“The baby is dead.” The words permeated my heart like black ink poured into clear water. If ever there were two words that should never be joined together. But here they were side by side, suddenly and unexpectedly creating a harsh reality for me whether or not I would or could face it.
The wound of a loss plants pain into a deep place. Depth can easily hide something from sight and create a distance between experience and emotion. Perhaps this is the mercy of God woven into our fragile beings: that He would give us a resting place for pain too crushing to live with at the surface. But deep ground is also where soil is fertile and life can grow. God gives us the choice whether the seed of loss will find life or decay in the depths of our heart. This letter is my choice for life.
My son, Yehoshua Tsion (Joshua Zion), lived and died in the sacred and holy place of his mother’s womb. His body was at the same time perfectly formed and still unfinished. Tiny feet and hands were folded across a chest of soft tissue without skin or the supportive structure of bones. He was a picture of life begun and life ended – a picture that in a perfect world would be left unseen except by the gray images of an ultrasound machine.
How do you mourn a life not lived? This is the question that rolls incessantly across the window of my heart. It is the question that bores down through the hard surface and into the deep soil, into the place where the pain resides. Part of me knows that I don’t have to answer it or even ask it but somehow I need to do both, for truth buried cannot be known and truth unknown cannot set us free.
Perhaps I need to start with what my son’s life represents. How do I measure it, place it in the scales? By the number of days lived outside the womb? Zero. In the womb? One-hundred and fifteen — a mere sixteen and a half weeks. Either way it doesn’t amount to much. Maybe the fact that his life was miniscule in duration is reason enough to just leave the question alone. After all, something that never really existed can’t be lost and something that can’t be lost can’t be mourned over. But as I tie an intellectual bow on this reasoning, I come undone with the tears of my wife as she mourns the diapers she’ll never change, the post-nap hugs she’ll never enjoy and the brilliantly original toddler musings that will never hit her ears.
“He’s a person! My son!” The cry comes out from deep beneath the fallow topsoil as my own tears gush forth. As I sit holding his six-inch long body that weighs a mere three ounces, I can’t deny that something was lost here – something precious beyond the sum of years lived and accomplishments achieved.
Life is inestimable in value, invisible in substance and incalculable by human measurement. We treasure it in ourselves and guard it fiercely in those we love. And yet will we acknowledge that life itself is a gift from the Creator? It doesn’t belong to us any more than we generate our own breath or cause our own hearts to beat. There is only One who can claim ownership to Life and He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture is clear that all things were created by Him and for Him [Col. 1:16]. “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” [Rom. 11:36]. Every single one of us exists through Him [1 Cor. 8:6] including my son. If the Lord chose to give spirit to his body, He can also choose to return that spirit unto Himself. He is the Lord and to Him be all the glory and honor and praise.
We named our son Joshua Zion because in his name is the inspiration for the lives we will lead in his memory. In the Tanakh, Joshua prefigured Messiah and even shared His name. He was the captain of the armies of Israel and by faith and courage established his people in the Promised Land. Zion is a thread woven throughout scripture and points to the dwelling place of God, first in the natural and then in the spiritual. It is the place where Yahweh laid the cornerstone of Messiah and the place from which He establishes His kingdom without end. It is the glorious mountain above all mountains to which we come by faith in the blood of the Lamb (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1).
As much as I need to mourn a life not lived in my son Joshua, I grieve even more for a life “from Christ, to Christ and through Christ” that is lived on earth apart from Him. The Lord is so worthy of all the honor and glory I could ever give Him and this begins with a life of complete and total surrender to His lordship. In the past few months, God has been speaking to me a great deal about my position in Him – specifically, the extent to which I still sit on the throne of my heart. As I approach my fortieth birthday, I feel an upward call towards the heights of the Promised Land and a hunger to fully give back to Messiah the very life that He already has complete claim to. I long to enter His rest and prepare the way for my children to get there as well but He’s showing me that flesh cannot inherit the kingdom of God. There is no way to conquer the giants of the land in my own strength, knowledge and power. Nothing good dwells in me apart from Him. His word is crystal clear – my flesh must be crucified to make way for the life of God to flow through me. This is what it means to be “in Christ” and this is where I want to abide in and through His grace.
My son lived every day of his life in Christ and this is a great source of joy and inspiration to my heart. He is our seventh child and the Lord in His perfect wisdom decided that he would be brought to glory and enter His rest without a journey on this earth. He gets to skip the whole board and go directly to the finish line! I’m inspired to live as he did – in Christ and for His glory alone. There is no greater joy or satisfaction that I could ever find on earth apart from this.
Bless you, my son. I will run the race with vigor until that day when we meet at last in the presence of our loving God.