Wednesday, December 30, 2015
This morning, in the wee hours before dawn, I had the honor of witnessing a new life being born. The cry of a mother’s pain, the gush of waters, and suddenly a first breath. Where one split second before there were seven breathing people in the room, miraculously and in a moment, there were eight. My heart leapt at the sight of bringing forth life and my eyes tingled with bright tears of joy. The mystery of such elation and the rush of emotion that flooded the hospital room is beyond human comprehension. Where once before there was no life, in a matter of months and then in moments, a whole and tiny person breaks forth. I tried to grasp my place in this world, to understand the gravity of it all- who are we that God has thought us worthy to be entrusted with new life? Its truly too wonderful to bear.
Hours later, I received word that a sweet childhood friend had lost a valiant fight with brain cancer. My heart sunk as my eyes stung hot with tears. Though we knew this was coming, I couldn’t help but feel devastated for her family, her two sisters and her new husband. I remember Wendy from my earliest days of having a "best friend"... the endless hours of Barbies we played. The games we made up in their hot tub in the middle of winter. The youth group trips and late night talks. The refrain from Matt Redman’s song Blessed Be Your Name began to play over and over in my head…
You give and take away,
You give and take away
But my heart will choose to say,
Lord blessed be your name.
We sing it in church with gladness on our lips, but in moments like this, I’m crying it out with salty tears on my tongue. I don’t understand it, this life and death thing. I mean, I do- God gives life and Sin has brought death- but I don’t. People I love are suffering.
I was standing in the shower, trying to make sense of the day. Life. And death. Joy and pain. In each of their moments, they stand autonomous. Such total elation. Such desperate desolation. But in the course of a day, or a season, a lifetime, they mingle in such a way that they become inseparable. I thought to myself how there should be a word for this mysterious commingling of joy and pain. The mixing of bitter with the sweet. A dear friend of mine calls it the “dance” between bitter and sweet. However, it seems to me that no term- English or otherwise- would suffice for such conflicting and warring words. In His gentle goodness, the Spirit whispered to me the elusive word that did indeed already exist: HOPE. Hope is the mingling of joy with pain. Elation with devastation. Bitter with sweet. Life despite death.
Without pain, there is no need for hope. And our joy in Christ gives us reason for hope.
So today, in this alloy of life and death, I’m clinging to that reason. To Jesus, our hope in the midst of pain and sorrow. Our Savior who has conquered the grave. The one who goes to prepare a place for me— and has for Wendy already— in Heaven. The one who will wipe every tear from our eyes and heal our sickness. It doesn’t lessen the heaviness I feel in my heart tonight but my soul is swelling anew with the hope of heaven.