She lost her baby that fall. It was early in the pregnancy, but there had already been celebrations and joy at the positive test.
Then there was blood and aching and sorrows that sliced them open.
Our baby came two months later, the little girl we were planning to adopt. And it was too early. Way too early. I sat in a NICU holding her impossibly small hand and praying with all my tears squeezed so tight inside me, I could barely breathe.
Twelve days of crazy hopes that crashed and shattered at our feet.
Impossibly small babies can’t fight infections that race through their bloodstreams into their brains. Instead of bringing home our little Annie, we said distant goodbyes to the baby we never could claim completely because the paperwork never finalized.
Winter came and swirled snow across the farm and one day she showed up for a visit, this friend who knew all about goodbyes that come too early.
My ten-year-old daughter, the one God brought home all the way from Guatemala, and my friend’s two-year-old son, played and ran around the kitchen as their mamas sat and cried over the little girls who never came home.
We drank coffee from flowered mugs and the framed picture of Annie’s handprints sat on the table between us. They looked so small on the pink paper, so delicate and beautiful.
There is something breathtaking about the table of suffering.
Jesus showed us this truth the night before He died, when He spoke words of a body, like bread, broken for us and blood spilled and the redemption that whispers of what C.S. Lewis once called “a deeper magic”. The kind where death is overcome by life.
There is a hope in suffering and it is wound up tight in who God is. The One who told us there is a fellowship of suffering that is linked right to the power of the resurrection. And when we join ourselves to Him in death, we get to experience the beauty of life.
My friend and I, we let the tears drip and we gripped our coffee cups and God’s presence was there, breathing grace into us as we faced the suffering of a fallen world. A world where our babies never came home to our arms, but God still held us close through it all.
I am learning to open my table to suffering.
It’s simple really. All I have to do is invite people in and be willing to speak quiet and soft about what has left me aching. And when I whisper the words, when I open myself up, I find that I am not alone.
And when I speak, when I am vulnerable, I get the chance to listen. I get to hear the stories of babies who were loved and dreams that were shattered and fears that need to be named and acknowledged so they can be overcome. And when I listen, I get to live out the life that Paul spoke of in Philippians 3. Resurrection. The place where life comes from loving and being loved. Not because I’ve got anything or they’ve got anything—but because of Jesus.
Death’s sting is lost in the face of hope. Not hope in this world, of course not. But hope in what is to come.
So we gather at the table of suffering, putting our hope in the only One who can overcome that suffering.
Fellowship. Grace. Understanding.
They swirl together at the table and we hold onto each other and we hold onto Jesus and we know the day will come when we will dance again.
*Photo by Ben White on Unsplash