actually a skewed view of the totality of reality.

These verses go together great with my analogy of nap time – as a child talks, thinks & reasons like a child (as if the loving discipline was punishment or that God wasn’t even in it at all because it’s hard to reconcile a loving, caring God with something bad), but now when I have matured, I have put those notions (of punishment or excluding God from the situation) aside, and chosen to accept God’s loving discipline in the midst of a bad thing, all the while drawing closer to Him and pursuing a higher calling. When we finally get to heaven, we will know and see fully what is going on “behind the scenes”. We will know what true reality is, and not just have to continue living by our perceptions of reality.

Transforming Love

It’s kind-of like we need to give God the benefit of the doubt (faith) that He really is working things out for our good and with love. All of the grief and pain that both of my birth defects have caused me, including the loss of three babies, has been gut-wrenching going through it, but it has been transforming and amazing and beyond human understanding of anything I could ever ask or think in my resulting relationship with God. The benefits aren’t only for me. I have a new compassion and passion for people groups (people with birth defects, women who have lost babies, or struggle with infertility issues) – I can relate to these people now and empathize with them. And by experiencing suffering of my own, and all the emotions, I can even relate better to people suffering in other ways, and am more in touch with my emotions. I can find ways to minister to these people now and reach out to them and comfort them. I can be God’s hands and feet on earth for these people, in helping to give them hope and point them to God’s love. Ultimately, I can help to start and/or strengthen people’s personal relationships with God. It’s not about me anymore, as it naturally is with the fresh sting of a loss; I want everyone to experience the amazing transforming love of God. My heart is heavy for others.

Perfect Plans = Pain

I read “The Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer. In that book, I was struck by how often Tozer refers to God as perfect. Then it made a connection in my head that really what’s wrong with most people, (including probably why certain people are atheists or agnostics), is they simply don’t believe that God is perfect. The perception of perfection is not true perfection. It’s hard to accept that, I think, for most people. They have a perception that perfection should mean no birth defects, no lost babies, no infertility, no wars, no divorce, no cancer, no bankruptcy, etc. This seems logical. However, I think that in order for God’s full, perfect plans to come about, refining and growing that can only be known by these hardships and pain has to be present.

To choose how we will react in circumstances and grow, to truly love God and others, can only come with suffering.

Loving God and loving others is perfection, at whatever cost that has to come. It cost God His only Son, Jesus, to relate to and to show His love to us.

I read somewhere, “We would never know the light if there was no darkness to compare it to.” One way to take that is that we would never know perfection if there was no suffering to compare it to.

Thoughts on Suffering

Here are some great thoughts from “A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss” by Jerry Sittser. Jerry’s story is remarkable. He lost his wife, his mother, and one daughter in a drunk driving accident. He says,

“This book is about catastrophic loss and the transformation that can occur in our lives because of it… Once I started to think about my own loss, I found myself exploring a new world of meaning that opened up before me. I began to ask questions and eventually to find answers that proved to be both satisfying and unsettling… It is how we respond to loss that matters. That response will largely determine the quality, the direction, and the impact of our lives… it is possible to live in and be enlarged by loss, even as we continue to experience it. Response involves the choices we make, the grace we receive, and ultimately the transformation we experience in the loss. We will find our souls healed, as they can only be healed through suffering.” 

Even though his losses of his close family members were different from my losses, I could totally relate to his thoughts, feelings, emotions and the transformation that he speaks of. When things are said and done, there is an understanding that we aren’t thankful for the circumstances, however, it is possible to still find the ability to be thankful in the circumstances. The soul has expanded. A different kind of joy is found.

