Bright Green is the Color of Hope – The Gift of Life in Infant Loss


Genevieve and I met on a non-discript day in September, I imagine. Genevieve and I bonded sharing a tiny little office off the chapel of Concordia University in Chicago, Illinois.

Young and fresh and full of theological ideologies just waiting to be hammer out, we spent a fair number of hours gabbing about which classes were our favorites, bad boyfriend breakups, and philosophical dissertations on the lectionary selection of the week.

We grew up. We met handsome men, who were chasing after the Lord and could keep up with our theological rants and so we married them. We grew out. We each moved. We lost touch a little. Then Facebook worked its magic on the world and we vowed not to lose touch again.

We liked each other’s feeds. We commented on recipes we thought we would each like. We rejoiced together as babies were born and ministry happened and life did its thing. Then my world fell apart, and Genevieve was there.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be my turn, 3 years later, to hold Genevieve when her world fell apart. February 7th we should have welcomed Sebastian Alexander Sigmund Wagner to the world.

If the world were perfect, if Adam and Eve would have kept their grubby hands off that apple, we would have. Instead, we welcomed this precious little boy into his eternal rest in the arms of His Savior.

I created the Written in Iron Ink series of the podcast to reflect the testimonies of all the brave and courageous people I know going forth in this life and letting God write His testimony across their lives, their struggles, their joys, their losses, and their triumphs. When we go through stuff we want to know that it isn’t for naught, that God is at work, that ministry is being done, and that through it He ministers to us, and He ministers to His people.

I was blessed to sit with Genevieve and Rev. Geoffrey Wagner last month and talk about God’s work in and through the life of their stillborn son.

God has written a message on Sebastian’s tiny little life and the Wagner’s are the first to tell you that His message is Hope.

Our hands are grubby too. Adam and Eve aren’t the only ones to deal with the consequences of sin. From that day on our whole world struggles against the darkness of a world groaning for Christ to heal it. Death is our reality, and sometimes death that comes far too soon. The Wagner’s, in this podcast, help us to clarify God’s grace for the unborn, God’s work in every single life He creates, and the testimony that our Savior works for ministry to and among one another in times of grief.


Here are a few of the highlights:

Every pastor needs a pastor. Every pastor’s family needs a pastor.

Grief is an individual process and requires a judgement free zone. Spouses grieve differently from one another. Children need to grieve. Others who offer support and grieve alongside are a gift.

The promise of the Gospel is heard in the womb. We cling to the promises and the grace of God, the Word of God, rather than our own abilities and doubts. God works His testimony and ministry happens through the tiniest of lives.

I Love My Shepherd- Episode 16

Written in Iron Ink – Infant Loss

Resources for infant loss:

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep- Infant loss photography

Molly’s Bears – more than just a teddy bear

Grieving the Child I Never Knew: A Devotional for Comfort in the Loss of Your Unborn or Newly Born Child

Share – A National Organization for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support

Star Legacy Foundation: Stillbirth Education, Research, and Awareness

At the Death of a Child – booklet on infant loss and baptism

I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy (book)

 

The gut punch of left alone

Alone. As a mom of four kids, therapist, and pastor’s wife, I love me some alone time. Give me a cup of coffee and a good book, a glass of wine and a fire in my backyard, or a bathtub and a cup of earl grey, and it’s like a tiny window of heaven. Alone time is a precious resource around here. You don’t take it for granted. But I also know what it means to feel truly alone, as in left alone…and there’s a big difference.

Have you had that moment? That moment when it feels like everyone has walked away. Maybe a loss leaves you wondering who will fill the gap, who else will share your secrets. Maybe you have been left by a loved one, a father, a mother, a husband, a brother – someone who walked out the door leaving you behind with the tears, the shock, and the anger. Or maybe you have been left standing to face the bully of life on your own, and when you looked around, not a single person stayed to fight alongside you.

Whether in little or in the big moments of life, we have all experienced the stomach drop of left alone.

My therapist is fond of saying, “There are two sides to every coin.” Today, let’s return to Isaiah 62:12, our passage from yesterday, and remind ourselves of the titles bestowed on us by Christ, once again. There is so much in this snippet of Scripture:

And they shall be called The Holy People,
    The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
    A City Not Forsaken.

One side of the coin is being sought out, being chosen and loved, someone running after us. The other side of the coin here is that to know what Not Forsaken looks like, we need to experience left alone.

Words associated with the word forsaken in the dictionary include – abandoned, deserted, to disown, renounce, refuse, or discard.

This is so often the world’s message to us – you aren’t worth the time or energy, you aren’t important enough, you are insignificant. This is never, never, God’s message to us.

Flip the coin…

Sought out means not forsaken, not abandoned, not disowned, not renounced, not refused, and never, never discarded.

