She stood there in the circle of three women and said this . . .
“There’s nothing in this life like having a baby and having your baby have a baby.”
She said it to the woman standing beside me, about my age, readying herself for her first grandchild due to arrive the natural way the first week of December. I watched the other women smile and nod their heads. I smiled. But I did not nod my head. I couldn’t. Because I don’t know what they know. I stood in their circle but I was on the outside looking in, a spotted lamb, a lamb with defect. And I felt my heart drop into my stomach, turning it sour. Suddenly, in that moment, my hunger vanished. I had no appetite for the buffet lunch being spread on the counter.
How I fight not to let my soul turn sour with every reminder that I have walked through this life and will continue to walk to the end, spotted. My body has never conceived. I have never birthed. I have never held my firstborn or any-born-to-me in my arms. And there’s a strong possibility, that I will never be a grandmother. Please don’t misunderstand. I love all three of my children dearly, my little Russian gems now grown and one pretty near. Of course, no one but God knows the future, but becoming grandparents is a risky emotional investment, speaking in financial terms like my husband. And I’m not going to pretend.
Like Hannah in the Bible, I lament. I still lament when words like those spoken Sunday come gushing out and I find myself holding joy in one hand and grief in the other, feeling both simultaneously, as I do so many times in circles of women who cannot understand. And I certainly don’t want anyone to change because they’re afraid of how I might feel. It is what it is. Might as well admit it and get on with life, dealing with my spots in a way that GIVES life instead of STEALING life, yes? THEY don’t hurt me, the women or their children or their grandchildren. LOSS hurts. Being spotted hurts.
So how do I cope with the nearly overwhelming sense of isolation I feel when women so readily identify themselves by their children born to them and their grandchildren born to their children?
How do any of us deal with hopes lost, always staring us in the face at every turn, always threatening, sometimes delivering? And there’s a whole lot more to lose in life besides life itself. Consider the loss of just a handful of folks I know . . .
Loss of health? One has a chronic disease—a body broken, not working the way it was designed. She’s gorgeous, inside and out, and yet she wears this invisible bag—her constant companion. Who would know?
Loss of mind? She walked into the building last night, singing so loudly it scared me. And it was kind of funny at the same time and I tried really hard not to laugh, because it’s not funny. And everyone in the room knew what I hadn’t yet learned. Something was horribly wrong . . .
Loss of a mate? She didn’t know she was pregnant with her first when she received the news that her young husband and his father were incinerated in the nightmarish pile-up on I-43 when fog caused dozens of cars to collide with a gas tanker semi, causing a conflagration that melted the pavement just west of our home, killing numerous locals instantly. One boy lost his father in that accident, after losing his mother to cancer months before.
Loss of a mother, twice? She scooped him up in her arms and out of a Cambodian orphanage. She raised him with love and held onto an excruciating life withering away from cancer spread everywhere—until this week when she raised her arms and let go, leaving her adopted son in the arms of Christ here while she was swept into the arms of Christ there. He’s still a teenager. She’s at peace there, where there are no more tears. He’s at peace here, where he and we still cry.
Loss of a relative? A relative/friend and her relative supporters judged one as judgmental when one was only trying to live according to conscience, giving others the freedom to do the same. Message given? Don’t break family rules because family rules—not God—even when their tongues profess.
Loss of a husband, thrice? How does one of the most tender, loving, sacrificial women I know strike out with three men who can’t love—who don’t know how to love—who hurt over-and-over—always taking, never giving? What does such loss do to the heart, mind, soul, and body of a woman never loved, truly?
Loss of child to disease—or accident—or suicide? Right here, right in our small country community, right in our son’s tiny high school—a boy pulled out a 22 last week and shot himself in the head, right in front of his mother. I saw his picture in the yearbook. You would never expect. No one ever expected. Today, he’s at Children’s Hospital in a coma, the bullet still lodged in his frontal lobe.
Loss of a young girl and her father on the same day? Two loved ones on the same pond, not frozen enough to bear their weight with skates. And the other daughter, the one watching—the one who now plays piano in our small country church—she ran. And she ran onto the road trying to flag down a car. But they were gone—gone down and drowned.
Another man and his eight-year-old daughter in a car crumpled. He survived. She died. And the mother’s lament went on and on, bottle after bottle, until she was delivered from it all . . .
All the loss.
Loss. Loss. Loss.
Loss marks life, spotting and staining. And we want to look the other way, don’t we? We want to make it all go away so we don’t have to look or deal with the pain of stain, don’t we? And I can hear the mocking of the thief, laughing loud in my mind . . .
“And you STILL believe? You STILL hold on to that GOD of yours who CAUSES all this and says He is loving?”
Right then, my tears burn mad.