Another book I read is “How to Handle Adversity” by Charles F. Stanley. This book had many great nuggets for me. Here are some of Charles’ thoughts:

  • “Some things are so important to God that they are worth interrupting the happiness and health of His children in order to accomplish them… the Son of God allowed those He loved to suffer and die for the sake of some higher purpose.”
  • “When you hurt, God hurts. Regardless of what He may be in the process of accomplishing, regardless of how noble His purposes may be, He is in touch with what you are feeling.”
  • “…whatever He is in the process of accomplishing through our suffering will always be for our best interest. The degree to which things actually work out for our best interests is determined by our response. As we trust God through our adversity, when all is said and done, we will sincerely believe it was worth it all.”
  • “…His goals in all that happened were to bring glory to God and to cause others to believe in Him… was worth risking the rejection of some of His closest friends. It was even worth the death of a loved one.”
  • “More important than keeping everybody healthy was moving people to faith. Just as He allowed those He loved to suffer for the sake of those who had not believed, so He will allow us to suffer today. Nothing gets the attention of an unbeliever like a saint who is suffering successfully.”
  • “I can hear the skeptic now, ‘Are you saying that God would allow me – His child – to suffer for the sake of some unsaved person?’ That is exactly what I am saying. But keep in mind, it was His Son who prepared the way. If almighty God saw fit to allow His own Son to suffer unjustly that we might saved, why should we think it below us to suffer so that others might believe?”
  • In talking about a child born with Down syndrome, Charles writes, “Would God allow this child to be born with a handicapping condition for the sake of thirty nurses? Absolutely. Just as He allowed a man to be born blind that His Son might heal him. Just as He would allow one whom He loved to die in order that he might be raised. And just as He allowed His own Son to be murdered in order that many might receive eternal life. God allows suffering so that others might come to faith in His Son.”
  • “…God’s goal for you and me is not ease, comfort, or pleasure. Neither is it that we simply avoid eternal condemnation. Many Christians believe, however, that these two ideas are the sum total of God’s will for their lives.” 

God’s goal is for us to conform to the image of His Son, with Him living through us. Some of these nuggets might be tough pills to swallow. However, they refocus our thinking and perspective.
Finally, I want to share a little from the book, “Disappointment With God” by Philip Yancey.

  • “Why the delay? Why does God let evil and pain so flagrantly exist, even thrive, on this planet? Why does He let us do slowly and blunderingly what He could do in an eyeblink? He holds back for our sakes. Re-creation involves us; we are, in fact, at the center of His plan. The Wager, the motive behind all human history, is to develop us, not God. Our very existence announces to the powers in the universe that restoration is under way. Every act of faith by every one of the people of God is like the tolling of a bell, and a faith like Job’s reverberates throughout the universe.”
  • “We cannot understand what “rules” apply to a God who lives outside of time, as we perceive it, and yet sometimes steps into time… whenever we try to figure out God’s role in any given event, we necessarily see things “from below,” judging His behavior by the frail standards of a time-contingent morality. In another dimension, we will undoubtedly view such matters very differently. We remain ignorant of many details, not because God enjoys keeping us in the dark, but because we have not the faculties to absorb so much light.”
  • “The kind of faith God values seems to develop best when everything fuzzes over, when God stays silent, when the fog rolls in.”
  • “The deepest longings we feel on earth, as parents, as lovers, are mere flickers of the hungering desire God feels for us. It is a desire that cost Him the Incarnation and the Crucifixion.”
  • “The apostles go on to explain what good can result from such “redeemed suffering”: maturity, wisdom, genuine faith, perseverance, character, and many rewards to come. Why rejoice? Not for the masochistic thrill of the trial itself, but because what God did Easter Sunday on large scale He can do on small scale for each of us… as Paul expressed it, “All things work together for good.” That well-known passage is often distorted. Some people interpret its meaning as “Only good things will happen to those who love God.” Paul meant just the opposite, and in the very next paragraph he defines what “things” we might expect: trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. Paul endured all those. Yet, he insists, “in all these things we are more than conquerors”; no amount of hardship can separate us from the love of God.”
  • “The two worlds, seen and unseen, merge in Christ; and we, as Paul kept insisting, are quite literally “in Christ.” Embodiment is the end of all God’s work, the goal of all creation. From below, we tend to think of miracle as an invasion, a breaking into the natural world with spectacular force, and we long for such signs. But from above, from God’s point of view, the real miracle is one of transposition: that human bodies can become vessels filled with Spirit, that ordinary human acts of charity and goodness can become nothing less than the incarnations of God on earth.”
  • “The Spirit will not remove all disappointment with God. The very titles given to the Spirit – Intercessor, Helper, Counselor, Comforter – imply there will be problems. But the Spirit is also “a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come,” Paul said, drawing on an earthly metaphor from the financial world. The Spirit reminds us that such disappointments are temporary, a prelude to an eternal life with God. God deemed it necessary to restore the spiritual link before re-creating heaven and earth.”
  • “God’s plan includes risk on both sides. For us, it means risking our independence by committing to follow an invisible God who requires of us faith and obedience. For God, it means risking that we, like the Israelites, may never grow up; it means risking that we may never love Him. Evidently, He thought it a gamble worth taking.”

