"So, how are you doing?"
It was a simple enough question. One I received quite often, in fact. But in that moment, it was anything but simple to answer. I bit my lip and scrubbed the dishes that filled our church's kitchen sink, mulling over how to answer in that split second that feels like eternity when faced with complexities of the heart. I turned my face to my friend and dropped my hands into the soapy water. "Do you want an honest answer?" I asked. The question was real enough. She politely nodded her head. I sighed and turned back to my scrubbing. "I'm about 2 seconds away from crying at all times," I replied. "That's how I'm doing."
The last couple weeks had just been like that for my husband and me. Out of no where, another wave of grief had hit us both. Christmas had been awful but January had felt like a breeze. It was like grace was poured out on us for that first month of the year. But here we were in February and everything felt different. Was it the fact that what would have been our baby's due date was fast approaching? Was it the recent diagnosis I had received of Hashimoto's Disease, a disease that had gone on undiagnosed for years...one that leads to infertility among other things? We weren't quite sure why this grief was now weighing again so heavy on us both. We had learned in the days since miscarrying, what would have been our first child after twenty years of marriage, that the waves of grief had no rhyme or reason to their surging; sometimes the tide that pulled them over your heart was a mystery. So in the moments when the breakers are tossing you around, a simple question like, "How are you?" seems impossible to answer.
I had told the Lord as much, too. In these last few weeks of fresh grieving, raw emotions crept not-so silently into my prayer time. But in those moments, I would lift my tear filled eyes to heaven and say, "Can't deal with it right now, God. Let's talk about something else." Anyone who has dealt with any kind of trauma or grief knows that there are moments when you "just can't deal." I had learned through the years that this was okay as long as I didn't NOT deal with it some day soon. That's why my husband and I agreed to take a few days off the next week: to get away so we could be open with our hearts before the Lord in quietness and stillness. Right then, however, I had a church conference to plan for and to attend, a house to clean, and other duties that needed my attention, so I had way too much on my to-do list to be still...and I mean really still. And thank God for that to-do list because busyness was a place for my emotions to run and hide. I openly admitted to the Lord that if he wanted to come knocking on the door of my heart to deal with this pain, it would have to be later, but that I was totally okay with a busy list in the closet of prayer. "Give me someone to pray for, intercession for my nation, for a friend, for this church...just keep me busy, Lord, in the place of prayer and I'll be fine."
That's why I was now in the kitchen. I had been in the conference but that was getting too close to my pain. The speaker was leading us in moments of quite reflection and prayer with the Lord and, while I tried to join in on what was usually an easy and enjoyable experience, it was not the place and time for me. As soon as I would sit down to reflect on the truth the speaker had shared with us, my mind would go straight to my pain. "Nope. Not gonna happen here." So, I had gotten up to find something to do. Anything to do. Even wash dishes.
All of this had gone through my mind in a split second when my friend asked how I was doing there in that kitchen. "I'm about 2 seconds away from crying at all times," was the simplest answer I could give, ironically, without crying. Thank God I had the kitchen to escape to.
But soon the last session of the conference would be upon us and I knew that it would probably be an encounter with pain that I could not escape. I had attended the conference's last session before and I knew it was a time set aside, not for teaching, not for preaching, but simply for seeking the Lord. It should have been the part I was looking forward to the most but my heart was anxious for it to arrive.
But arrive it did and I soon found myself facing the inevitable. As the worshippers filled the sanctuary and the music began, the speaker encouraged us to find a spot in the room with God. "Uh-oh," my heart whispered. "Here goes nothing." I journeyed over to a corner where I could hide behind a row of chairs. I didn't want to be noticed by anyone. I knelt down, took a deep breath, and committed my heart to simple focus on Jesus - not the pain, not the problem - just Jesus. He was worthy of that. I wanted to give Him that. But then the worship leader began to sing it:
"No matter the cost, I will give it all. No matter the cost, I will give it all."
Anger rushed into my heart. "No matter the cost? God, I've paid so much!" my pain screamed. But just as soon as it screamed, my soul answered, "Hush, now. Be still. Just worship Jesus." This battle went on unnoticed by anyone in the room, but deep within me, a violent war between worship and pain raged on. "I just want to focus on you, Jesus! I just want you to have my full attention! I know I'm hurting, but I'll deal with that at another time. Right now, I just want to give you my heart, broken though it may be. Help me, Lord!" I prayed. I felt the Spirit prompt me to go back to the beginning of when I first learned to worship him deeply. Back when I was 19, I had entered into a place of greater surrender in worship when the Lord showed me how to use my imagination to picture things. What He had taught me to picture was His beautiful feet before me as I bowed down low. Back in those days, I was dealing with another kind of grief: the grief of my mother's mental illness, my parent's divorce, my father's abandoning, my own self-hatred...but learning how to get low and pour out my worship on His feet had changed everything. It had brought healing like I had never known. So, here I was almost 30 years later and the Lord was saying, "Go back to what you first learned." In obedience, I bowed my head to the ground and pictured Jesus' beautiful feet.
