This post might be a little crazy. I'm just warning you now. :) I have a lot on my heart.
First off, it's Easter. Happy Easter! Because of what this holiday celebrates, I get to see my Jesus and my Caroline in Heaven someday. What an amazing blessing. Sometimes, when I truly think about it, it just blows my mind. I am so grateful. Not as much as I should be, and not as often as I should, but I am grateful.
Two days ago, on Good Friday, Cameron and I were involved in a simulcast of David Platt's "Secret Church." If you've never been involved in this, or heard of it, you're missing out. Here's the background: David Platt, a pastor of a church in Alabama (who wrote a very cool book called Radical), went on a mission trip to Asia. The Church there in Asia is highly persecuted, as I'm sure many of you know. It's illegal in China to meet publicly with other Christians. People risk their very lives to meet together. It's incredible. Anyway, David Platt went to Asia. He was invited to speak at a secret gathering of the saints in Asia. He was told to wear a hooded sweatshirt, with the hood up, and to look down, all so no could see him. They went through a million precautions just to get him to the meeting site, which was a run down building with one lightbulb hanging from the ceiling as the only light, no sound system, no air conditioning, no chairs to sit in, nothing. And it was packed. The people there are so hungry for the Word. They brought him there the first day, and he was supposed to preach for 3 hours. He ended up preaching for 6 hours. They begged him to come back the next day and preach longer. So he did. From before dawn to long after dark. He did that for days and weeks. And people kept coming. Can you imagine that?
When he got back to the States, he wanted to see what would happen if he tried something like that here. He started with his own church in Birmingham, and people came, knowing he was going to teach for 6 hours. He's done it several times now (I think this one we went to was the 12th), and it's now simulcast all over the world. Our church took part in that simulcast, and that's what we went to do.
Before we went, I was debating whether I should go. I didn't think I could do 6 hours of Bible Study like that.
I was wrong.
It was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had. Guess what the topic of those 6 hours was. Just guess.
Suffering. Christ's suffering on the cross, and human suffering here on earth. An exhaustive study of suffering.
I'm still digesting everything I heard that night. I probably will be for a long while. It was that crazy. David Platt could be an auctioneer with as fast as he talks. And he still went over by 45 minutes. It was incredible. And I was glued the whole time. My mind didn't really wander, I was able to focus on what he was saying, and I was engaged by it. Incredible. I even cried a few times. He used a bunch of my "Caroline verses" and even ended with the hymn "It is Well With My Soul," which was my theme song from Caroline's diagnosis onward. I used that hymn in the email I sent out to friends and family to inform them about her diagnosis. I sang it the day her diagnosis was confirmed. I'm pretty sure God wanted to remind me that He's awesome and in control. 'Cause He's the only one cool enough and powerful enough to do this. I got goose bumps a lot. God was working, and still is.
I want to share a couple things that I have been reminded of or that God taught me through all of this. If I can find the words. I feel like anything I say will be so completely insignificant and unworthy. But I will do my best.
Most importantly, I want to start out by saying "It's worth it." It's worth it to have lost my daughter for the time I have on earth to see the eternal reward and eternal reverberations of her life. She was used by God to change my life. Not just change it, but to completely tear down walls I had erected, to break through chains I was bound in, and to change my entire perspective on life, heaven, and my walk with the Lord. I cannot even begin to describe to you how grateful I am to have suffered so that I could say "to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Yes, I said I was grateful to have suffered. You may think that's a weird way to look at things, but it shouldn't be. How many Scriptures say we should rejoice in our sufferings? How many times did the early church lose EVERYTHING, only to gain eternity? How many times have we seen suffering produce amazing things? Not just in our own lives, but in others' lives, and for years to come? The man who wrote "It is Well With My Soul" was Horatio Spafford. He wrote it after losing four daughters to drowning. He suffered, and God used him to write this hymn, which in turn has incredibly impacted who knows how many people. Myself included. This has been my heart's cry for months.
God is amazing.
It is SO WORTH IT. I prayed from day one that God would give me the grace to suffer well, and that He would be glorified in it all. I still hope and pray that He has been glorified. I still desire more than anything that my Christ would be lifted up. He used this "Secret Church" to really grab my attention back and to make sure the lessons I learned with Caroline were cemented in my heart and mind. I am once again blown away by God's magnificence.