I want to point out that this whole idea of God disciplining people, first of all, He only uses things to discipline His children – believers who have accepted His free gift of salvation through Jesus. God does take a huge risk in disciplining us if it isn’t in a way that seems loving to us. (Not all discipline comes from something bad happening, either! Quite the contrary, in a relationship with God, He will show us and teach us and guide us in very loving, gentle ways as well. But He won’t always step in to save us from bad things and will choose to instead use them and grow us through them.) Our perspective and reactions need to be right, in order for the discipline to grow us and for God’s plans to work through it.

<<>>

Aside from the lessons in these Sacred Reverence posts, my biggest comforts come from:

#1 Realizing that God is completely in control and is using everything for my good, (I think much good has come out of this), and being able to fully trust and love God, and give Him the sacred reverence that is due Him.

#2 Knowing that my three babies are in heaven with God – living in a perfect place with a perfect body and a perfect Father, and one day I will meet them and know them.

I hope that by sharing these things, they may help someone with their struggles to at least begin to see God’s goodness, despite the circumstances, and reconcile seemingly bad things with a loving God.

“Life is whatever I receive it to be…
Why not jump over doubt and dive into belief?
No eye has seen nor ear has heard…
My faith is breathing only because, I hear these words…
Exceeding and abundantly more than we could even ask or think
Surpassing all human understanding
I’ve been given this amazing peace!”
~Beckah Shae, “LIFE” lyrics

Hugs & Blessings,

{Affiliate links present}

Follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Never miss a post: Subscribe to On Wings & Waves by Email (and get a free copy of the eBook, “31 Days of Prayers for the Busy Woman”)
Advertisements

Sacred Reverence :: Part 2


(This was originally posted on June 29, 2011.  It has been pulled from the archives and edited.)

Note: You may want to read “Sacred Reverence :: Part 1” if you haven’t already.

This part of the story is complicated!  It is a total intermixing of people, messages, sermons, Scripture, songs, and books that I’ve read.  God was revealing Himself to me in a way that began to show me how my “theory” in Part 1 was wrong.

The New Work in Bits & Pieces
One of the books I am going to mention is called, “Empty Arms: Hope andSupport for Those Who Have Suffered a Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Tubal Pregnancy” by Pam Vredevelt. This is a Christian book on the subject. I like and agree with the majority of the book. However, in going back through it, I realized that this book had a part to play in the wrong “theory” that I held for a while. I’ll get to that part, but first this quote explains the journey I’ve been on over the last couple years,
“If you are experiencing disappointments, remember this is a normal reaction to your loss. Allow God to intercept you at your deepest point of despair. To try to walk the road ahead by yourself will deprive you of a great experience with God. As you turn to Him in your weakness He will channel hope into your desert of despair. He will begin a new work in you! It may not happen all at once. This new work will probably come in bits and pieces. It will come through circumstances and individuals God puts in your life. It will come through communion and sharing with Him. Remember, as a child of God you are in process. God continues to be your Father today, even when you don’t feel His presence. You are His continual ‘workmanship’ (Ephesians 2:10), and His piece of art. He will continue healing. He has not left you. He is at work in you, even now.”
A Delayed Healing
On my journey, in the midst of the losses came the grief, shock, denial, anxiety, etc.

