Why Did God Deny Us This Child?
August 28, 2005
Matthew Brucker, Lay Leader
Montgomery United Methodist Church
It is my annual opportunity during Pastor Tony’s much deserved vacation to speak with you all on a Sunday morning.
I am moved today to talk about what is on my heart this week personally as opposed to what the lectionary suggests we focus on. And, I am sorry to say, I stand before you today with a very heavy heart.
A few days ago, my wife Debra and I learned that the pregnancy we have been so excited about for a couple of months, a third child, ended with little fanfare as the life inside my wife simply stopped blossoming and unfurling.
This may be an unusual topic for a church sermon to address directly. Heck, it is a topic that most people just don’t talk about in general, they move on and “try again.” But I feel moved to share it as I think many of you will relate to it and it will get you thinking, whether you have had a miscarriage, or your daughter has, or even if you have similar questions about why a child, a parent, a best friend or a spouse has died when they did or in the manner that they did.
It was a shock to us when we went in for a sonogram and the technician said, after clicking at dark shapes on a computer screen, typing acronyms for 10 minutes, in a quiet, nervous voice “I am sorry, but there is no cardiovascular activity, and the measurements are the same as they were two weeks ago. Your baby stopped growing. You have miscarried. I wish I had better luck for you. The doctor will call you later today to talk about where we go from here.”
This had never happened to us before. We know many people who have miscarried, and we knew the statistics that one in five pregnancies miscarries in the first twelve weeks.
But each of our boys, Mac and Theo, had been relatively uneventful pregnancies, “normal” in the sense that there was heartburn, nausea, discomfort and rapid growth of the midsection that required several sets of different sized “preggy clothes.” J
We were in shock. We were depressed. We wondered if it was something that we had done, or not done, this time that was different with the boys. But within a day, I came to see it as a blessing from God. I made a lot of progress towards this conclusion when I had to sit and talk to the boys about what had happened.
We had just told them a week before the miscarriage about the pregnancy. They were very excited about the prospect of a new baby in mommy’s belly. Will it be a little girl finally, they asked.
I explained at length using various descriptive attempts that the baby that was in mom’s belly was no longer growing, and that a baby wouldn’t be coming out. At the end of this lengthy narrative, Theo, our four year old, had just one succinct question. “So, are you saying that the baby died?” Mac, the six year old, chimed in “Yep, sounds like it died.” Kids have a way of cutting to chase on things, even when their parents try to dance around the edges of a topic or problem, don’t they?
They then proceeded to ask why the baby had died. I explained to the best of my ability for a 6 and 4 year old audience that God had looked at the baby and decided that he didn’t think it was wise for the baby to keep growing. Maybe the baby was sick, I don’t know. But God decides, ultimately, what babies are miscarried, what babies are born, who is handicapped and who is not, how long we all live, and when we all die.
They both arrived at the conclusion, independent of any influence from Deb or me, that “we should be glad that God let us come out of Mom’s belly and that we didn’t die and that we got to be a family, right Dad?”
They accepted this explanation with just a few further challenges. It made sense to them that God, whom we thank everyday in our family for our food and giving us a beautiful day, controls everything. They often say “Mommy and Daddy are the bosses of our family, but God is the boss of everything.”
As Deb and I saw Theo and Mac accept this and to “give it up to God,” it brought us comfort and helped us to let go of questions like “Why did God deny us, good people, who did everything we could to be healthy during our pregnancy, this child?”
We received a number of emails and calls this week from friends and family whom we had told of our loss. I found it very interesting how many of these people said they would pray for us. Many talked about how “God works in mysterious ways.”
Most interesting to me was that a number of friends that are not regular church attendees, who may in fact challenge the concept of faith and God in general, typed unfamiliar words and sentiments that incorporated God, prayer, keeping faith, or “being in my thoughts.”
Just a personal aside, whenever somebody tells me that they are keeping me in their thoughts, I hear them saying “I am praying for you, but I don’t want to use the word prayer for fear of offending people, or admitting to myself that I pray.” Do you hear that too, or is it just me? I have worked hard in recent years to tell people straight up, even when I think that the words prayer or Christ or faith might make them uncomfortable, to tell them that prayer is happening and that it is deep and it is love and it is a blessed gift intended for them.
The night before the final sonogram confirmed our worst fears and led us to the hospital, I lay awake in bed drawing the sign of the cross with my pointer finger on my thumb, a touch prayer I often take comfort in. I was praying throughout the night, half asleep, “God, let our child be okay. Let us see her heartbeat and let the pregnancy proceed and let us see another blessed child born.”
The next day, after we had been smacked in the face with the diagnosis, we were driving home, stunned, and I said to Deb, “I was praying for the baby to be okay last night. I should have been praying for God to do his will, whatever it may be, as he knows best what “okay” means. I was prescribing the best solution, but I should have left it to God to decide that.”
God has a plan. We don’t always like it or think it is fair. We don’t always understand it. We don’t always believe it. But he does. Bad things happen. At least, things happen that we understandably as humans perceive as bad. And good people experience these challenges, are hurt by them and, in many cases, struggle for years with them.
But here is the Good News. Good people can find comfort in knowing that God is on their side. Even when we don’t see it, God is looking out for us. God has it under control.
A number of people that heard of the miscarriage replied quickly “What happened? Did Deb have a fall?” No, she didn’t have a fall. I don’t know what happened.
Did God take our little baby back to heaven before we met her because she was sick or had chromosomal indicators of genetic problems?
Did he take her back because he knew we would value the lives of our two beautiful boys even more deeply as parents?
Did it happen so that the next time we hear a couple mention they had a miscarriage, we would have a much more personal, deeper understanding of how painful this can be and reach out and hold them and minister to them?
Did he do it because he saw that we needed some of our friends to come back into our lives, to invite us back into their homes, to reconnect more deeply with us and to minister to us more actively?
The bottom line is - I do not know why it happened.
But I am comforted by the fact that God does. And that he loves us. And that he has made innumerable sacrifices to benefit us, and that in the end, he wants us to know him and to be loved by him and to come home to him.
I am still sad and freshly wounded as I stand before you this morning. It is still very hard for Deb and me to let go of the life that had thrilled us with its possibility and miraculous formation just days ago.
But I had to share this story with you today. You are my brothers and sisters. We are in this life together. Life and death, good times and challenging ones, we need each other.
Most importantly, I want you to know that despite our loss, I am full of excitement for today, as I get to see what it is that God has in store for our family. The Brucker family, the Montgomery United Methodist Church family, the human race.
Won’t you be excited with me?
Can we take just a moment of silence now to count our blessings and say in the silence of our minds “Thanks be to God.”
Thanks for listening today, and may peace be with you as you go out into the world this morning.
© 2005 Matthew Brucker