Celebration and Sorrow

Over the past couple of months, I had three different Jesus loving women invite me onto their prayer team during their pregnancies. I love praying, and I love all of these women and their families, and it was a privilege to be asked, particularly by the friend who specifically asked me to be her prayer person during labor. I spent an embarrassingly long time figuring out which app we could use for her to get through my Do Not Disturb settings in case she went into labor in the New Zealand night time. This Thursday morning though I got the text that she was having contractions and was able to pray through my day until I heard the wonderful news that night that her baby girl had arrived healthy and breathing.

The other two pregnancies were both high risk, and I heard on Friday and Saturday morning from each of the women that they’d delivered stillborn babies.

My grief for both of those families is heavy; my joy for my other friend is still great.

The week that Bryce died, I had another student who I’m really close to who hadn’t yet heard the news tell me he was struggling with sadness and finding it hard to be happy for others. I told him to put their joy in one hand and his own grief in the other to share with people later rather than to dismiss or ignore his own emotions. Soon after he heard about Bryce, he texted me that he understood how I was able to give him that advice about honouring his own emotions. Anecdotally, I think I’ve had a bit more practice than most with handling hard stuff and amazingly good things side by side. Like the fact that I only ended up connected with RCC for my sabbatical year because the nearly one hundred other places where I enquired weren’t able to take me.

One of my favourite obvious ones is my precious child Isabel. She’s married to a former student of mine, and I’ve adopted her as one of my children. She texted me this week about this crazy wild prayer journey she’s beginning with the Holy Spirit, and in her message admitted, “It may sound like crazy person talk which is why I went to my crazy mentor.” I couldn’t help but laugh because her message came when I was writing a youth group talk about how only crazy people say they’ve heard from God – you know like Abraham and me. But the reason Isabel comes with this two handed thing is because I only have her in my life due to a kind act years ago by the person who has hurt me most. This family friend of hers is responsible for her husband even meeting her and was actually in a group with me live streaming Isabel’s wedding ceremony just over three years ago. Which happens to be the night I felt like God told me this dude was supposed to be a part of my healing story. Which was just days before that very individual told me God was punishing me with a disability and that I wouldn’t be healed until I learned my lesson about suffering and lamentation. Isabel is quite inextricable from my life now, and I’m eternally grateful that God used this precious child to call me out for my own rude comments towards this other person in the height of my hurt after that troubling interaction. She knows all the details of this, and we celebrate how God wrote this wild story to bring us together.

When I called her a couple of weeks ago, we reflected on how I wanted a story that wrapped up my disability before leaving Germany but that I knew God was still at work in my body. I don’t know what the deal is with this long route towards physical healing, but I know I’ve seen blessings as the body of Christ has come around to support me in my transition to Christchurch despite the complications of my wheelchair. My youth leader team has now joined the prayer journey as I’ve promised to single handedly do chair set up on Friday nights as soon as I can miraculously walk again, and while we all got a good laugh out of the motivation, I know this group is keen to see God show up in my life this way and to be a part of the journey in praying for me. While other people might consider it suffering to have the sole responsibility to set up half the chairs in the auditorium after youth group, I cannot tell you what a joy that will be for me to do. Jakob said he’d pray for me every day this week, but even as we laughed about his prayer duty, he was up front that it was God’s job to do the healing. I’m so grateful for the team I work with who know they are invited into this prayer opportunity not to be any magic makers, but to participate in the active work of God in the world.

My prayers for each of those babies born this week mattered – even if I don’t understand why I won’t get to watch two of them grow up. I was invited into something important and beautiful as I prayed for these tiny ones. I believe in a God who meets me and my friends in our grief, who mourns with those who mourn, and who will not dismiss our pain when we encounter grief in this broken world.

In the same way, every prayer for my miraculous healing during the past nine plus years has mattered, and I won’t stop asking for more until we can celebrate the day that I’m able to set up all the chairs in church on my own. Not gonna lie, I’ll be sad if I can’t do it this Friday, and that’s okay; I’ll have another hand free for the joy of a youth leader team who do it consistently without complaining.

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