Then a month after my third loss, we conceived our oldest daughter. Our middle daughter came 18 months after the birth of the first, and our third daughter three years later.

So I went from major grief and thrust immediately into life as a busy full-time mom. I didn’t have time or energy or enough sleep to think or fully complete the grief process. Life got pretty wild for a while because other storms also hit over those years.

I see now how He was leading me on this whole journey and how each piece of the “puzzle” has all been building on one another and healing, peeling away layers, addressing the hard questions, etc.

Faith Like A Child
As I explained in Part 1, I basically had childlike faith in God. As a four-year-old, I asked Him into my heart. Even though a four-year-old doesn’t know how to build relationships, read, etc., I recited prayers, listened to Bible stories and sang songs.

I grew up in church and just adopted and accepted what other people believed, or said I should believe. I was able to pretty much stay on “the straight and narrow”, being dubbed a “goodie-two-shoes” as a teen, in college, and beyond. (I did quite a bit of that on my own power, though, because I wouldn’t say I had a real close relationship with God then.)

There had never been any big tragedy in my life, up until my losses. I had never had a need to dig deeper, ask hard questions, or explore and define my faith before.

Collide
So in the face of such tragedy with empty arms, and then hitting the ground running with overflowing arms, I don’t really even think I had adequate words to question or explain what was in my head & heart.

I first identified what I was feeling with a song by my favorite band, Skillet, called “Collide“. The song’s central point is holding on to your faith when something happens that makes your faith and fear collide. My experience was exactly that, a collision of my childlike faith in God and an unexplainable fear.

The fear was from many sources, such as wondering what was wrong with me – something physically or spiritually, wondering if I would ever be able to have kids, pure fear of the possibility of repeat losses, fear of being out of control of the situation, and I also had disappointment with God. I was wondering what He was up to, why He hadn’t answered my prayers to save my three baby’s lives, why He had allowed this to happen, and when I found out the physical reasons for the losses, why He had made me like He had. I was made physically broken (but surgically “fixed”) and now I was spiritually broken. The following is how God did spiritual “surgery” on me.

photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
The Roots of my Wrong Theory
I read the book “Empty Arms” probably about five years ago. (My losses all happened in 2003 ~ nine years ago). It attempts to cover emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of loss. Even though the majority of the book is great, I think the seeds of my wrong “theory” were planted from this book. I was past the emotional and physical parts of my journey and just needed to complete the spiritual healing. I really was searching for answers about God and His role in my losses.
I had purchased and read several other books on miscarriages and infertility by Christian authors. Some were very helpful, but none other than this book directly attempted to answer the questions I had.
It could have been a misunderstanding on my part and/or deception from the enemy who was making out what Pam wrote into my (wrong) “theory”.In the chapter that addressed the spiritual issues, she points out three errors:
#1 is that God used miscarriage and/or stillbirth to punish me for my sins. (I agree that this is an erroneous idea.)
#2 is that God sent miscarriage or stillbirth to build my character and to make me a stronger Christian.  (On this point, I do believe faith building and closer/stronger relationship with Him can be at least in part be an intended outcome for why He allowed the losses to happen.)
#3 is that the devil killed my baby. (I agree, that we shouldn’t blame the devil.)
To me, she was making strong points that we shouldn’t be looking to blame God or the devil, and she made very clear that we are living in a fallen world full of sin and pain. Therefore, miscarriages or stillbirths are just a part of our human existence on the earth, (like a fluke in nature).
Hence, my “theory” emerged around these thoughts: “What if God isn’t a part of the losses? What if it is totally physical? In my case, the losses were because of a birth defect with my uterus. So what if God didn’t make me like this and the defect was just happenstance with the genes that went together to make me?” Even though I still wondered why God hadn’t intervened, because I believed He could have, the ideas here comforted me. They made me not have so many questions or uneasy feelings toward God.
(In it’s defense, the book also rightly points people toward God’s positive characteristics ~ that He’s good, fair, kind, healing, just and loving. Those are true attributes of God and comforting, yes.)

