Growing in Faith: My Faith “Starting Point” in the After

Journal Entry: March 13, 2018

Where to being?  I will start with the hard truth; it’s been 39 days since I lost my sweet baby boy.  The rest of my life will be measured in “before” and “after” losing my Marshall.

In conversations I find myself saying “before”, “since” and “after”.  I don’t say before, since or after “what” because I can’t emotionally or physically say it, yet.  If the day comes when I can, to whoever is on the receiving end of those words, I apologize if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  But, it is a part of who I am now, it is my reality.  For as uncomfortable as it may make you feel, my devastation far exceeds your discomfort.  I need you know this though, my being able to say the “what” just means I am figuring out how to move forward and with this “after” of my life.

This is my second entry in a series I hope to continue writing, that I’ve titled “Growing in Faith”.  However, before I reflect and share my growth and learning today, I want to share with you my faith “background”, if you will.  I think it helps if you understand my faith “starting point”, at the beginning of this season of my life.  It’s important to me to share that, though I am leaning on God, I also have to learn how to better lean on Him.

As a child I grew up being taught and guided to believe in God.  My family did not belong to a church or attend services on any regular basis.  We went to church on occasion, mostly around holidays, and we often went to different churches, when we did attend.  I occasionally attended church services with family and friends as well.

I did not grow up learning about the depths of Jesus or studying the Bible too much, but I learned some, and learned to believe, from various people in my life, including my grandpa.  I believe my grandpa’s practices were much the same throughout his life as they had been through my childhood.  Though, somehow my grandpa did have knowledge of God and the Bible, which must have either been learned earlier in his life, or through his own volition, outside of the church.  That I do not know.  I do know that my grandpa, a man I absolutely adored, was a fervent believer.  I’ve gained a lot of my faith and knowledge, by the grace of a lot of people in and throughout my life, but quite notably from my grandpa.

“FOR THE LORD IS GOOD, HIS MERCY IS EVERLASTING; AND HIS TRUSH ENDURETH TO ALL GENERATIONS.” PSALM 100:5

As an adult, I’ve been baptized and confirmed into our local Lutheran church.  My husband grew up in the Lutheran church, with much of his faith being gleaned, I believe, from his grandmother and the time he spent being raised in the Lutheran church.  My husband and I have been involved in our church to varying degrees and our attendance has been consistent, more often than not, throughout our eight years of marriage.  Though, by no means, are we in those pews every Sunday.

This next part is hard for me to come to terms with, but it’s an important part my journey, probably more so than I even yet know.  About a year ago, when I was struggling to get pregnant, I knew I needed God and my thirst for Him had grown.  I also felt I needed to be in a different church.  I was scared and uncertain of our future for children, and I was in the early part of a of a three and half month wait to see a fertility doctor.

So, I sought out a couple of other churches, eventually with my husband joining me.  I also spent time studying the bible on my own.  My husband and I struggled to find, or even truly understand, what it was that we needed and were seeking in a church.  Eventually we stopped going to church altogether.

We didn’t attend church much during my pregnancy with Marshall, I honestly can’t say as though I recollect whether we attended church at all, while pregnant with Marshall.  Though my husband and I did often contemplate and discuss what to do next in our seeking of a church, we struggled with this.  It is really difficult for me to come to terms with this reality and to put it down on paper.

It is my hope that Marshall absorbed God’s word, while growing inside of me, through my own studying, newfound love of Christian music and mine and my husband’s faith.  I’ve asked myself if this is the “why” to all of this, the “why” I’ve asked God about more than a few times in the past 39 days.  Is this the lesson we’re supposed to learn from this loss?  I truly don’t believe it is – I don’t believe God punishes us or teaches us lessons in such ways.  But, it’s really hard to not feel guilty for this.

