Most children are born into a family as a blank page, full of unknown possibility and wonder. But some children are born into their families with chapters of their lives already written, pages that can be turned but the turning won't blot them out no matter how sad or dark those pages are.
Sometimes I feel her loss so deeply. It's etched into her soul behind that beautiful smile and that contagious laugh. And it has a way of showing up out of the blue, never letting us forget that those chapters will always be at the beginning of her story. Sometimes those losses feel like an ocean. And who can tread that kind of water for very long?
We had a loss with her recently - something so small for most kids - but that little drop, when it fell, landed in her ocean and the ripples were felt. And all I could do was wade into the ocean with her, because her arms are so small and so tired of treading water.
We were driving home and I tried not to let her see my tears forming. I didn't want her to think she had done anything wrong. She hadn't. I answered her questions in the rear view mirror as casually and confidently as I could, fighting a trembling voice. But she's keenly aware of these things. She always has been. It's called survival mode and it was turned on inside of her during that first chapter.
As we drove, the two of us, we passed a little church on a back road that had recently been forced to shut its doors. They'd fought and lost, I thought wearily. And yet their farewell words on the sign had a note of triumph amidst the tragedy. "Even so, Lord, come quickly", it read. It seemed to echo across the empty church parking lot and playground. Words on the wind...like a song. It reminded me of Habakkuk's song, a passage at the end of that short book of the Bible which has become more and more dear to me over the years.
"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
How could Habakkuk sing at empty stalls and vineyards, when all was lost and complete devastation had come upon his home and his people? We can only sing at our own empty stalls and vineyards if our hope was never in those things, but in the God who holds the end of the story.
Friends, the start may have been rough, and I don't know what the middle of the story holds, but I know how it ends. And it doesn't end in emptiness and broken things. Not in sorrow but in joy being made complete, in the presence of the King who came for the downtrodden, for the ones slipping beneath the waters. And if your hope is in Him it will never be destroyed.
All those hard parts of the story He uses to make something beautiful too. So maybe sharing a glimpse of our 'empty stalls' with you will be the broken song you needed to hear. Maybe it might encourage you the way that empty church parking lot did, with the sign that kept singing for me to hear.
Well, I don't know if you can hear us, but we're singing.