Dangerous Territory
Can you see the “slippery slope” setting up here? Between taking God out of the picture of having anything to do with the losses (and the way I was made) and only being comfortable with part of His attributes, I was only seeing and accepting a portion of Who He is.

Between my biology background, my new friends in a non-Christian support group who had uterine defects and their own world views, and this book by a Christian author that was basically saying to me that God wasn’t involved, I thought I had things figured out. I felt like I had the healing and closure I needed.

Capturing My Heart
But THANK GOD for His faithfulness to me, despite me being “unfaithful”, despite me only accepting part of Him, despite me basically entering into what would be considered idolatry. I THANK GOD that He not only didn’t withdraw His hand from me, but that He pursued me. It was like I was drifting out to a dangerous sea after insisting that I go there, thinking for some reason that it was safe, and instead of God writing me off and letting me go, He came after me. He snuck up on me and subtly and gently captured me.

How can I explain how He did it? For one thing, I had a hunger to know Him deeper. I never turned my back on Him, I just was embracing part of Him. I had experienced His great love in the midst of my losses, with which words cannot explain. And with a lot of things, like the book “EmptyArms“, they point us back to God’s love. I had tasted it, I craved it, and wanted more. I believe that over this time of God pursuing me so that I could know and accept Him fully for Who He is, that He set all of the elements I mentioned at the beginning of this post into place in the proper order & sequence in my life. Things were building up that would obliterate my wrong “theory” and put me on a whole new, deeper level with God.

The Beginning of the End of the Wrong Theory

In early 2011, I had a dream. (An actual dream at night.) I saw a word. A literal word. In big bold black letters, lit up even… like the letters on “Wheel of Fortune”! It was the word “Yahweh“. I had never seen a word before in my dreams, let alone a word like that. I knew it was a name for God. But I didn’t know for sure what it meant or it’s background. So I searched online. Basically, it’s “I AM”. My Amplified Bible, in Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks God his name, God says, “I AM WHO I AM and WHAT I AM, and I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” I was like, “I already know You ARE, God, so what’s this about?”
In my search, I found out that the name Yahweh is considered so extremely sacred that groups of people, like the Jews and certain Catholics won’t even say it out loud! The Bible translators, even, have taken it out of the Bible, and instead, all these people like to use “Jehovah” or “LORD”. The Jews think that only a certain select few in each generation will know the proper pronunciation of “Yahweh”. But they won’t tell other people because it is feared so much. Only the High Priests say it once a year in one of their prayers. In Catholicism, my research seemed to indicate that somewhat recently, they had put “Yahweh” back into a prayer here and there and into a song here and there. But the Pope issued a statement that this should be stopped and to quit saying it. I was perplexed!
I believed that God gave me that word in my dream. I kept asking God why I saw that word or why He gave it to me. In my research I have come to understand how sacred and precious and intimate that name is. I started calling God “Yahweh” in my prayers in a state of complete reverential fear and awe. Sacred reverence for Who He is…and He told me I was getting a grasp on it.

photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
A Fight to the Culmination of Healing
In March 2011, I attended a women’s leadership conference at a church in Columbus, which was a good 45-minute drive.
I encountered a lot of “resistance” in going. I literally had to fight to get there:
  • My husband wasn’t available to watch the kids, so I had to take them with me. (Luckily childcare was available, but it was past their bed times on Friday night and past nap time for our youngest on Saturday afternoon.)
  • A friend from my church was supposed to go with me, but wasn’t able to go at the last minute.
  • I was coming down with a cold.
  • I had never been to this church before, so I had scribbled down directions from Yahoo maps on a piece of paper. The night was dark and rainy. I took a couple of wrong turns. I had a notion to give up and go home.
However, I remembered a teaching I had heard along the way, that at times of greatest struggle to do something, are the times that you’re most supposed to do it. (Our greatest struggles produce our greatest victories.)  So I persisted and made it.
I knew that first night why I was supposed to be there. The senior pastor’s wife was speaking on “The Making of a Leader: The Life of Moses”. Yeah, right through Exodus 2 & 3. (Remember the Yahweh reference in Ex. 3:14!) Not only that, but one of her points was that no one is an accident or coincidence. (Psalm 139)
I had already accepted that no life was an accident. But the way she said what she said spoke directly into my heart. She said everyone was created just the way God intended for them to be made.
I had read Psalm 139 multiple times before, but in accordance with my “theory”, I had reduced its meaning, and I had separated the physical and spiritual parts of our (human) being. In my wrong theory, I figured God “knit together” each soul/personality, but not the physical parts. But now, together with what the speaker was saying and looking at the Psalm again, I couldn’t deny that God DID form my inward parts – my cleft palate and my deformed uterus. He knit ALL of me together in my mother’s womb – all the intricate parts. He saw ALL of me before I was born. The passage says, (v.13-16),
“For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.”
Later in the talk, the speaker made the point that leaders must know that God is sufficient. Here, she used Ex. 3:14 ~ Yahweh ~ we need nothing more/no one else. God is everything, He is Lord of all.

Wow. I was so stunned. I mean, I heard nothing new that night, but it was all in a new light. God was there and doing major surgery on me! My “theory” was obliterated!!!  God spoke directly to my heart that my birth defects weren’t a mistake, a fluke, or happenstance.  Neither were my miscarriages.

As the evening wrapped up with worship and praise, my heart was singing the loudest, but I could barley sing from my mouth because I was so choked up. I knew in that moment that the perfect God had made me perfectly the way He intended, no matter how imperfect I physically was.

Yahweh: Sacred & Personal
The next day, I stopped by the church’s bookstore to browse around. (Me in a bookstore is dangerous!) I had told myself before the conference that I wasn’t even going to step foot in there. But now, I found myself there, being drawn like a magnet to four books. I hadn’t intended to purchase anything, yet I couldn’t put these four books down. So purchase them, I did.

One was “Praying the Names of God” by Ann Spangler. It’s a daily devotional that focuses on a different name of God each week. Yes, “Yahweh” and other names like “Yahweh Roi” and “Yahweh Tsebaoth” (26 in all) are studied in this book. Studying these names alone has been amazing. In this book, I learned that Yahweh is a sacred, personal name of God. It is most closely linked to God’s redeeming acts in the history of Israel. It shows that God is self-existent yet is always present with His people, not remote and aloof, but always near, intervening in history on behalf of His people. Yahweh invokes images of God’s saving power and a covenant relationship. God is always listening for our cries, answering our prayers, showing His power on our behalf, responding faithfully even when we act faithlessly, delivering, freeing, and fulfilling promises.

One of the reflections studying “Yahweh”, considers Psalm 103:1-13. I especially focused on verses 11-13,

“For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord (Yahweh) loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe].”  (bold mine)

How awesome are these promises and attributes of Yahweh! Notice, though, that they are for those who fear Him with reverence, worship, and awe. I was not giving Him due respect, reverence, awe, worship & fear when I took Him out of the process of knitting every part of me together and for not being involved in my miscarriages. I was robbing him of some of His power, some of His personal-ness, and some of His redemption for my life. As an action, this study suggests to confess any tendency to impute motives to God unworthy of His character and to ask God to break any false images of Him that you may have developed!!! That hit the nail on the head for me. I was placing God in a box and making Him be as I wanted Him to be, which wasn’t His true character. It was a false image of Yahweh.

