I awoke with a start, heart pounding, mind whirling. It was the second time in the last month that I had dreamed about losing her. "At least I didn't wake up crying like last time," I thought to myself. Although we had miscarried our baby girl 7 months before, I was dreaming about it now...today...and it felt like it had come out of no where. I sat up and rubbed my hands over my face and took a deep breath, taking inventory of my heart. The dream had certainly rattled me but I could tell it had not settled into me. It's hard to explain that exactly - it's just a knowing that the pain is real but that it doesn't control you; that the sadness is present but the sting in gone. I breathed a sigh of relief and got up to face my day, fully knowing that - although the dream had not 'taken root in my emotions' - a conversation with Jesus about these dreams would still have to come.
Over the next few days, I pondered with the Lord whether these dreams were from the trauma of losing her or were simply an attack from the enemy. What was their root? How should I respond? Add to these questions the ones my husband and I had already been asking: now that we've miscarried, what should we do next? Adoption? Fertility treatments? Or do we find contentment once again with just the two of us? We had been asking these questions but had yet to really feel direction one way or the other. One thing was certain: the questions seemed to be piling up and my heart was taking notice.
I knew that grieving was a process that would take time, but our recent healing a couple months back had made the process so much easier. Geoff and I had received a healing during a conference at our church through a prophetic word 2 months prior. This word was just as real as anything I had ever known. I had sat in that service and cried out to the Lord to rescue me from drowning grief and he had pulled me up out of the tumultuous waves and set my feet on the solid ground of his grace. Grace - the name translated as Hannah - is what He had declared over me that night. I was Hannah, he had proclaimed, and my children would know greater glory and my healing would supernaturally come.
That was 2 months ago and here I was today, dreaming about losing our baby again. Where were these dreams coming from? I didn't doubt my healing. That wasn't a question. I knew enough about my Master to know that my healing and these terrible dreams were not at odds; somewhere in the midst of them together, I knew I would find Him in a fresh new way. Still, I needed to know where the root of these dreams came from. I needed to know why disappointment still hijacked my heart at times. So I unreservedly embraced my previous healing while asking the Lord to do it again. I asked Him to stop any part of the enemy's attack on my dream life, to be sure; to heal any place of vulnerability where Satan wanted to take advantage. But, I also put these dreams and any memories from that time period before him and asked him to search them out, looking for any twinge of grief or regret present in them. Most memories were already healed, but a few were still too painful to think upon. And there in lied the invitation - the invitation for fresh encounter with the Lord.
Encounters with Jesus don't always happen on mountain tops or in incredible worship services. If we have eyes to see it, encounters with Jesus often happen on lonely roads of sorrow and in dark nights of the soul. I had learned this much in my life, so I brought these painful memories to Him and I did what He instructed me to do - I thought upon those memories and I wept. I wept. And I wept some more. I cried so hard I was afraid I might have a heart attack. It was ugly and it was far from clean but it was exactly what He wanted from me - another moment of honest, raw emotion sprawled out at his feet. And the reason he really wanted this from me wasn't to bring me some kind of answer or to justify him in some kind of way. He wanted it for me because he knew it was exactly what my heart needed - to acknowledge some pain I had yet to acknowledge and to anoint it with my tears. I was, after all, Hannah - the one who is known for weeping before the Lord....but the one whose very name testified of His grace.
After much weeping, my eyes had no tears left to give. But I was cleansed. It was a baptism of sorts that my heart had needed. I hadn't received any answers, only cleansing. Answers, after all, are the Lord's to give in his time and in his way. Any student of the word of God knows that Jesus rarely answered questions directly and sometimes didn't answer them at all. One thing I am certainly learning at another layer is that God isn't interested in us knowing everything - he's interested in faith - and faith requires us knowing very little on most days. Faith has nothing to do with what I'm feeling, what I'm seeing, or what I'm thinking. Faith is a blessed assurance that he is good - no matter my emotions, no matter the questions, no matter the pre-conceived ideas of what I think God should be doing. Faith at its very essence is tied to not knowing, simply trusting. And what is trust if I already know?
So, with faith settling in my heart fresh and new, I walked away from this baptism at peace, but still feeling like I knew very little. I still had these questions. Months before, the Lord had told me to keep asking questions, for in them, I would find his voice. But I was weary of questions. I found myself over the next few days, whenever I brought my personal prayers to the Lord, only able to pray, "Just say my name again, Lord. Just call it out. Say my name. Say my name." It was almost an involuntary prayer, something bubbling up out of me. Whenever I worshipped at my piano, I would end up weeping, "Just say my name. Say my name." I wanted answers but I knew in my spirit that if I could just hear him call my name, it would quiet my mind.
