This last week was incredibly tough.
Thursday-Friday of last week my lovely bride Heidi and I suffered a painful blow to the heart through losing another child to miscarriage. This is our seventh child to bypass this world altogether. There are not many words to fill the holes, close the gaps and truly relieve the pain of such a personal loss.
As the father of ten children and two grandchildren, now with the loss of our seventh child on top of it all, one or two close friends of mine have asked me, “How do you do it? How do you keep going on with your vision for family after such a painful loss?”
And then it hit me.
My answer to that question is not very far off from how a young couple does facing a similar question when facing an unexpected pregnancy.
Our answer and their answer to “How do you dot it?” is exactly the same.
Our answer is HOPE.
Let me compare the two versions of HOPE by sharing a piece of Heidi’s and my personal story.
As a 19 year old kid in 1986, starting college, full of vigor, I mistakenly thought I was the ‘Cat’s meow’. Heidi, my girlfriend was a 17 year old woman in high school, full of academic potential and was also a literal knock-out. Together, we both lived life as if we were bullet-proof and enjoyed every moment we had together to the full. When I say full, I mean full – as in – sharing all of the benefits of a married relationship when we were not married.
So it should come as no surprise that after a few months of dating we ended up as a pregnant couple.
What made it work for us then (having our fist child and then starting a family) and the core reason we are still together today (almost 30 years later) is the HOPE we have in God and the HOPE we have in one another. Yes we fail and we fail a lot. Yes, it’s also true that I have blown it way many more times than Heidi. But in the end, we always have HOPE that whatever we are experiencing has a solid purpose and a core reason for our growth.
Fast forward that HOPE to today and the loss of our seventh child.
In a world consumed by selfishness – children – or the thoughts of bringing children into this world (dare I say) are mired, weighed down and frowned upon for a whole host of reasons that at their core stem from pure human selfishness. Topics such as world population, world economics, world resources, world this and world that reign supreme. We live in a world consumed by the world, and well, children (from a worldly view) may impact that world negatively.
What in the world? (Tongue in cheek)
Years ago, lead by a personal study Heidi was doing, we both came to a place and developed a vision of giving over our family size as our spiritual act of worship to God. We’d seen how we both treated the subject of birth control as a tool to simply meet our own selfish ends. While it would have been easy to look out at the world and say, “The world is so selfish, we’re going to do this act of worship to go against the grain.” No friends, it was only after a close study of our own behavior, our own actions that we were convicted of activity as a couple – just me and Heidi. At the conclusion of our self-reflection and prayer we came together ‘as one’ and we agreed one of the most intimate ways we could truly worship God is to present God ‘our family womb’ as true act of spiritual worship. So we gave him our family size right on the spot.
We’d seen in His word how time after time He opened and closed the wombs of Godly people following Him. So for us, if we as a couple were one in our thinking, “Why would He not do the same with us as obedient worshipers?” If God is real, why not worship Him really?
The very first time we became pregnant after making this decision we lost our first child. Young in faith, young in marriage I can truly say that loss was not a big blow like I’d imagined it would be. Painful yes, but just a small pain. Why? My take is that we were pregnant so shortly after and the joy of this new pregnancy consumed the pain of the first. Plus our hope was fresh. We’d seen God’s people have a great perspective on wins-vs-losses.
After losing ALL his children and ALL his property in an attack by Satan, we’d seen Job had a great perspective that gave us HOPE. “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:20-21 (ESV)
Yet the following verse in Job became our invisible family mantra deep down “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Job 1:22
Since 1996 we’ve been pregnant 15 times. Eight children are with us now and seven have gone on to be with God as His worshipers. We had victories and we have had loss. Through all of it, the vision Heidi and I share, to give over our womb as a spiritual act of worship, and regardless what WE WANT If God is God then He can do as He pleases with us and in the end, should we have a child born or one lost to miscarriage, we will not charge God with wrong.
This is our HOPE.
It’s no different then when a young couple faces an unexpected pregnancy.
Think about it.
When they have a vision built on HOPE, that their world can get better, that this life IS NOT as bad as what others are telling them – they will strive for a better outcome by accepting responsibility for their pregnancy, care for one another, care for their child – and quite possibly – care for starting a family together.
That is their HOPE.
Where do they get that HOPE? (The Sunday School answer is God) but the real answer is you and me.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, SO THAT we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)
Get it? You and I have HOPE because we’ve been delivered HOPE and it’s our job to keep delivering HOPE because they need HOPE.
Even though Heidi and I have tremendous pain in the loss of children to miscarriage, even though people let us down, even though this world is full of disappointment and tremendous suffering, YOU AND I MUST DELIVER HOPE if God is going to get GLORY and be made REAL and VIABLE to a desperate world in need.
For me and Heidi, we follow this simple biblical equation:
SUFFERING PRODUCES CHARACTER – CHARACTER PRODUCES HOPE – HOPE PRODUCES GLORY
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:1-11
This is how we as a couple have been comforted. How we have been given a vision of HOPE, and ‘come what may’ have purposefully decided as a couple to continually deliver HOPE to others in need. Our place to deliver that HOPE is with the 5M kids ages 15-24 who are facing unexpected pregnancy this year just like we did in 1986.
Think about it.
How can you deliver HOPE today?