“MERCY UNTO YOU, AND PEACE AND LOVE BE MULTIPLIED.” JUDE 1:2

My husband and I went back to our church the very first Sunday after losing Marshall.  We knew our church family would not only welcome us back with love and open arms, but that they would also support and carry us through this.  They have done just that.  This is the church we are supposed to be at right now, I know that.  I just hope that there is some lesson in our time and disconnect from the church that I will someday understand.

Our first Sunday back at church, our Pastor said something in his sermon that I desperately needed to hear and be reminded of.  In his sermon he said, something to the effect of, our faith not being in our knowledge of God but in our belief of Him.  I didn’t take this to mean that I should continue on without trying to learn more about God, and to just believe.  I took this to mean that believing is more difficult than learning.  So, with my belief I am moving forward with a deep desire and yearning to learn more about Him.

It is important to me that people reading and following my story know all of this and understand my faith “starting point” because I really do have a lot of room for learning and growing in my faith.  I have wasted a lot of time being disappointed in my lack of knowledge of Him – time that I could have spent learning.  So, I’ve resolved to be okay with where I am now, and to move forward growing my knowledge and faith, at a pace that is right for me.

I want to grow in my knowledge, I want to feel His presence more and I want to better understand the God that my Marshall resides with, for eternity.  I also want to invite anyone whose faith journey looks anything like mine, or anyone who might be struggling to grow in their faith and move past feeling “behind” in your knowledge, for whatever age you may be, I want to invite you to grow with me.  My hope is that someone reading this can also get past how shaming and intimidating it can feel to really dive into the word and grow in your belief and your faith, when so many around you seem to “know” so much more.

This morning I started out with a couple of devotionals.  I’ve also decided to start over at the very begging of the reading plans in my study Bible.  The study plans have various options and I am starting with what seems most logical, the first of three, two-week long, studies that are an “Introduction to the Bible”.  The first reading is Luke 1: Preparing for Jesus’ Arrival.

There is a lot to learn and take in, in Luke 1, I feel like I need to read it multiple times over.  In Luke 1, both Zechariah and Mary are visited by the angel, Gabriel.  Gabriel tells both of them of the child they will each have.  Both seemingly impossible pregnancies, as Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, are both aged and Mary a virgin.  Zechariah clearly doubted Jesus’ promise, while Mary humbly believed His promise, that she would bear the baby, Jesus.  Mary, while pregnant, visited Elizabeth in the latter part of her pregnancy.  Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb, upon being filled with the Holy Spirit, at Mary’s presence.  John, the Baptist, and son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, was born.  After which, Zechariah was able to speak and hear again, for the first time since being visited by the angel Gabriel, and being told of God’s promise for Elizabeth to bear a child.

This chapter really helped me during my journey through infertility, for obvious reasons.  As I read and reflect on it now, I understand more about trusting in God and casting away any doubt I may have in His plans.  There are a lot of women and couples who’ve lost children in their life, I’ve encountered quite a few through support groups, and have now learned of women in my life that I never knew had lost babies.  Some of these women are still struggling through their loss many years later, some have figured out how to move forward, but none of them have forgotten their babies or stopped grieving their losses.  Some of the most hopeful and encouraging conversations that I’ve had, with women who I now have this shared experience with, have been those who’ve learned, or relearned, to trust in His plan.

One could easily look to this chapter for hope in their journey to become pregnant, as I once did.  I wholeheartedly believe I will have more pregnancies and babies in the future – but, another baby will not replace my Marshall, or take away the pain of losing him, ever.  During this season of my life, I more blatantly see and understand, in Luke 1, the importance in trusting in His plan, through what can seem impossible feats.

God had a plan for Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and their babies; he shared part of that plan with them.  I don’t know God’s plan for my husband, myself, or for Marshall.  But, I understand that He has a plan for us that I need, and want, to trust.  I also believe that my Marshall is one of His angels.  Just as Jesus had great plans for John the Baptist – I believe He has a plan for Marshall, and will put him up to even greater things than those of which I had dreamt of for him here on earth.

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