I have come to realize that my “faith-fear collision” has gone from a childlike faith that is untested, unexplored, unquestioned and unholy, with carnal fear (terror) collision, to one of a mature (tested, deeply explored, strong) faith and fear (in the form of sacred reverence) collision. The collision of childlike faith and carnal fear is like the mess and debris of a car accident.  Carnal fear can take you off course and let go of faith altogether. It doesn’t fully trust in God and can waver or fall.

However, the collision that mature faith and sacred reverence breeds is unshakable faith and the fear of God that brings Him such respect, awe and worship as is unspeakable!  This kind of faith & fear married together is on a whole new level with Yahweh – the relationship grows very deep – it is full trust, solid and awesome!

In order to share how accepting all of God’s sovereignty reconciles with accepting my losses, I made a Part 3!

Blessings,

  

{Affiliate links present.}

Follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Never miss a post: Subscribe to On Wings & Waves by Email (and get a free copy of the eBook, “31 Days of Prayers for the Busy Woman”)

<!–[if !mso]>st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>

Sacred Reverence :: Part 1

photo credit :: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

:: This post was originally published on June 20, 2011.  It has been updated. ::

I have done a proposal for a book about exploring spiritual issues surrounding pregnancy loss. One of my passions is seeing spiritual healing for ladies who’ve experienced this sort of loss, (miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death).

By God’s grace and strength, I was able to weather these storms and keep standing in my faith, and even to grow stronger and closer to God.

After we had Alexis & Jasmine, I was asked to share my testimony to my MOPS(Mothers of Preschoolers) group, where I chose to share the story of our losses and some things that I learned through them.

From what I recall, I dispensed a lot of “Christian-ese cliche” and drew conclusions as if I had slammed my finger in a door, instead of exploring deeper, asking hard heart questions, and bringing the feelings of catastrophic loss to full light. (I suppose it was in part because of time constraints and it was my first stab at trying to convey my journey.)

I see now, that a lot of the reason for that was because even though I had indeed kept my faith through the storms, and it was indeed moving me closer to God, my healing wasn’t fully complete and I had a lot more to learn.
New things were being revealed to me by God even after I had created a web site to tell what my book is going to be about. My responses to (at least some of) those issues has changed from what I originally intended. I have had time to wrestle with some heart issues and God has answered in big ways.

One of these heart issues has been dealing with birth defects. I was born with a cleft palate. I have had three major surgeries on my mouth, numerous orthodontic devices, speech therapy, and multiple ear infections which left scarring and constant ringing in my ears. Even up to three years ago, I needed surgery on a hemangioma “birth mark” on my tongue that suddenly started bleeding.  Then through my pregnancy losses, tests, and surgery, I came to find out that I have another birth defect of my uterus as well.
Some Back-Story

I accepted Christ into my heart at the age of four. Yes, I really knew what I was doing and it was my choice. As a child, going into one of my surgeries, I said to my mom, “Sometimes you just have to do things you don’t want to do,” as if I were trying to comfort my mom with great wisdom. Despite feeling a bit different than other kids and sometimes having to deal with their questions, like, “Why do you talk like that? Are you from a different country?”, I was never made fun of, but I resorted to building walls or withdrawing into myself – being very quiet and introverted. (Now people have no idea I had a cleft unless I tell my story.) Despite these feelings and “handicaps” that “hiding” for so many years has caused in my later years, I never questioned why I was made with a cleft. I never even thought to question God or hold a grudge or resentment. I just had innocent, childlike faith in God. I was simply told my whole life that Jesus loves me and I believed it.

