A big welcome to Rebekah Domer, whom I’ve invited to be “guest blogger” this week. Rebekah shares a poignant story of how unimaginable grief can become a kind of victory when seen through the trusting eyes of love and from the perspective of eternity. Thank you, Rebekah, for sharing this personal story with us. Our prayers are with your friend and her family.
By Rebekah Domer
When my friend Magdalena’s third son was born, he looked entirely perfect. Each tiny finger and toe was perfectly formed. He resembled his older brother Russell, Magda recalls, with a broad chest and tiny muscles on his arms. He even had his dad’s dimple on his chin. But no life coursed through this tiny body. His soul had already departed; his body remained – the only vestige of God’s creative love. Thus, at what should have been a momentously joyous occasion of birth, Magda was overcome with grief.
Happily pregnant after a heartbreaking miscarriage, Magda was thrilled when early scans showed that her baby was developing normally; his heart was perfectly formed, as were all his other major organs. Now, twenty-four weeks into her pregnancy, Magda began the countdown to her baby’s arrival early in the new year. But in late October Magda felt a dark sense of foreboding. For two weeks her baby had been unusually quiet in the womb, and during the past days there had been no movement at all.
Mommy felt your last little kicks on Saturday evening, October 31. Our family had gathered with fellow community members to sing Christmas carols. Those last precious kicks you gave me, Benjamin, were a real farewell – a moment I’ll never forget.
Magda knew deep in her heart that her baby’s soul had departed. With her husband Ben, she turned to God in prayer, seeking peace in His will. “We made a conscious decision to accept what was happening as part of God’s bigger plan. Rather than casting blame – on medical negligence or on God – we chose to trust our heavenly father. In acceptance we found the peace that passes human understanding.”
Rather than casting blame on medical negligence or on God, we chose to trust our heavenly father.
On Monday morning, Ben and Magda sadly drove to the local hospital where scans confirmed that their baby had died. The pain of grief was indescribable. Magda recounts, “Even if you have peace, you’re still going to grieve. You wouldn’t believe the intensity of the bond between a mother and her child. It is there from very, very early on – an incredibly deep bond.”
As Ben and Magda awaited the birth of their baby, church members surrounded them with love borne of faith in God’s unfathomable wisdom. While Magda was in labor, Handel’s “Messiah” played softly in the background. The pastor’s wife sat at her side offering comfort and support while their church met to pray and sing.
Benjamin was born, a complete and perfect boy, just as the recording of the Messiah proclaimed, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ!” Magda remembers, “Remarkable as it may seem, that’s really what we felt when Benjamin was born; even though it was intensely painful, his birth was, somehow, a victory.”
Magda believes that her son Benjamin was sent as an emissary of peace. Hearing that Magda’s baby had died and that she was delivering the tiny dead body brought the community to an abrupt standstill. Rallying to support Ben and Magda, the congregation was drawn into an experience of God that lifted them out of themselves. A deep awe and peace descended on the community as they sought to comprehend God’s mysterious working through this little child. Crying out against the loss of her son with every fiber of her being, Magda nonetheless knew that God’s purpose had been fulfilled; her baby had brought the church peace.
Peace is an admirable quality in our world, oft-equated with historical giants like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi. But anyone can be a maker of peace.
Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Each of us encounters situations in life that threaten our peace of heart. For one it may be a stillbirth, for another the loss of a spouse or close friend. Or, perhaps, you’ve just received a difficult diagnosis. The key lies in our response to the challenges that confront us throughout life: will we embrace God’s will, making it our own with peace and serenity, or will we resist?
Elisabeth Elliot, reflecting on the riddle of human suffering after her husband Jim was killed attempting to evangelize the indigenous people of Ecuador, contemplates “the thought of the Lord in Gethsemane. He too knew fear and weakness, but his ‘not my will’ was an act of total self-surrender.” Elliott suggests that we too must “abandon ourselves entirely to the will of the Father and live… in this spirit of self-abandonment to God” if we would know the peace Christ offers.
For reasons we may never comprehend this side of eternity, God chose baby Benjamin to be a peacemaker. For his mother Magda, peace came only through the acceptance of God’s working in her – and her baby’s – life. It is never easy to relinquish our dreams for health and happiness. But God’s ways are, truly, very often not our ways. We may struggle to see the hand of God in seemingly tragic circumstances, but we only see the earthly side of the tapestry God is weaving.
In her grief at the loss of her husband, Elliot was comforted by a scriptural passage which teaches that our earthly troubles are winning for us an eternal reward (2 Cor. 4:17–18). She realized her need to “start concentrating on the invisible for a change.… There was eternity to consider. Here was a chance to choose happiness and peace. They were not something that merely ‘happened’ to me.… They were given in proportion as I chose to view my sorrow in the light of the intransitory and invisible.”
Will we embrace God’s will, making it our own with peace and serenity, or will we resist?
Magda still mourns the loss of her baby Benjamin. But in longing for her son, her heart is drawn, as if by an invisible magnet, heavenward – to the day when all separation will be overcome. In her book, Keep a Quiet Heart, Elliot describes the powerfully creative potential of loss when she writes, “Heaven is not here, it’s there. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to himself and his still invisible kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.”
There are millions who, like Elisabeth and Magda, have been touched by the raw pain of loss. But our sorrow is not in vain, for the souls of our loved ones bind us to eternity. And when, in stillness and silence, we draw near to God, we are caressed by God’s peace, like the gentle brush of angel wings.
Rebekah Domer blogs at www.bruderhof.com