For the second year in a row, the Lenten season has brought up the inevitable question – what are you going to give up? We are supposed to sacrifice something to show our reverence for Jesus’ sacrifice for all of us. To prove to God we are willing to give something up for his glory. We get to choose what we can do without for the next 40 days.
My fourth child and only daughter was born sleeping at 28 weeks. I had known it was a girl thanks to a blood test done at 11 weeks, which also confirmed there was an extremely low chance of any chromosomal disorders (I had just turned 40 so I was on my knees nightly praying, no begging, for a healthy baby after a miscarriage earlier that year).
I went to my 18-week anatomy ultrasound anxious and excited to get a good long look at my little girl. The tech began swirling her wand and was completely silent. My heart dropped.
The doctor came in and was silent except to point out birth defect after birth defect. My daughter was diagnosed with VACTERL Association.
Our world crashed as you’d expect, but we were ready to move heaven and earth for our Claire… until I woke up one Sunday morning and knew my baby was already in heaven. The ensuing months are foggy at best.
As our story got out, we were met with the usual phrases every loss parent hears that make you want to scream. They don’t bear repeating here.
But I was reminded by many, both in real life and on grief boards, that God had also lost a child – his only son, he had given up his son for us, ie: my loss was somehow comparable to God’s loss.
Or knowing God had lost his son was somehow supposed to bring me comfort.
Which brings me back to my point: What am I giving up for Lent?
My answer this year and for the rest of my years: Haven’t I given up enough?
And please, never compare my loss to God’s, because they are nothing alike.
1) God is God. See, whether Jesus was on earth or in heaven, God could see him and talk to him whenever he wanted. Oh, what a luxury that would be for us mere mortals.
2) God sacrificed his son willingly. I never gave such consent. On the contrary, I pleaded with God to sustain her.
3) God knew he was going to resurrect his son. That 3 days after Jesus died, he would be back on earth. I can’t even imagine…
4) God, Mary, the disciples – they all got to know WHY Jesus lived and died. And it was a pretty noble cause, to say the least. What was Claire’s purpose? I struggle with this every day.
5) God did spare my baby the pain and suffering Jesus had to endure. Also, I did not have to witness my own child struggle to live. For this grace, I am eternally grateful.
But what I’ve also had to give up is the idea of getting to raise a daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I love my fellas more than the air I breathe, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to be having a girl.
I confess to filling a few drawers with Hanna Andersson, Ruffle Butts, and Janie and Jack. Pastels and bows and all things tender and sweet. Mother/daughter days, seeing my husband wrapped around her little finger, my boys loving on her and her adoring them.
Yes, yes, all the stereotypical daydreaming you’d expect from a mom having a girl after 3 boys. That potential filled me so entirely with joy and just the thought of holding my daughter in my arms for the first time would bring me to tears. Then it was all cruelly ripped away.
From where I sit, giving up chocolate pales in comparison to what I’ve already lost. My sacrifice was chosen for me and I’ve been given my cross to bear. It’s so very heavy at times and I will not get to lay it down after 40 days.
I’ve found ways to lighten the load and I am blessed with family and friends who help shoulder the burden.
But I just can’t believe in a God who would ask me to give up more than I already have. The God I believe in understands this.