I was at the live recording of Dennis Jernigan’s album “Celebrate Living” in 1995 in Dallas, Texas and the events of the evening impacted me so much that I still carry much of that experience in my life today. There were many precious moments of worship and intimate talks with God throughout that evening. Dennis took time to “sing over” the audience songs from the heart of God that touched me to the core. I left that event feeling as though God was pursuing me and understanding deeper that He was always with me…singing over me, celebrating my life, bringing comfort.
There was a particular story that Dennis shared that night that I will do my best to paraphrase. At an earlier concert in his career, he had challenged his audience to think back to moments in their life when they felt like God was not there. At some time or another in our lives we all experience moments where we feel so alone or abandoned by the Lord. Dennis’ challenge was to find that memory in their minds and then ask God “where were you?” If God never leaves or forsakes us then the truth has to be that He is always with us and has never abandoned us.
Dennis later received a letter from a woman who had attended that concert and her story struck my heart deeply. Her story begins with the birth of their son, only her son had died in the womb and she was having to go through the process of labor knowing that her son would not be alive. It was an era in hospitals when they did not allow the spouses to come in to the labor rooms and so this woman had to face this experience alone. She recalled the sterile atmosphere, the coldness of the room, the emptiness in her heart and the pain of the labor coupled with the pain of the loss. The doctors received her baby and whisked it away and she was left alone.
It was a painful experience, an embittering experience as she wondered “Where were you God? Why did I have to face that alone?” For years she carried this anger and resentment of God…until that night at Dennis’ concert. When the challenge was presented to “ask God where He was”, this woman quickly found her empty memory and decided to open up her heart to the answer that God may give her if she dared ask. And He answered.
She saw the whole scenario again, the sterile room, the coldness, the lonliness and the pain, but as she prayed, this time she saw Jesus at the foot of her bed. As she was giving birth to her son, she saw Jesus receiving her little boy in His Arms. He held the boy close to his chest and began to dance around the room exclaiming “It’s a boy!!! It’s a boy!!!”
I choke back tears even now while typing this story. The intimate level of God’s love for us so exceeds our imaginations. His compassion and grace for us so outgives our capacity to hold it. Does God really love us like that? Yes, He does.
It was just a couple of years later that a dear friend of mine, pregnant with her first child wrote to tell me that in her eighth month of pregnancy, her baby girl had died in the womb. She was going to face this pain of giving birth to a stillborn child. I cried with her and prayed and felt so helpless. I remembered this story and asked God to give me something to share with her, so this is what I received:
By Cate Morris (c) 1997
You were not destined for our arms
Though in dreams we’ve held you tight
But you were born into His Arms
Where you’re comforted tonight.
“A perfect, precious, baby girl!”
In heaven they exclaimed.
And Jesus danced with joy and pride
While whispering your name.
Although we couldn’t see or feel His presence in that room
Jesus wrapped you in His Arms just as you left my womb.
We share those arms that hold you tight
‘Cuz we need comfort too.
He holds us now in love and strength
While we both long for you.
The love we feel for you, our Daughter
Distance cannot sever.
And the next time you are in our arms
It will be forever.
So I dedicate this blog and this poem to those of you who have a child waiting for you in heaven. May you see the delight of your God over the life of your child and may you allow Him to come and fill the empty places.