“Daddy! stop that computer work and come tickle me for the rest of my life!” When your four year-old daughter sits next to you and says that, you’re not going to accomplish much else…let alone taking time to get some blogging done! It’s probably not fair to blame our lack of recent writing entirely on Reide’s cuteness, but today I’m going to.
So where do I begin? In our last post, I shared how we are learning about grief during the holidays. Shortly after that we headed off to Memphis for the St. Jude Marathon event that Megan had been training for. We had such a good time being back on the campus of St Jude, catching up with friends and visiting with Bennett’s doctors and nurses. Megan and I were a little nervous heading there…wondering if being back would be difficult. We were both surprised when a clear sense of peace hit us as we walked back through those doors for the first time since Bennett passed away. As we stood in line getting the kids ice cream, Megan looked at me and said, “I’m so glad we are not fighting cancer. I love these people and pray God uses us to encourage those in this fight…but I’m so glad Bennett is not fighting anymore.” I know that so many of you were praying that the trip back would not be painful. So, thank you! God answered those prayers and met us there in a special way.
Of course the main reason we were there was for Megan and Team Bennett to run in the half marathon. Well…she didn’t run after all…at least not the half marathon. She was only able to run the 5K. The reason is that her training came to a screeching halt in November when she began to feel extremely nauseous each morning and tired all day long. What could cause that?
You guessed it. Megan’s pregnant! Many of you know already and we have been dragging our feet making the official announcement to the whole world because of the wave of emotions that have flooded our home. We are excited and always wanted more kids even before Bennett got sick. We know this fourth child has always been a part of God’s narrative for our life. But we also know how easy it will be for people to think of this child as a replacement of Bennett, or a gift back for the perceived injustice of having to lose a child. We don’t see it this way at all.
I was sharing this tension with a good friend the other day and without thinking, I said, “This baby is not a consolation prize.” As I walked away and got in my car, the old Christmas Hymn Come Thou Long Expected Jesus came on the radio. I was struck by a phrase in the song that described Jesus as “Israel’s strength and consolation.” I thought to myself, “Jesus is not a consolation prize either! That word must mean something different today then when this song was written.” The next time I had a chance to do some studying I found out that the word still means the same thing. We just use it wrong.
A consolation is a source or provider of comfort in the midst of deep pain or loss. That is exactly what Jesus is and this new baby is not. Jesus is both our strength and our consolation. It is in Him alone that we find strength and comfort in the midst of this deep pain we feel without Bennett here. We are offered so many insufficient sources of comfort in this world, and we are often too quick to accept them. Like a wounded warrior desperately needing even the slightest bit of medical attention, those that grieve long for hope and comfort. Many will accept only the numbing of the pain. But Jesus provides renewed strength and true consolation.
As I write this, it is also painfully obvious that today is the one year anniversary of us discovering the tumor on Bennett. It will be a very hard day. I have a sense that the need for Jesus to be our consolation is nowhere near over. I’m also aware that we are not alone. We are not alone in that many of you are leaning on Jesus for strength and consolation in this season as well. We are also not alone in that many of you are standing next to us through this. I was so touched by the number of people who texted me or stopped to speak to me yesterday at church…to care for me…and let us know that we were not forgotten. Some of you even knew already about today’s anniversary before I even said anything. It was comforting to see Jesus use His people to be strength and consolation for us. We desperately need it. Thank you.
So for now, we continue to live this week with the tension of joyful celebration and sorrow over loss. We celebrate the birth of the child that became our strength and consolation while continuing to grieve the loss of a child we loved and look forward to the new child to come in our family. Grief and gratitude can coexist…and will for a long while. But we are never without hope. And that’s what this season is all about!