A few mornings after, I sat on my couch with a cup of dark roast coffee in my hand, barely moving, eyes still heavy with sleep, while my mind swirled about in constant motion: "Would I have more dreams like this? Should we try to get pregnant? Why wasn't I receiving answers to such important questions about our future? Did I not have enough faith? Was I walking in doubt? Was I even asking the right questions?" I took a long sip of coffee. "Well, my mind certainly woke up before my body," I said to myself, shaking my head at the dizzy nature of the soulish realm. After another sip, I shut my eyes to tune out the questions and to tune my heart to seek the Lord...to ask him to simply say my name. But before my eyelashes had a chance to even rest upon my cheeks, I heard the Lord say, "What if you don't doubt the way you think you do?" My eyes flashed open and my heart came alive! Tears began to flow as I raised my head towards heaven. Oh, his voice was so sweet! So precious! So healing! That one sentence was enough to silence my doubts and to end the tug of war between soul and spirit. I was exactly where I was meant to be - in the raw, messy, healing process without answers to all of my questions. Just this one truth mattered right here and right now: that questions don't always equal doubt. That trouble doesn't always equal distress. That sorrow doesn't always equal hopelessness. And that just because I'm not receiving answers doesn't mean I'm not hearing his voice.
I pulled out my journal and asked the Lord to expound on his sweet words. "Lord," I penned, "where do I start? Help me be exactly where I am suppose to be with you in this moment."
Immediately, I saw myself walking out on the sea on a dark night, the salty wind blowing the water's mist into my face. A delicate scarf draping around my neck was gently whipping in the wind. I was dressed in a beautiful pale blue garment with simple brown sandals on my feet. I could see a bit of loneliness on my face but was aware that didn't feel overwhelmed and alone. It was a beautiful and lonely image. But what stood out to me the most was this: I was walking on the water without thought, effortlessly, as if it was the very earth itself.
“Look at your feet, child” the voice of the Spirit said. “See how beautiful and stable they are, my Bride, my Beloved.”
I drank in His words.
“Child, you are learning so much about the walk of faith. I have not despised one moment of time with you here. Please know this, child - I am not angry at you or disappointed in you. I have not left you. I am all around you in new forms and new expressions.”
I saw me again walking on the water, holding the sheer scarf around me, as the sea mist hit my face. All at once I realized the misty wind is the Spirit. It was Him! The image so gripped my heart with joy. I knew He had been with me and had not left me, but I suddenly realized at a new level how His voice had been speaking without words - just nearness - kissing my face. I had doubted if I could hear, but he wasn't using words to speak - he was using presence. And his presence had been calling my name.
"Can this be real? Can it be true, Lord?" I cried. I was so overcome by it all.
"Yes, child. That lying voice has told you that your faith was small but I say that you’ve learned to beautifully stand here."
My heart responded, "Lord, I heard you say this morning, ‘maybe you haven’t doubted as much as you think you have.’ And now I see this. But I have been so angry, Lord."
Even though most of the anger had been supernaturally healed in my heart, I still had bits of anger about the loss of our baby and my undiagnosed autoimmune disease. The anger made me feel unclean. It felt in opposition to faith. I never would have admitted it out loud. I would have said, "I know that it is a lie," but deep down, this was the truth of how I felt. I was angry.
I heard the Spirit tenderly but adamantly say, “Of course you have been angry, child. I wouldn’t expect you to be anything less than angry on this side of the sun. What you are learning here, though, is how to let the experience of death settle in your heart without the offense of it settling there."
What a statement. I knew the Lord was giving me a greater permission to feel the disappointment that living in a fallen world brings while also feeling the hope of Tomorrow. He was telling me not to avoid the anger, but to "be angry apart from sin", and to not feel like a failure in the process of juggling conflicting emotions.
He continued, "I am not a jennie in a bottle that grants wishes. I am a husband who walks beside you in every season of the soul…who weeps with you, who cheers with you, who looks on you with eyes of love you cannot fathom…but I am also the God who carries you, who causes the worst things of this world to be turned into eternal glory for you."
I pondered his last statement. Eternal glory for sorrow and for anger meant that I must experience the pain in order to get the glory...experience it, not avoid it. Once again, what I thought I already knew was going deeper.
The Lord continued.
“All your tears I hold in a bottle. Let the tears you’ve cried become the reward…the beautification of your life. Let it rest on you, child. It is a sweet smelling aroma to my heart.”
"Did I miss it somewhere, Lord? Did I miss you at all?" I asked.
I felt the Lord smile. “Child, I wish you could see as I see.”
"Show me, Lord."
He continued, “You were wondering if you have faith this morning and then you saw the picture of yourself on the water. Child, what I’ve been teaching you these months is real faith. I’ve been removing the religious platitudes you didn't even know you had and am causing you to see that so much of what you call faith is actually sight. But look at the vision again: here you are in the dark and still walking tall and yet I seem no where to be found...until you learned I am in the mist.”
"Yes, Lord," I smiled.
“I am teaching you that prayer isn’t just this - what you are doing with me now; praying isn't simply intercession or coming up with "prayer plans and warfare ideas"...it’s also the gentle quiet day to day position of the heart. The posturing of your obedient "yes" day in and day out. It’s not all revival and highs and hours of prayer, child. I give grace for those seasons for those who will receive it, yes. But I love this journey with you, child. My little lamb. I love the process of faith and it is glorious and beautiful. You will come up leaning on me.”
His words were another baptism my heart needed. He had called my name, just as I had requested. But in that moment I realized how my name was always written on his heart - so whether my heart was angry or grappling with questions, his heart was always calling my name in love. Always. Whether I could hear it or not. And that, I am once again learning, is where real faith begins: in a knowing that finds him in the unknown. In a baptism that comes through tears of sorrow as readily as it comes from tears of joy. And in a faith that no longer is looking for answers, but one that is simply looking for Him.