Monday, January 28, 2008

Walk Like a Murderer

Sunday was the completion of the House of Blues series at church. Brandon wasn't at church to preach because he and his wife just had their fourth baby on Tuesday -- a little cutie named Georgia. (Don't you love that name?) Instead, Trey (one of the other pastors) shared the message. A message on regret.

I've talked a lot about regret, primarily my struggle with regret over losing Zachary, as well as my fear of the regret I will feel in the future. If I'm honest, no matter how upbeat I attempt to be, not one day -- not even one hour -- passes where I'm not tortured by "if only."

If only I had done this.
If only God had done that.
If only the enemy hadn't done the other thing.

Fill in the blank as you like, and I've likely said it or thought it.

Sunday morning, Trey talked about regret and the fact there are two primary causes of regret: (1) regret over past sins in our lives, and (2) regret over past mistakes and missed opportunities.

Often, the words sin and mistake are used in interchangeable ways. In this case, the term mistake was not meant to imply a moral failure, but rather a poor decision, a wrong call, an incorrect move. With regard to my losses, there has not been a time that I've looked back and felt guilt about an inappropriate moral decision that led to my losses. For example, I didn't suddenly take to smoking crack which in turn led to my dead baby.

However, there are plenty of things on which I look back and feel regret: things I could have done differently, or times I could have sought medical help but didn't because I thought I was being too worrisome. There are two or three specific mistakes or missed opportunities where I've realized that if I would have made a different decision right there, perhaps my baby would be alive today. It is that regret that haunts me near constantly.

With regard to regret like this, and the effect it has on a person, Trey had some comments. Here are my scribbled notes verbatim, though my notes are not an exact quote of what he said. You'll get the general idea.

In these past mistakes, we can't blame sin (because we didn't).
We can't blame ourselves (because we generally don't do that,
at least not for too long).
And so, we blame God ("Why did you allow this to happen,
why didn't you intervene?" Sound familiar?).
In blaming God, a root of bitterness begins to form.
We begin to doubt God,
question his goodness,
lose faith and trust...

A scripture I've grown increasingly familiar with through this grief process is John 10:10 (NLT), which reads, "The thief's purpose is steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." Even during the process of delivering my dying child -- in those dark moments growing progressively darker -- I knew without question that the theft of baby's life and potential was without question the work of the wicked one. I never once cried out to God, asking "Why are you doing this to me?" I knew who instigated all the pain. Acknowledging that knowledge sort of became something I could tick off my spiritual checklist.

That knowledge having been managed -- that instigator awareness -- caused me to leave it behind and completely ignore the fact that the theft was not a singular event. Our experience wasn't just an experience. A door wasn't just opened and then shut. Instead, the robbery continues, and I am still held captive. Daily, we are robbed of something, of many things. As a family, we struggle to celebrate with those around us. The things we were once good at have become incapabilities. Even sleep can be torturous, as beautiful, unattainable dreams come one night, followed by gory, horrible dreams on another. Additionally, we are left without choices, meaning it's impossible for us when people dismissively say, "Eh, you're young. Just try again." We've tried for years with heartbreak and torment as our offspring.

Today, I was reminded that the enemy still lingers, picking the pockets of my heart. He lingers because I let him, holds me captive because I won't stand up for myself and move forward in a positive way. But what's a tortured girl to do? Follow along the course of a murderer, that's what.

The Apostle Paul, while he was Saul of Tarsus, was a very religious Jew who made practice of murdering Christians because he thought what they preached was heretical. Then, along a road to Damascus, he had a vision of a resurrected Jesus and experienced both an external and internal transformation. According to Wikipedia, "Paul's influence on Christian thinking arguably has been more significant than any other New Testament author... [as] fourteen epistles in the New Testament are traditionally attributed to [him]." Paul had a tremendous Christian ministry as he walked the earth, but frequently alluded to his own personal struggles (thorns and whatnot). Paul was very aware of what it meant to live a tortured life, and experienced more torment than I ever want to personally know. This is what he had to say:

"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,
but I focus on this one thing:
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I press on to reach the end of the race
and receive the heavenly prize for which God,
through Christ Jesus, is calling us."
Phil. 3:13-14

I've thought about this, wondering how in the world could I be expected to forget my child and the whole of that experience of losing him? How could I not remember him nearly constantly? That entire experience was indelible, incapable of being erased. I conceived in a miraculous way against all hope, I carried a baby through physical struggles and emotional stresses, and in the end, I was robbed of his life, my happiness, our hopes and dreams, and even more than I am capable of communicating. I could never forget all of that.

But to consider the word forget a little more, it doesn't just mean "be unable to recall," but rather, it also means "to neglect willfully; disregard or slight." Additionally, Paul mentioned having to "press on to reach the end of the race," meaning to push beyond the physical or emotional obstacles that would hold him back. The implication of a decision is clear in both regards. You know, I'm sure Paul could recall some poor decisions. Having participated in murderous behavior, I'm sure he was tortured with bad dreams. Experiencing persecution and imprisonment, I'm sure he struggled with emotions that could have easily overtaken the sensibilities. But Paul decided to deliberately forget and press on.

