Friday, February 26, 2010

Micah's Black Eye

On our computer at home is our last picture of Micah. The picture is very difficult for me to see, as it was taken after he fell from his high chair and before he choked on the pea. The picture shows the black eye that he sustained from hitting his head on the ground.

Heather and I have often wondered what Micah will look like when we see him again, whether that is at our deaths or at the Second Coming of Jesus. Will Micah look different than the last time I saw him, laying on that hospital bed, his little body now lifeless? Or will he have aged? When we do see him, will he have that black eye?

While the Bible doesn’t give us a complete description of our glorified bodies, it is clear that Micah’s glorified body will be greater than the body that was put in the little grave at Lakewood Cemetery. In 1 John 3, the apostle John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” We can live in the hope that we will have glorified bodies, and these bodies will be like Jesus’ glorified body.

Following Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus appeared to two of the disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-18. For some time, Jesus did not allow himself to be recognized by his own disciples. But after they sat down together, the disciples recognized him. It is noteworthy that the disciples were not immediately started in seeing Jesus; Jesus was not some other-worldly ghost or alien-type figure. While they did not recognize him immediately as Jesus, they did recognize him as a man. When Jesus later appeared to all of his disciples, they were so startled to see him that they thought that they were seeing a ghost. (Luke 24: 37). But Jesus convinced them that he was no ghost. Jesus showed them the scars in his hands and feet, and he ate with them. Jesus' glorified body was, to the extent that he allowed it, recognizable to others.

In 1 Corinthians 15: 35-58, Paul devotes a considerable amount of time to discuss our resurrected bodies. He uses the analogy of a seed planted in the earth to describe how the death of our earthly bodies will be used for the flowering of our resurrected bodies. “Someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 (ESV). “...So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” (v.42-44)

Our heavenly bodies will be even better than the bodies we had on earth. The last time I saw Micah’s body on earth, I left his body on a bed in the Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital. His body was beatten and battered; first from the fall itself, then later from all of the tubes, sensors, ventilators and other medical attention he received in the hospital. When we last left him, his little brain had no function left. He did not even have the ability to breathe on his own. His body was a seed.

When Jesus died, his physical body was beaten and bruised. Lashes upon lashes, a brow that had been beated and covered with thorns. His hands and feet pierced by the nails that stuck him to the cross on Calvary. When his disciples saw Jesus again, they saw him raised in glory and power--they saw him eating and breathing and then, eventually, ascending directly into heaven. Even in his glorified body, though, Jesus had his scares.

When we see Micah again, his body will be free of the effects of the traumatic events leading to his death. Instead, he will be raised in power and splendor—to God’s glory. He will be jabbering and laughing (and speaking?); crawling or maybe walking (and running?). He will have the brain function far greater than he had before the accident. He will be stronger and healthier than he ever was during his 9 months on earth.

If Jesus's resurrected body had scars from his time on earth, perhaps Micah's resurrected body will also have visible scars. But just as Jesus' scars demonstrate God's glory for our salvation, through Christ's suffering and death, Micah's black eye would bring further glory to God. If, when I see Micah again, he does have that black eye, I can rest assured that it will somehow bring God more glory for what he has done through and for Micah.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mourning for Me

Ever since I began with this blog, I have given some thought to whether the title of this blog appropriately summarizes our grief. As summarized in this blog post, I have tried to preach to myself that there is no Biblical basis for needing to mourn for Micah. Rather than grieving for Micah, we grieve for ourselves because of our physical and temporal separation from our first-born son.

Current life expectancies project a “full life” of approximately 80 years. In our age of advanced medical technology, anything short of living this full life is deemed to be “tragic.” I can think of four reasons why someone might argue that a child’s death is tragic. I have tried to preach to myself that if I view Micah’s life and death in light of scripture, three of these four reasons are not tragic. Scripture does, however, support the fourth reason for Micah’s death as tragic.

1. Micah’s Standing Before God.

First, Micah did not lose the opportunity to save himself, eternally, through living a life pleasing to God. To argue that Micah is not saved because he never had the opportunity to accept Christ means that Micah (and all of us) could only be saved through “works.” In other words, if it were up to us to make a decision to follow Christ, then God is not sovereign, because God has to “wait on us.” God’s intentions could be thwarted by an obstinate human. In fact, the Bible says we are saved by God even in spite of ourselves.

Ephesians 2:8,9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” As I have previously summarized on this blog, there is very good scriptural evidence for arguing that God, through the work of Christ, saves all children who die before the age of accountability. God saved Micah by the work of Christ on the cross. Scripture clearly demonstrates that all of us, Micah included, are saved by grace—and not because anything we do.

As summarized by John MacArthur in “Safe in the Arms of God,” we are saved by faith but damned by works. “Nowhere in the Bible is anyone ever threatened with hell merely for the guilt inherited from Adam. Instead, whenever Scripture describes the inhabitants of hell, the stress is on their willful acts of sin and rebellion” MacArthur, Safe in the Arms of God, 79-80, citing 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:6; Rev. 21:8; Rev. 22:15.

