I’ve always had a very overactive imagination. From the time I was little and I was terrified that aliens were going to burst through our roof and carry me away, I’ve had to do battle with myself and the scenarios I can imagine if I let my mind go. And while I’m no longer scared that aliens are going to abduct me, I still regularly have to fight against letting myself imagine horrible scenarios and becoming fearful of how I was going to handle them. It’s a constant learning to take your thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and to be filled with the perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
Last year, I read a blog post that resounded with me as clearly as if I had written it myself. In this post, the author shared how she too has the same problem of letting her imagination run wild and bringing fear upon herself as she wonders how earth she’ll deal with whatever terrible scenario she just imagined. Then, one of them happened to her. And she realised that in all her imaginings, she never factored in God’s grace and how He promises that it will always be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).
She shares: “Martha Peace wrote about exactly this in one of her books. (I think it was The Excellent Wife.) She pointed out that when we are simply imagining chilling scenarios, we are facing the horrible emotions without any of God’s sustaining grace. Every time we imagine something, we put ourselves through agony of a kind we will never have to go through in real life. Because when awful things are actually happening, God walks with us through them and gives us His grace and strength. The peace of God’s presence through a trial is something I can never conjure up in my imagination, and something that only comes with real trials, not the pretend ones I make up while driving. Now I know the difference.”
After reading that post, I remind myself of it pretty regularly, especially since I had that same thing happen to me last year…one of the fearful scenarios I had imagined came to life and yet in it, there was peace.
It really started during our trip the British Isles this past September. Six months pregnant, I was sitting on the bed in our little cottage in the Lake District, going through our very full inbox, when I read a quick e-mail from one of my friends. She was about two months ahead of me in her pregnancy and she was sending out e-mail since she had ended up having her little boy six weeks early. He was small, was having breathing problems and was being sent to the NICU. Please pray.
My heart went out to her, and I prayed for her little one, but at the same time, the fears started pressing in on me. What if that happened to us? What if our baby came too early and wasn’t alright and had to go to the hospital (we were planning a homebirth)? I don’t think I could deal with that… I said as much to Aaron, who simply said something along the lines of, “God will give us grace to get through it”. I was going to remember that.
Fast forward about two months. (And by the way, for those wondering, my friend’s little boy is now doing fine.) Four weeks to go until my due date, I was in labour and the baby was coming. My midwife was still going to deliver at home, and at a little past three in the morning, our son was born. The midwife drew him up out of the water and put him on my chest and it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. He was a little limp, but after several seconds, his tiny limbs start squirming and he let out a few lusty cries.
After moving to the bed, my midwife kept monitoring him, and after a couple minutes was concerned that he didn’t seem to be breathing very well. After the first few loud cries, he was just whimpering and it kept sounding like he was trying to catch his breath and couldn’t. My midwife called the doctor she works with, asked his opinion and they decided our little boy needed to be taken to the children’s hospital. The ambulance was on its way.
While we waited, I held my little one close, bundled in blankets and holding an oxygen mask to his face, only taking it away to suction his nose and mouth every so often. We announced his name, Cedar Milan, to Aaron’s family who was waiting with us.
When the ambulance finally came, they worked on Cedar on the dining room table, inserting an IV into the back of his tiny hand. We weren’t allowed to come in the ambulance with him, so I kissed him and told him I loved him and then…they took my baby and I didn’t know if he would live until I saw him again.
And yet…while I’m in tears as I write this, at the time, I was truly filled with a peace that was beyond my understanding. Later, as we drove to the hospital, I had quite a bit of energy and I chatted away with Aaron and his mom, going over all the details of the birth. Now, I wonder if I appeared unfeeling, but I actually think it was my Father’s grace upholding me at that time. If the enormity of what was going on had actually sunk in at the time, I don’t know if I would have been able to hold it together and deal with all that we had to.
We spent the day at the hospital, mostly in the NICU waiting room, trying to doze on the slippery couches, and walking gingerly (on my part anyway) down white corridors whenever we were allowed to see Cedar. He was doing better than they originally thought he would, and he continued to improve all day, but it still was my baby who was under all those tubes and wires. Before giving birth, I had daydreamed often of how wonderful it would be to cuddle my little one against me after the excitement of his arrival died down. Now, all I could do was put my hand through the hole in his isolette and stroke his downy head, watching the fragile up-and-down of his little chest. Yet again, in all this, there was peace and a strength that could only come from the One who had formed every part of my son when he was hidden inside me.
The hardest part of it all came that evening, when we had to drive home for the night, an hour away from our little boy who wasn’t even a day old. People near the hospital offered their homes to us, but we had to go and pull together things we would need when we came back the next morning. We were hoping then to be able to stay at the hospital until Cedar was released, which, we were told, could be anywhere from one to two weeks, at the least, five days. We knew we needed to go, but the doctors had told us that the turning point would come when he was around 24 or so hours old…that night…and there was nothing we could do. So we went home, knowing the best we could do for our son was to be ready for whatever would face us the next day.
I remember many tears in the car that night. Aaron and I held each other and sobbed before we pulled out, and I broke down a few more times on the drive home. We didn’t know what the morning would hold.
But…there was grace. Grace for both of us to be able to sleep soundly that night and awaken to hear that Cedar was doing much better in the morning. Grace for the next four days (much less time than the doctors had originally told us) that we spent in a room in the NICU, trying to catch snatches of rest amidst constant beepings and babies crying and trying to get our little one to eat enough so we could leave. Grace for when Cedar had to spend a day and night under the bilirubin lights and all we could do to calm him was briefly cover him with our hands. Grace for the days finally at home, but wondering if his jaundice would ever get better. Grace for all his problems with learning to nurse and wondering if he’ll gain weight as he should.
I remember reading the blog post that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I think it was a couple days before I went into labour. As I said, it immediately struck a chord with me, but the truth of it increased a hundredfold several days later I went through it myself. Something that I had imagined as being so horrible and feared greatly when I thought of whether it would happen to me…did happen. But in the fire, He was there…and when we passed through deep water, He was there. “Fear not, for I am with you…” And He was.