What I Thought Lent Would Be.

Every year in early January, I begin to get excited as I look ahead toward Lent. I begin to think about what I want to give up (or fast from) and what I want to study during this special time. This year, I was more excited than normal because I felt as though my life were blooming in new ways. My wife and I were expecting our first baby. We also were seeing opportunities arise professionally as well. When I saw the He Reads Truth study for this year, I thought to myself, “This is perfect!” I truly felt as though I was coming alive. I ordered the Bible study and couldn’t wait to begin.

Then, the unthinkable happened. On February 21st, we delivered and lost our beautiful baby girl and our dreams shattered. It wasn’t just the fact that we lost our daughter, but we also lost the hope and excitement that surrounded her. She was ingrained in every thought, every decision, every purpose since the day we found out we were pregnant. We also lost the hope of what was to come—the family gatherings, the holidays, taking her to football games, all of the anticipation surrounding her life. Our hopes and dreams came crashing down and the last thing that I felt I was doing was “coming to life”. The opposite would be a more accurate depiction of how I felt that day.

Lent began for me in a Nashville hotel room. In the midst of loss, my wife and I decided to get away for a couple of nights. We didn’t want to go far, so we booked a hotel in Nashville. I desperately needed a change of scenery. Every single thing in our home was a reminder of what was lost. We needed rest. We stayed in, watched TV, ordered delivery, and talked and prayed about what was next. On the first day of Lent, I opened up Come to Life. While reading scripture, this was the first verse that stood out to me—

“The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” -Romans 8:21 (NIV)

My soul needed that verse more than I knew. A promise that we, all of creation, will be liberated from death is exactly what I needed to read just over 2 weeks after the loss of my daughter. It didn’t stop the pain. It didn’t make me hurt less, but what it did do was give me the smallest glimpse of hope. So small, in fact, I don’t think I realized it, but on that day, God planted something in my heart that is still growing today.

This years Lenten season brought tremendous pain. I didn’t know I could hurt the way I do and still breathe and function. Actually, some days, I barely did function. I felt dead, numb, and out of touch with reality. I felt as though life was going on around me, passing me by, but I was standing still. But, as I started forcing myself forward, I noticed that my fundamental values and thoughts were shifting. Things that were significant before aren’t so significant now. Things that I was previously interested in seem boring to me now. I see the importance of things with a fresh perspective—family, the fragility of life, the impact of our words and actions—all of it feels different. Even the way I worship feels different.

The Bible talks about how God can take the tragedies our of lives and use them for good. I’ll never, ever call losing my daughter “good”, but I can tell you what I’m learning about myself. My heart is wide open. Not only that, my heart is willing to go and do what God has for us now more than ever before. I’m more dependent on Him because I’ve had no other choice. I see a purpose in every since action I take. I love those around me better than before. I truly see the world very differently than I did before February 21st, and I am grateful for that. I guess it turns out that I really am coming to life.

During our Easter service at church, as we were worshipping, a group of special needs individuals were sitting across from my wife and I. Everyone in the group was singing at the top of their lungs. Their worship was so genuine, pure, and authentic, and if I’m honest, it made me cry. There was something so special in that moment, and I thank God for it. And I thank God for what He’s doing in my life too even though the pain is almost unbearable at times. I thank Him because what He’s doing points me towards Him.

I want you to know as I’m writing this, there’s nothing I can type that will allow me to tie a pretty bow around my situation and move on. We still lost our daughter. We still grieve that everyday. I actually feel pretty lost at the moment in all honesty. But, here’s the thing—just because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean that I actually am. Because of our relationship with Jesus, it’s impossible to be lost because He has us right where we’re supposed to be. And even though I’m impatient and I want what I want right now, I know that good things are ahead. Because of that hope, I can take my next step, one at a time, into the next season God has for us.

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