When I recently visited Micah’s grave, I had no doubts that his spirit now resides in Heaven with His Savior. Please don’t mourn Micah’s lost opportunity to “prove” himself to God. Rather, rejoice with me that God saved him eternally.

2. Micah’s Own Reputation

Second, Micah lost the opportunity to “make a name for himself” in the world. But how worthwhile, how lasting, is human fame? Warriors of ancient times were said to have been drawn into certain death in bloody battle by the promise of eternal glory. Presidents nearing the end of their terms in office are said to be concerned about leaving their legacy—how the generations and historians that follow will view their careers. Professional athletes (or at least the sports journalists who cover them) are view by how successful they were in the “big games.”

Scripture clearly teaches us that the universe exists to manifest God’s glory, not our glory. In the end, we will exist to manifest God’s glory, not ours, whether that is singing praises around His throne in heaven, or serving as objects of His just wrath in hell.

Not only are any attempts to gain personal glory irrelevant to who receives eternal glory, but such attempts eventually lead to death. In his book, “Reason for God,” Timothy Keller defines sin as “the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity apart from him.” Timothy Keller, Reason for God, p. 162. Keller cites Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard for a definition of faith: “that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God.” Keller, 162. Unless we define ourselves, any attempts to define oneself outside of Christ will lead to sin and death and hell.

If Micah had lived a “full life” for the sole purpose of making a name for himself, not only would his life been in vain, but it would ultimately be washed away in the sea of God’s own glory. Even if Micah would have become a prestigious business man or author or political leader, the glory of his own name is infinitely smaller than the glory due to God. Now that He is safely in the arms of His Savior, he has had no opportunity to depart from God. Please don’t mourn for Micah because he never had his own identity in the eyes of the world. Rejoice with me because all of who Micah is now, all of Micah’s identity, is tied to the identity of his Lord and Savior.

3. Earthly Pleasures

Third, Micah lost the opportunity to experience the pleasures of this world. We know that Micah forever lost the opportunity to marry (Matthew 22:30). We don’t know what other additional pleasures that Micah “lost” when he entered Heaven. But what pleasures did Micah gain when he entered eternity with Christ?

Based upon the example of Jesus himself, the pleasures of Heaven must greatly outnumber the pleasures of earth. Hebrew 12:1-3 says, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God...”

Even before Jesus went to the cross, he knew both (i) the joy set before him in Heaven as well as (ii) the physical, emotion and spiritual “cost” of his impending suffering, death and separation from God. Jesus had the joy “set before him” from the very beginning. In Matthew 4, Jesus was tempted by Satan to worship Satan in exchange for “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” Matthew 4:8. Even after Satan showed Jesus “all of the kingdoms of the world and their glory,” Jesus rejected this temptation, choosing instead to live the servant life and suffer and die for us. Jesus, knowing fully all that the world had to offer, chose obedience to His father over all of the pleasures of the world.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays earnestly about his impending torture and death. Matthew 26:36-39. He knew what was to happen to him, and yet, as the writer of Hebrew writes, Jesus “endured the cross, despising its shame,” for the joy that Jesus knew was set before Him.

Jesus endured the greatest suffering imaginable because he knew the joy before Him. Now in God’s presence, it is difficult for us to fathom what pleasures Micah is now experiencing. As Pastor John Piper said recently, “I won’t deny that the pleasures of earth are real; they are, however, fleeting.” Micah’s pleasures are not just real; they are eternal. Please don’t mourn for my son for his loss of worldly pleasures. Rejoice with me that Micah is with Jesus, “in whose presence there is fullness of joy; at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11).

4. Our loss of a physical and temporal relationship with Micah

I live in the hope that I will indeed see my son again. As important as that hope is to me, it is so painful to be here, now, without him. We are temporal beings, living in time and space. When you are looking ahead to eternity, it seems that our temporal earthly lives slow to a crawl. If the next 45 years pass as slow as the last 6 months, it seems like I have a long, long way to go before I see my son again. This is the great pressure point of our son’s death—the day by day, moment by moment realization that my son is not with us.

Last week, I had a dream about Micah. In my dream, I would wake up every morning on successive days and, as in the Bill Murray character in the movie “Groundhog Day,” find myself engaging in the exact same motions and events each day. Each day, I would pick Micah out of his crib, and bring him to our bed with the hopes that he would sleep between Heather and me. Just as he did the last morning of his life, he would wind up playing with me in bed rather than sleeping. This morning routine repeated itself over and over again in my dream—every morning the same routine, every morning the same blessed time together. The dream highlighted for me the source of my deep sorrow. While I relish the memories of my time with Micah, we cannot see our son grow old with us. All we know of him on earth, all of our blessed time together, is now in the past.

