an honest look at prayer and faith after child loss.
I cannot pray.
I don’t know how.
It’s not that I don’t want to, but words fail me. They come out muffled and fake. They are stale and regurgitated from the days of my youth.
I want to remember how to do this, but I cannot. I don’t know how to do it anymore. My faith life has been both simultaneously marred and made new.
I pled for the life of my daughter, and felt her body turn cold in my arms. I watched the life leave her eyes. Pupils large and lifeless. My child. Gone.
My mind cannot make peace with the trauma yet. It cannot be broken off. I have already lost so much. I have to walk through it. This is just the way it is.
And so, it takes time.
I sit in the silence and mourn another part of me that has changed. I feel as though I need to assure the good Christian folk that tell me they are praying for me, not to worry. It will come back. Believe it or not, I am no less fortunate than you.
I am not alone out here in the wilderness. I am refuelling. In the silence and as I ache.
I cannot pray, but I can believe. I cannot pray like I used to, but I can hold onto hope. I know deep down that the roots go deep.
My dreams and my innocence as a parent and a person were robbed from me. These hopes were completely and utterly struck down. My daughter was born and we watched her slowly lose her ability to live. We sat at her hospital bed, traumatized, helpless. She lost her dreams too. We came close to death too many times. We fought and fought and in the end we lost. It is not our fault. It is not God’s fault or his will. It is just a part of life. I will be the first to tell you that suffering is senseless and awful things happens for no reason.
Friends, I wade through this grief, and I am angry and yet I am at peace. I’m angry that this disease exists and that it struck our home.
I am still stunned that the story unfolded this way. I believe that God is good, but I believe that God can bear my silence. I believe he can settle into the weight of it. I am not angry with God. I love my God desperately but I have to find my way back to him.
I believe in a church that is filled with unsanitized stories and unhappy endings. I believe in a church that welcomes us back after years of inaccessibility. We couldn’t attend as a family because Florence was too weak to be constantly exposed to germs. So we didn’t attend at all.
In the wake of her death, we didn’t go back. We simply did not know how. We are just now relearning how to do this. How to place one foot in front of the other, and see the happy, shiny people that we once were. We can’t quite find our reflection in the church, but we will. Perhaps we will be the ones holding the mirror, one day.
When I was diagnosed with scoliosis in the prime of my teenage years, I firmly believed that God would…deliver me. I was expecting magic, a miracle, something different. I was not expecting a 12 hour surgery and the inability to bend my spine ever again. I was not expecting a lifetime of relearning and annoying pain.
When Florence was diagnosed, I saw the same battle before us, but this time, I was weak kneed and exasperated. But I prayed for Florence for years. I sang my heart out and leaned into my faith. I was anchored. We forged through. Both feet on the ground. Eyes on the prize. Until…until we felt the very God we were praying to, sit down beside us in the dirt. I stopped looking up and looked around at my life, my daughter, the uncertainty. And right there in the muck, I saw Jesus sitting with us. We finally accepted the “as is” garments we were given. They were coming apart at the seams. Everything we knew was unraveling and wholly imperfect.
Her death changed us. Everything froze and it is still moving slowly towards redemption. But, it is singed and frayed. Even a little bit blackened.
I open my mouth to pray, and my mouth fills with air.
I open my fridge door to cook dinner, and my hands stall.
I put the laundry into the dryer, and it sits there for ages.
Not right now.
One cannot speak into this gray unless they have walked this path. This territory is set before a few, and even then, they can only act as guides.
I must walk through my own grief.
One day, I believe my words and my prayers will carry a weight and an authority. I believe in walking alongside others in grief, even as I myself grieve. I believe in late night texts and “I can barely take this…” texts between others in the same boat as me. I believe in giving a piece of my heart to others.
I can hold my head up, I can give thanks, I can laugh, I can carry on. I can once again listen to hymns from days gone by.
Oh Lord, you’re beautiful. I can barely squeak the words out. But I sing until my voice gives way.
The prayers of the saints do a work that I cannot do.
They dig me out and cover me.
I will not fake my faith, nor will I fill my prayers with fluff.
I am content to wait here.
I am not afraid of these prayer-less mornings and quiet nights.
The wilderness calms me. God will not give up on me and I will not give up on Her.
Just as my relationship with my daughter has changed, so too has my relationship with my God.
A holy hush has come over me. I felt the weight of heaven bearing down on me the day she died. My heart saw what my words cannot express.
Writing these words has allowed the dust to settle.
I clear my throat.
Perhaps the prayers will come soon, craggy and thick with tension and emotion.
And I will let them come. As they are.
Matthew 11:28-30 The Voice (VOICE)
Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.