I feel fire in my belly and I flame it out loud like a dragon in my car where no one else can hear and I probably look crazy to those who pass by. But I don’t care. And I’m not even trying to be courteous in this courtroom of cunning accusations telling me I’m unloved or insinuating that my God is not loving enough because if God were good He would just DO something to FIX all this and it’s all HIS fault anyway because if He really, truly loved as He says He does, He wouldn’t allow this and that and every lousy thing that happens here.
So I spit back hell.
I spit in his face as I thunder these words—my diatribe to the diabolical . . .
Stop right there! Shut your mouth, in the name of Jesus—you who inserts false words into your chain of half-truths, enticing me to eat and be strangled! You will not pass off lies as truth in THIS mind and I will pray you away in the minds and hearts of all whom you are intent on destroying. Which is everyone and everything. Because that’s what YOU do! YOU are THE THIEF—and THE LIAR—and THE MURDERER! And YES, I STILL believe in THE ONE, TRUE GOD—THE WAY—THE TRUTH—THE LIFE—who has NEVER, EVER “CAUSED” any of this spotted, stained reality we grieve in this glorious life!
And you know what else? YOU are a loser. You are losing ground, every day, every time I pray and persevere by God’s grace—by GOD’s mighty hand who saves and strengthens. And guess how He does that? Well then, YOU already know! But I’m going to tell you again just to remind you that I ALREADY KNOW—and I’M NOT LETTING GO! Yeah, I’m stubborn. Yeah, I’m passionate. Yeah, I wail and I wrestle and I HATE all the PAIN and I HATE all the LOSS and I let myself CRY me a river because that’s how fearfully and wonderful made I am, by God’s hand. And I will NOT allow you to speak through any human mouth, tearing me down, ripping me apart. Let me tell YOU something! Let me tell YOU about who you and I both KNOW . . .
The Spotless Lamb.
He became spotted for me, for the bag-lady, for the widow, for the orphan, for the childless, for the rich who are poor WITHOUT Him, for the poor who are rich WITH Him, for the living, for the dead, for everything YOU have spotted, trying to blot HIM out of our minds and hearts and souls.
The Spotless Lamb who laid down His life to conquer YOU and all YOU cause. Yes, HE allows YOU to do your dirty work. Know why? To prove even more to US that HE has power—that HE reigns over all—even YOU and your minions—that HE does and will use everything YOU spot and stain for HIS perfect purposes, like it or not.
That Spotless Lamb? His name is Jesus! And you KNOW it—you KNOW Him! You KNOW your time is short because HE has told you so. He’s coming again and you KNOW it. He’s coming again, not as a lamb, but as a lion—King of Kings—Lord of Lords—and EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that JESUS CHRIST is LORD, to the glory of God the Father—MY Father! And you know exactly where I pulled this truth—Philippians 2:10-11—and I will continue to fight you with this sword of truth till the day I die and am face-to-face with my LORD.
So yeah, we’re all spotted.
And yeah, we all live each day with our own spots.
And yeah, they’re not so pretty.
And yeah, they’re downright ugly.
And yeah, they hurt us horribly.
But guess what? Get THIS . . .
My God gave me two trees standing in the yard He also gave me—two Norway maples. They’re not the prize sugar maples like the ones lining the drive down the road that make everyone sigh at their beauty.
These Norway maples have golden leaves with big, black spots on each one. Each and every one! The whole lot of them are spotted with some sort of fungus. But the arborist told me it’s common for these trees—this fungus. He told me not to worry because the spots won’t kill the trees. They’re still rooted and strong in HIS earth HE made, you see! They still provide shelter for the birds and shade for the humans. They house new life every spring. They lay down every single leaf every fall, as He calls them to do. And they rest, rooted in the spot of ground they were given. You see, they keep going. They keep persevering, as long as their Maker gives them life and strength.
And here’s the kicker . . .
I am worth far more than those trees, spotted as I am. I may bear the stain of imperfection here. But one day, BECAUSE of the SPOTLESS LAMB, every stain will disappear—every spot will be removed—every tear will be wiped away by HIS own hand. And every THING—everyONE—will become as He intends.
Well, we know your fate, don’t we?
So, yeah—today I’m going to wear my red-spotted sweater to remind me of the Spotless One who took all my stain and has overruled you in the Highest Court. And the Almighty reminds me that since HE is FOR me, no one can stand AGAINST me. You may WIN some battles but you have already LOST the war!
Now, what do you have to say?
Sure, you’re never at a loss for words.
But guess what.
My Spotless Lamb?
He has the last word . . .
The FINAL SAY . . .
He has marked me for good—and all who hope in HIM alone.
I do believe God birthed something in me even better than a baby.
I do believe.
As it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has CONCEIVED what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. (I Corinthians 2:9-10). Be still, my soul. And rejoice greatly! (Emphasis on the word “conceived” is mine!)
For all who lament, be comforted, finding joy to ease your sorrows with this truth—this true hope:
So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him . . . Lamentation 3:18-25