In Zechariah 12:10, the prophet compares the grief of “the one whom they have pierced” (Jesus, the Messiah) with the loss of a first born son. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

God knows the bitterness of our tears. In John 11, Jesus wept following the death of his friend Lazarus, despite the fact that he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead very shortly. Jesus wept because he could empathize with the grief experienced by his friends. He wept because he could understand what the loss meant to Lazarus’s family and friends. Please mourn with me the tragedy of our loss—the loss of the opportunity, here and now, to love our first born son Micah.

A few days after Micah died, I wrote a little poem for his funeral and visitation. The end of the poem I think summarizes why we grieve—not for Micah, but for ourselves. It reads,
“And while our pain is sweeping and deep
It is only for ourselves that we weep.
For you, Micah, are now drinking in the Lord’s presence
Swimming in His eternal ocean of love
Laughing in the joy of eternal salvation
And smiling into the face of Jesus.”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Grief, 6 months later- by Heather

My heart hurts as I continue this day to day journey without Micah. There are days that I am so overwhelmed with grief and sadness that it is difficult to proceed with any familiar task. As I woke up this morning, I felt again this sadness and sense of grief that is consuming. I have been thinking about meeting Micah in heaven on that great reunion day and wondering what it will be like. I have so many unanswered questions that flood through my head when I think about that day. Will Micah recognize me? Will he know that I am his mommy? How will be react to me? Will he be as excited to see me as I will be to see him? How old will he be? Will I be able to raise him as though he was still 9 months old and not a day had passed since I saw him last? Will he be disappointed with me that I wasn’t able to save him? Will he know that I tried so hard to make the CPR work? Will he remember my last words to him, “run to Jesus Micah…run to him”? Will he know how much we grieved for him and how hard it was to go on without him? My mind can’t grasp what that moment will be like to see Micah again but how I long for that day.

Yesterday Cory and I were reflecting on our grief and discussing how the grief continues to be predominant in our day. I am reminded daily of how horrific those few weeks were proceeding Micah’s death. I look back to my life before he died of being with Micah all day every day since he was born. Micah was inseparable to me. He relied on me to survive each day. And after he died, I felt so lost, like I had abandoned a huge part of myself…my son. From being with him every day to now being separated from him so suddenly was hard for me to grasp. I kept thinking of how I needed to feed him and how it was 10am or 2:30pm and he needed to go down for his nap. Or at 6pm, it was time for our bedtime routine. How could I just erase those thoughts and go on without my son? At times, I feel guilty that I am now “used to” him being gone and that it is now our “normal” not to have him with us at all times. I pray that I never forget. As I was lying awake in bed last night, I wanted to remember so vividly the memories of bringing Micah up into our bed at 4 or 5am to sleep with us and be awakened to his huge smile and babbling and grabbing our faces. I wanted to badly to be able to feel his little hands touching me…just one more time. I don’t want to forget.

As we continue to plan life without Micah, I find myself overwhelmed by fear. Fear for the future and for the life of this new baby. Am I ready to be responsible for another child? Will I be consumed by the thoughts of losing another child? Will this baby boy look just like Micah? Will my memories of Micah be relived through this new baby? Will I be comforted by the reminders or horribly saddened? What if this baby coughs or chokes? Will I be in to see the doctor every time I think something is wrong? I don’t want to live in fear. This week I was reminded of God’s word in Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I need to pray these words daily and remember His promises to me as He is my comforter and trust completely that he will be my help and strengthen me to live each day. We are reminded daily that we can’t do this alone.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Heather has reported that Micah's little brother (who we call "BabyTwo") is quite an active little guy. We are now only about 15 weeks away from BabyTwo's due date (May 21). For the first time since Micah died, we feel some excitement in preparing for the birth of Micah's little brother. Our lives are filled with contradictory emotions: excitement, to be parents again; sadness, to be missing BabyTwo's older brother Micah; and anxiety, not to be able to control the life and breath of BabyTwo.

Heather has begun preparing for the arrival of BabyTwo. In the course of purchasing clothes for BabyTwo, she discovered earlier this week that she has subconsciously avoided shopping for any baby clothes for babies older than 9 months. We wept together, not only because of the pain of Micah's death, but also in fear of our own future anxiety. What will our nights be like? How will we respond every time that BabyTwo coughs? Or falls?

Micah's death has taught us a lesson in mortality, a lesson that I wish more people would take to heart. But for us, the danger of this lesson is that, in the absence of God's work in our lives, we will suffocate our son (and ourselves) with anxiety over what could happen to him.

Paul says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Phil 4:6. So easy to recite in Sunday School class, so very difficult to do. In speaking with other parents who have similarly lost children, all of them indicate a high level of anxiety over the health and breath of subsequent children.

I pray that the legacy of Micah's death on BabyTwo would be that, somehow, by God's grace, we would be less anxious parents. BabyTwo will outlive us not because (i) we are "due for some good luck" (as someone recently told us) or even (ii) because we are very careful and safe parents, but because God wills him to outlive us. I pray that our belief in the absolute control of a good and loving God outweighs the anxious thoughts that fill our minds.