Hot tears streamed down my face as the eyes of my heart focused on the King's stately feet before me. "Now," I heard the Spirit whisper, "listen to her words." I took a deep breath and tuned my ears to the words that just a few seconds earlier had filled my heart with anger. "No matter the cost, I will give it all," the worship leader sang again and again. I bowed low, listening to this phrase, my eyes transfixed on the beautiful feet before me. I still felt pain, but the anger was dissipating with every tear falling down my cheeks. When I had found out I was pregnant months before, I had asked the Lord that, if he was going to place inside of me a little life when I lived hundreds of miles away from my family in a land that felt unfamiliar to me, to please make me a sign to our local body - a sign that He was birthing something among us: the tangible habitation of His presence. "Make me a sign of coming glory," I had prayed. And then she was gone.
In that moment with face bowed low, this prayer returned to me. "Lord, " I said, "I know this isn't your nature, but if the cost of having that prayer answered - that cry for continual habitation in this house - was to give her back to you, then I would pay it all again." It was one of the hardest prayers I had ever prayed, but I knew I meant every word. I would have never dared pray that without first knowing for sure that I really meant it. I let the weight of it rest on my heart as I sat weeping before my Lord. I thought of Abraham and his willingness to give up Isaac. I thought of Job and his willingness to lift up his hands even in the ash heap and declare, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, but blessed be His name!". And then...I thought of Hannah. Hannah, the barren one who had so desperately wanted a child, she prayed a similar prayer as I had just prayed: I'll give him back to you God, if you will but give him to me. As I thought about her prayer, I suddenly no longer saw Jesus' feet before me, but I saw myself as if I were Hannah. It startled my heart a bit to see myself in her shoes, but it brought an unexplainable comfort to my soul so I leaned into the vision. There I was - hands outstretched, Eli before me, oblivious to his presence because of the desperation spilling out of my eyes, my mouth, and my heart. "I am Hannah, Lord," I whispered. "I will pay the cost." And then in one last vulnerable cry, I asked, "But Lord, would you supernaturally heal me? I know You can. Take this pain away."
After a few moments of resting in this strange place of raw pain and renewed purpose, I sat up, face blotchy and red from crying. A leader from the conference soon quietly approached me and asked, "Hey, do either of you play drums? We feel like drum beats need to be released." This was a confirmation of something that the Lord had showed me days before, so I answered, "I would love to, but we only play congas." "That'll work," she replied, and soon my husband and I made our way to the platform. We gathered our little drums together and the leaders gathered around us to pray over us. Now, these leaders knew nothing of our story. We had only met days before and had hardly spoken at all except for casual conversation over meals. But the Lord knew our story and He was about to change everything for us.
With her hand resting on my shoulder, the leader named Charity began to prophecy and pray over me. She said, "There is some kind of pain inside of you that needs to be released. As you beat these drums and make rhythm to the Lord, he is going to supernatural heal you. Let it come out. Let that sound and that pain come out." She had my attention. Then she continued, "Desiree, the Lord says, 'You are Hannah.'" Now she really had my attention. I was sobbing as she declared, "And he says that you two have paid it all, you have paid a great price. And just like Hannah asked for a son and willing gave him back to the Lord, but because of that obedience, her child got to go into the Holy of Holies where she never was able to go, so will your children go into the place where His glory dwells." I was undone. My heart was wrecked. I could barely stand because of the marvelous miracle that had found me: the Lord saw me. He had heard every word I had just cried out from my place of pain and surrender. All at once I heard his voice, "Desiree, just like Hannah, I have heard every mumbling cry that has escaped your lips since you lost her." In a split second, I was filled with fresh revelation that my inaudible cries of sorrow - not just petition, not just intercession, but blubbering sounds of grief - had reached The High King of Heaven and every single one of them mattered to Him.
I mattered to Him.
So, I beat those drums with everything in me, a groan rising up out of me that I knew was a fragrance to heaven. I beat them and I beat them and I beat them and with every thump, I received my healing. Now, I knew that the pain of losing her would never fully go away, not until that day I see her again; but I also knew that something supernatural was happening in me. The Lord was lifting my heart out of the deep, miry clay and setting my feet upon the Rock that cannot be moved. He was filling me with grace. I was Hannah, after all, the name that means favored by God.
In the coming days, months, maybe even years, I am certain that tears will still fall as I remember my little girl. But I mourn as one who has an eternal hope of glory. My actual little girl has gone where I have yet to go: the place where His glory dwells. But I also am holding onto the promise that my spiritual sons and daughters will go beyond the veil into a habitation of glory that I've only dared dream about. It's worth the cost, then, to sow those tears if it means we will reap in joy. It's worth the cost to labor in prayer, if it means we birth a harvest of souls. I'll gladly pay whatever the price, if the prize that awaits us is Holy Spirit. Yes, no matter the cost, it's worth it all.
And that's how I am today.