I am a writer at heart, but I haven’t been sharing much of it over the past year, so I’ve got a few things stored up.
The following is something I wrote last summer describing how God met me during the tumultuous time surrounding the birth of my son.
“But I trust in you, O Lord. I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” –Psalm 31:14-15b
We had just announced our pregnancy to friends and family when Ben got the veterinary school acceptance letter that sent us Land of Lincoln natives packing for Minnesota. I was about to turn twenty-seven and was in the final month of my pregnancy when we headed for the North Star State, but headed where exactly, we weren’t quite sure. Because of some major snags in our search for housing, relocating was a long, stressful process, one that involved us, and all of our belongings, packed inside Ben’s parents’ house for several weeks, then living in the condo of an old friend from camp for a weekend-turned-three-weeks so I could be in Minnesota to start seeing my new midwife, all the while never knowing when, or whether, God would finally allow our housing plans to go through. Ben’s first day of vet school arrived, and we still had no home. Eventually, with just days until my due date, we ended up in a hotel room with my in-laws, who had driven a trailer full of our belongings eight hours north for a promised house closing that once again fell through. At least our aquatic turtle Leo got to live it up in a hotel room, something he can definitely brag about to all his friends.
Throughout this anxiety-provoking season, I tried my best to cling to God and to trust in his provision, and the threat of a stress-induced labor when we had no home to bring a baby back to was a good motivation to stay calm. As much as I was constantly cringing at the thought of imposing on people and, like most people, I don’t enjoy not knowing the future, especially such major aspects of my immediate future, I knew God would be faithful to provide for us in some way or another. It was probably the first time in my life that I regularly thought about the nativity story at a time other than Christmas, because remembering how God provided for another pregnant couple with no place to stay a couple thousand years ago was a comforting thought. (At least I didn’t have to ride through Iowa on a donkey…) I did have the occasional moment of distress, but I knew that God was in control and that he must be teaching us or testing us in some important way to allow us to be in that season of limbo and barely-supressed inner turmoil.
During those days, I frequently listened to music by one of my favorite bands, Needtobreathe, because the songs comforted me and encouraged my faith in God. One day, as I sat in my friend’s condo alone, mulling over possible reasons God might be allowing me to experience this crazy time of uncertainty, I heard these lyrics: “Let’s start over. Don’t be afraid, I won’t keep track. Let’s climb to the top. If you won’t look down, I won’t look back.” I knew God had long been calling me out of some of the valleys in my heart and into new heights of growth, and I sensed that I was about to enter a new season of my spiritual journey. I hoped desperately that he would free me from the things that have held me down, things like laziness, complacency, fear. In the words of that song, I heard him saying, “I won’t see your mistakes, only who you are becoming in Me, and I will get you there if you will just let go of control and trust me regardless of circumstances. I won’t let you down.” If enduring this season of uncertainty, so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, would usher me into that coveted place of victory over the things that have long tripped me up, I would take it. I could give Trust in exchange for Freedom. I was desperate enough that I could endure a tightrope walk (while pregnant!) without looking down if it would get me to the heights I longed for. How beautiful and terrifying it is when you finally come to the place where you’re more desperate for freedom than for safety.
I had told God I would trust him. Now, I’ve been following Jesus long enough to know that when you make a promise like that to God, he’s going to give you opportunities to make good on it (remember a couple posts ago when I talked about dangerous prayers?…) The first test of trust did eventually come to an end when we finally closed on our house (Hallelujah!). Nine days later, I gave birth to our first child, Elden Benjamin. He was amazing and wonderful, and church bells began to chime just outside our hospital room window soon after he was born. But when he began struggling to breathe and needed to be transferred to another hospital for an increased level of care, I was given another opportunity to live out the trust I had offered to God. I didn’t panic, in part because I was dazed from labor and lack of sleep and it all seemed a bit surreal, but there were a few moments when I had to think about the possibility that my son could die. When that thought entered my mind, I half-thought/half-prayed about what I would do if that happened and whether God was really going to allow that to happen. I was caught between two sides of a chasm in my mind. On one side, my knowledge of God’s goodness, that he has never wanted his children to die, and that he is powerful enough to intervene. On the other side stood the knowledge that death is now an inevitable reality for all of us, that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, that God often uses difficult things for good, and that it could be a witness to others if I could be faithful to God and trust him through tragedy. The latter thought was a big deal in my mind because being a strong witness for God to the people I love has always been one of my deepest desires. In that moment I remembered that I had prayed years ago that those I love would draw close to God, and I had told God then that if he only answered one prayer of mine I desperately wanted that to be the one. Now I was left to wonder if he might answer that prayer using tragedy. What if my son’s death could honor God more than his life?
All of that ran through my mind in a split second, and then the words that came to my mind next were not quite of myself. As if both a response from God and a commitment from myself, I found myself thinking, “I’ll still call you Father. I’ll still call you Lord. I’ll still sing your praise forever, no matter what life brings.” It was a song from my high school youth group days, one I hadn’t heard or thought about in years, written by a guy named Jon Klinepeter (who I found out later now lives in Minnesota, too). I knew that God had impressed it on my heart, and that he was giving me the strength I needed to trust him with my son’s life. I knew that I would not turn away from God even if he allowed my son to die, but I had peace from that moment, believing the doctors who told us that Baby Boy Wier, as he was still named at the time, would be okay, and holding it together with supernatural ease while my husband fought back tears. The Lord gave me his peace and comfort as I spent that first night alone in my hospital room without my baby or my husband, and he even blessed me with a full night of deep sleep, something I’m sure very few new mothers get, helping to prepare my mind and body for the coming days I would spend living in the NICU with Elden, which he was finally named.
Despite a few bumps in the road during the challenging week in the NICU, Elden recovered well and was released from the hospital one week later. He is now a perfectly healthy, incredibly happy eight-month-old, and I am beyond blessed. I know that God could have allowed my son to die, that he does not owe me or my son the life he has given, and that he still would have been good if he had taken it away. I’d like to think that I still would have honored him with the trust I promised him and tried to praise him through tragedy, but I am so thankful that I didn’t have to. Instead, he has used the experience to strengthen my appreciation for my son, increase my capacity to endure difficulties, and develop my compassion for families of hospitalized children and adults. He faithfully provided a beautiful home for us to live in and allowed Elden to wait until then to be born. He has provided for our medical bills. He even answered my prayer from early in pregnancy for a calm, easygoing baby, which definitely made the simultaneous transitions to parenthood and a new state easier to manage. These days, I am also seeing God make good on his end of our deal, not looking back to who I’ve been but ushering me forward into the freedom I had hoped for from the start.
So I won’t look down.