It was a Christmas like no other when I opened my last gift under the tree and found a yellow onesie and a positive pregnancy test. You know those experiences when you feel yourself trying to take in a moment you’ll remember the rest of your life? That was it. I was a father. Merry Christmas!
Over the next few days I daydreamed about having a son. Did I know the gender? Heck no. But for some reason I just knew it was a boy. And I couldn’t get my mind off the name Simeon. The idea came from the Christmas story, where a man named Simeon scooped Jesus into his arms and said,
Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel, Luke 2:29-32
This man’s heart for Jesus and for the whole world captured me, and I was set on naming my baby boy after him.
Only a few days later, our little Simeon’s life in this world was complete. As suddenly as he was gifted into our lives, he was (mis)carried from us. Too bad I hadn’t taken How To Handle A Miscarriage 101 in seminary. How in the world is a man to lead his family through such unfamiliar loss?
By being led. Though I had no idea that we’d lose our first child the next day, and that I’d have to somehow respond to the horror I saw in my wife’s eyes, I sensed the Father was tenderly leading me, preparing me, for something. While reading for a class late the night before, I couldn’t get over these words from Michael Card:
In Jesus’ life, the moment Jesus is most being used by God—what is He doing? He’s lamenting on the cross. ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ The question I ask people is, ‘Could it be that the point where we are being most used by God is not when we’re writing commentaries or producing records or doing the things we think of as being productive? Could it be that the moments in our lives when we experience the most intense suffering and the most intense struggles are when God is using us the most…In a sense, isn’t that what Jesus does on the cross? He offers up His suffering, the thing that hurts Him most, as an act of worship. God uses suffering to save the world. And once again the fact that God enters into our suffering and uses it is the best reason for worshipping Him that I can think of…Maybe that thing that’s hurting me the most could be the most precious thing I have to offer to the Lord.
It was that last sentence that echoed in my ears when I arrived at home to a baby I would never see grow or gurgle or giggle. So in the most mechanical, shell-shocked, untheatrical way, my wife and I bowed and offered to the Lord the most precious little thing he’d ever entrusted us with. And with tears at the most random moments, we still do. Thankfully our church gives space each week for such lament, and we have leaders like Bobby and Kristen Gilles who have shared their grief. One of our pastors, Mike Cosper, writes,
What the church needs isn’t empty promises of success in exchange for faith and tithing, but a gospel message that assures us that suffering is purposeful and that we have a God who is present in our suffering.
Why do I write about something so deeply personal and seldom discussed? For that very reason! Morgan and I have found that as we shared with others about our loss, many of them also had experienced miscarriage, but had shared with almost no one. We have even found common the strange practice of not sharing with anyone about a new pregnancy for several weeks just in case it ends in miscarriage. It’s culturally acceptable to journey alone in severe loss and even potential loss. I don’t have to ask to know how that’s working out for people. Our encouragement isn’t necessarily to binge their suffering on Facebook, but to invite a small group to walk alongside them from the very beginning—and through darkest days should they come.
I also wanted to write this as a reflection on manhood. I understand mission as love for Jesus that leads to the obedience of his commands. But these words shake up my definition:
Although [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, Hebrews 5:8-9
As Jesus is formed in me, there’s something unique about the role of suffering in my learning of obedience. I can say with confidence that the miscarriage was somehow a moment of growth in manhood. Something changed in me, and is changing, as a man more desperate for the face of him who holds my son, more sobered to obey his great commands along the way. Surely his ways are not our ways. Surely he makes broken men on mission.