I don't think Paul at all suggested that he suddenly had a memory lapse and couldn't remember the sins or mistakes of his past. In fact, proof that Paul remembered his own experiences and "chains" is proved in his call for the church at Colossae to remember. "Here is my greeting in my own handwriting—Paul. Remember my chains. May God’s grace be with you." (Colossians 4:18) You see, it's not that he couldn't recall those issues of his past, but rather he chose to not let those things halt the call on his life. Paul decided, come what may, there was a race to be run, and nothing would hold him back.

I don't want anything to hold me back. I want to "press on," so maybe I too should "forget." Maybe I should choose to willfully neglect my losses and experiences so that they don't bind me in any one place, and so that they don't disable me further.

In saying that, I should be clear that I cannot and will not just deny the babies I carried. I do not intend to disregard, or not make note of, our dates. I will count the days of births and deaths, and I will recall my losses in that way. Additionally, I'm not proposing that I should pretend like nothing ever happened, because it has. I struggle with infertility, I have an incompetent cervix, and I struggle with some other issues that cause me to have a propensity to miscarriage. I have lost four babies. Regardless of whatever may come in our future, these experiences are a big part of who I am.

I think for me, the forgetting is the willful disregard of the everyday things and the struggle associated with those mundane moments. I'm referring to the "he should be crawling now, but he's not because he died" sort of constant recall, the ache within that bubbles to the surface at tax time, the tears that come when others complain that their babies are such inconveniences. It's that day-to-day sense of what's missing that I feel needs to be "forgotten" in the hopes of pressing on.

But I'm the mommy. If I don't remember, who will?
I know who will.

We had been originally told at one of many ultrasounds that Zachary was a girl. For weeks, we labored over the choice of a girl's name. When we finally decided on one (Keaton Rebecca), another ultrasound revealed an extra little part that meant our girl was a boy. For two weeks, we literally discussed every single boy's name known to the human race. We even tried on for size a couple we made up, all to no avail. As tragedy was upon us, we were still without a name.

James and I knew that the loss of our son would impact us greatly for the rest of our time on the Earth, but realistically, we knew those around us would move on, and maybe even forget he had ever lived. It broke our heart even more deeply to perceive that the day would come where our baby would be lucky to be a memory. In the delivery room, we knew we had to have something, and all of a sudden, there it was: a name we loved deliberately chosen based on its meaning. Zachary means, "Remembered by God," and regardless of what I do, it is He who will never forget.

"What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins?
Yet God does not forget a single one of them.
And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.
So don’t be afraid;
you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows."
Luke 12:6-7

"And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep [or a sparrow]!"
Matthew 12:12a

"Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!"
Isaiah 49:15


  • Anonymous

    I want to leave a comment when you talk about your baby boy. I guess I never know what to say. I believe his life has and will impact the lives of many people to come. Though having him in your arms would be better than anything. Amanda, you honor him by never forgetting him, and using this preciou life to teach me and others so many lessons. You true are an inspiration to me. Many blessings my sister...

  • Emily (Laundry and Lullabies)

    I really appreciated this post. Thank you for writing down your thoughts.

  • The Nester

    First, it's 9:38 and my 3 school aged boys are outside playing and I'm hoping I'm not gonna be arrested because I'm not homeschooling them this very minute.

    Second, because of the first thing, I did not have time to read your entire post but, our church recently did the house of blues thing too! Now, off to win some chocolate!

  • The Nester

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • The Nester

    Double post sorry. I am a paranoid idiot.

  • The Nester

    Okay, now, I did read your post and it was so real and vunerable and true and genuine that my stupid comment shows that I truly hardly read anything.

    I went back and read your profile or whatever on your sidebar and immediately knew that you experienced something during the house of blues because, like many of us, you have unwillingly lived in the the house of blues. Does that make sense?

    So, after reading your post, your honesty, your humanity, your beauty, your sense of self and who you are in Christ and also as a mother, it has made me long for a friend like you. Thank you for sharing. Of course, I wish I had really wonderful, encouraging words to say that would take all of that away. But, I don't.

    However, I do wish that you lived next door to me. And we could laugh and cry and have dinners together and go yard saleing. How I long for friendships with people who are real. People like you.

    Thank you, Amanda.

  • Amy

    Good insights. You are a brave, brave girl... for so many reasons.

    These post from strangers are so cool, and feel so lucky that I do get to have dinners and coffee and long talks with you.

  • taralynn819

    Sovereignty is something that despairs me and brings me hope at the same time. A lot of people say that God causes pain and sorrow in life in order to turn evil into good, and while that's true, it's still difficult to leave the question in mystery. Faith is stinkin' hard.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. I needed to read that. Dealing with the forgetting part is a struggle for so many, but really seems to be applicable for me right now. Thank you for your openness and transparency.

  • Kelly

    Wow. Thank you sharing your heartache.

  • amy

    Your honesty & transparency is refreshing, as usual. I'm blessed to call you my friend. You have touched so many people in the midst of your struggles. I pray that you will be able to "forget". Not that the memory of Zachary and your other babies will become distant, but that you will indeed press on toward the calling that God has on your life. You are right - Zachary will never be truly forgotten - by you, by God, by me.

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