One of the main things David Platt emphasized during his teaching was that God is Sovereign. Absolutely and completely Sovereign. Nothing that happens surprises God. In fact, He plans it all out ahead of time. God knew before I was even born that someday I would bear a child that I would lose. He knew before Cameron was born that he would have to be the father of a child he would never get to hold alive. And he blessed it. He knew that through our suffering, we would grow. We would honor Him. We would show others His grace. And He knows that in the future, whatever happens as a result will influence others. At least I hope He will continue to use our story. I hope we are worthy of that calling. We are far from perfect, but we want to be willing.
I've mentioned many times that part of what has gotten me through this is having an eternal perspective. It's still what makes this bearable almost four months after she was born. In fact, when I think about Caroline, I am no longer very sad about her. I rejoice that she's in Heaven. I rejoice that God has used her to glorify himself in so many ways. I still miss her, and the separation still hurts, and it's still hard some days. But it feels petty to cry. It feels petty to be sad. God has done and is doing and will do in the future amazing things because I suffered through carrying her, knowing I would lose her. I rejoice that God decided to honor me by taking my child. That He thought me worthy of such a calling. That He gave me His special grace and peace throughout, to teach me and others. He chose me to bear the burden so that He could be glorified. I am thrown prostrate before Him in awe of His goodness to me by giving me Caroline.
Do I sound crazy? Good.
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? ...but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him...
...Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight." 1 Corinthians 1:18-20, 23-29, 3:18-19a
I would rather be thought crazy, foolish, and an idiot by the world, and be right in the Lord's sight, than to be normal to the world. I am not of this world. My old self is dead. DEAD. I am now alive IN CHRIST, and so I take on His character as much as I can. The world thought He was crazy too. Why would they think me any different?
IT'S WORTH IT.
Cameron has been reading David Platt's book Radical for several weeks now. I've been listening to bits and pieces of what Cameron has gleaned from that book, but God has also been working on me individually. We've both decided that we want to live more simply. We want to do more good with our lives and resources than we are now. We've made a few changes.
We canceled our cable. It's mostly junk and wastes too much time and money. TV isn't evil. We still watch tv. But we don't need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to be numbed by entertainment for too many hours a day.
We've given up drinking soft drinks so we can use the money to donate to organizations that give clean water to people who don't have it, like in Africa and Asia.
And we've started eating a poverty meal every Tuesday night. I did some research and came up with meals representative of common food in impoverished places. This month, April, we're focusing on North Africa and are therefore eating couscous and lentils. As we eat it, we are reminded both of our blessings, and of others' poverty. We pray for the people our meal represents, like the people in North Africa. Each month will be a different region. (If you're interested in what I actually make, you can check it out here)
We want our time and money to go toward worthwhile things, not just toward our own selfish enjoyment. These are decisions we've made because God has pricked our hearts. We asked ourselves, "Is Christ worth abandoning everything for?" (which is the question David Platt asks in his book). God didn't send us Caroline just so we could soak up His goodness through the pain. He sent her to us to teach us, to touch us, so we could then go out and touch others.
And IT WAS WORTH IT.
I know I've written an entirely too long blog post. But I could still go on and on about this subject. I might have to write another post someday about what else God is doing. Suffice it to say, He is ripping off my calluses, He is ripping the scales from my eyes, and He is graciously allowing me to see more clearly who He is, and what He wants from me while I'm still here on earth. To live is Christ, and to die is gain. I lose my life so that I can find it. I am struggling to make sense of God's wisdom because I am a foolish earthling. The more I put off the trappings of this world, the more God is opening my eyes and heart to Him. The more I suffer, the more blessed I feel. The more I suffer, the more God teaches me. The more I suffer, the more the gates of Hades are thwarted. The more I suffer, the more people are brought to the saving light of Jesus.
How could I not say that it is worth it? Oh, that I would be blessed with more suffering for my Lord, so that He can do more work through me. Oh, that I would suffer more so I can learn to suffer well so I can show the glory and majesty of my Risen Lord.
It is worth it. It is so worth it.