Over the years, having grown up in “Christian society”, I encountered many different people with many different theologies and thoughts. Mind you, I never really had discussions with anyone about the topic, but I am an observer and someone who sits back and takes everything in. There were Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, and just being around listening to conversations. Most people I’ve been around believe that God is intricately involved in knitting together every detail of every person in the womb – their body, mind and soul. I just accepted that.

photo credit :: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

The World of Infertility

After experiencing two of our losses and undergoing tests and surgery, finding out that I was born with another defect (in my uterus), at first and for a while, I didn’t think much about it or question it. However, as I was associating with some of my “new” friends who had the same defects, and many have also suffered devastating loss, their ideas sort-of infiltrated me. I began questioning why God would create people with defects – especially defects that could effect another life – having the odds stacked so much against that life. For instance, women with a septum in their uterus, which is one of the defects I had, the loss rate for embryos in that uterus is at least 90%. What devastation.

As I became more immersed into the world of infertility and uterine anomalies, things became very scientific. I know the stats; I know things from home remedies to high tech procedures and what would be best to recommend to whom; I know more than most about the hormonal cycles; I know a ton about uterine surgeries; and I know about various pregnancy complications/risks and treatments/interventions. The doctors are looked to as miracle workers – technology has made it virtually possible for almost anyone to be able to have kids. It is very easy to squeeze God out of the picture almost entirely. I admit, foolish as this may sound to people not in this world of infertility, that I somehow got a bit twisted in my thinking for a little while. I was trying to reconcile how a loving, perfect God would create or allow people to be born with certain birth defects, such as ones that could potentially cause loss after loss.

My Theory

I don’t know where it came from, but I latched onto the notion that maybe God only knits together a person’s soul – perhaps things like their personality and such. But maybe the physical aspect of things is totally up to the gametes with the genes/DNA of the parents, and God just lets things “fall as they will” in that area. I was totally on the “bandwagon” of ideas about this being a fallen world in a state of downward decay, which it is, but to the extreme that things are going down on their own with minimal involvement by God. 

Take weather patterns, for example.  I was inclined to think they were set in motion by God at the beginning and then left to their own devices, causing the “El Nina”‘s, global warming, and more severe weather on their own. I didn’t really acknowledge that God would still be involved in the weather. I thought that praying for certain weather would usually be an exercise in futility. I didn’t doubt that God could intervene in causing rain, or no rain, if He wanted to, but that He just usually wasn’t involved.
In the same way, in this fallen world, we see the human race on a decline. There are more diseases, cancers, birth defects and ailments as time marches on. As generations multiply, genes mutate and have more chance for being displaced or damaged. I bought in to the scientific side of things, (I do love science, especially biology), that maybe the physical aspects of getting pregnant and the baby growing were set in motion by God at the beginning of creation, and then He stepped back and let things go on their own. Again, I believed that God had the power to intervene and stop a loss or heal a birth defect if He chose to, but that it seemed more often that asking for such things was futile. I was more comfortable thinking that I was a victim of “bad luck” – having formed with two defects on a fluke from gene mutations or displacements, than thinking that God purposefully put me together this way.

A step further, believing that God is all-knowing, I believe that God sees the future, so that means He would’ve been able to see ahead to my losses, with their devastation, as a result of me being made the way I was. That made me recoil in feelings of betrayal and anger for a while. I couldn’t reconcile that the comforting, loving, kind God who held me and helped me through my losses could have put me together broken, and known I was going to suffer, and not intervened anywhere along the way. So I suppose my mind put together the theory I shared, as a means for me to not feel negative feelings toward God, and be able to keep holding onto Him.

Don’t worry…our wonderful, sweet Savior set me straight in the gentle, yet obvious way that only He can. I am so thankful for His patience and faithfulness to me! And the way He revealed Himself to me and healed me. 

:: Part 2 will be up next ::

Blessings,

Follow on Twitter and Facebook.
Never miss a post: Subscribe to On Wings & Waves by Email (and get a free copy of the eBook, “31 Days of Prayers for the Busy Woman”)