Look up the following verses and hear God’s message of Not Forsaken –

Deuteronomy 31:8

1 Chronicles 28:20

2 Corinthians 4:9-10 …persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Hebrews 13:5-6

We may undergo trial. There may be good days and bad days and rotten days and complacent days and joy-filled days and everything in between, but there will never be forsaken days.

You, my friend, are Not Forsaken. It is your name, placed on you by God Himself. Notice the capital letters in the Isaiah text. Sought Out, Not Forsaken. He will be with you each day, in the wonderful and the hard. Cling to that. Let it seep into your soul.

Not Forsaken.

Father, we thank you that You sought us out and that You bring us to You, that You treasure us enough to make promises and follow through, especially when the world goes it’s own way. Charge us to be faithful, Lord. Help us to live in Your promises and find the value and worth of each day in You and You alone. Thank you for Jesus, who makes us new and holy and free. Forgive us when we forsake You, and lead us ever back to Your mercy and grace. We stand on Not Forsaken in You, today. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. 

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Exploration:

Martin Luther and other commentators apply this verse also to the Church on earth. The Church being God’s people here and now, and across time. How has God sought out His people in history? What historical moments come to mind when you consider that the Church is not forsaken? What promise of the future is there for the Church in Not Forsaken and Sought Out?

The first verse of the hymn The Church’s One Foundation speaks directly to this topic of Sought Out. Sing this message to yourself or with your family today and be reminded of His Faithfulness.

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died. (public domain)

http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/LSB2006/644

 

The High Price of Ransom

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Day 3 – The high price of ransom

What do you know of the Old Testament stories of the Red Sea, of Moses, of the original Passover lambs and doorposts, or of the Hebrew slaves ransomed?

Take a moment to jot down or think through words and pieces of the events you remember of what we call The Exodus. Feel free to quickly skim the first 14 chapters of the book of Exodus to jog your memory or to learn something new! This is an open book test. 😉

(Just joking. There are no tests in Bible study. I promise!)

What did God bring the Israelites out of in The Exodus? Slavery. Yes. Hard slavery, ever increasing oppression, task masters, a life of clay with no straw and drown baby boys. Can you imagine?

God references His work to free His people from Egypt’s bonds in Isaiah 43:3-4. Let’s read that.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life.

God is willing to give what is most valuable to Him to ransom His children – namely, people.

This concept may be more than a little disturbing for us, God giving some people in exchange for others. To understand it better, we need to open our Bibles and return to the end of the Exodus, to the crossing of the Red Sea into the land of promise, the land of freedom. Please read Exodus 14:19-31. For the sake of space here, I will only highlight Exodus 14:18-20, 23-24, and verse 30 below:

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic…

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

It should be hard to listen to the loss of the Egyptians. I don’t think we were designed to be ok with people dying. We were made for life. Sin brought death into the world. We were made in the image of God, to have compassion and mercy for every life. We were also made to hold our heads high and that means not sticking them in the sand. Matthew Henry reminds us in his commentary –

“God has purchased them dearly.”

The salvation of the people of Israel, God’s chosen ones, those people who were to bring the knowledge of Salvation to the rest of the world, was not a simple commercial transaction. Giving people in exchange for other people – let us not assume that this was something easy or weightless to God. He gave dearly to ransom them from the hands of those who were destroying them.

When people lose their lives for any reason, God cares.

He cares for the murdered child, he cares for the aborted baby, he cares for the soldier. He cares.

I’m not entirely convinced that there weren’t Egyptians turning to the Lord like mad under the weight of the closing waters of the Red Sea. They had seen His work, they had seen the miracles and plagues and the faithfulness of this unknown God. How many of them turned to Him, we do not know.

But in this instance, a ransom had to be given. It’s hard. God came down as a pillar of fire, a cloud of darkness to stand between His people and the evil that would overtake them. He is not messing around when it comes to His children. Death is our earthly reality, yes, but don’t be mistaken-

He is willing to let hard stuff happen for us to come to Him.

That doesn’t mean that the hard stuff is a flashing neon sign of someone or something’s lack of faith. That’s silly and it’s petty and it is not at all Biblical. Faithfulness does not mean good will come to you, and unfaithfulness does not always bring on calamity. It does mean there are casualties in this war against the devil, sometimes it’s us, sometimes it’s our children, sometimes it’s jobs or homes or happiness.

And the battle is the Lord’s. He is fighting.

Here is the hope: He has won.

Revelation 5:9-10 tells us that Jesus came down, fought the fight and won. The victory is ours for eternity.

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

Today we learn that ransoming comes with a price. This pilgrimage is hard. This journey is full of boundless love and joy, but also pain and struggle. Sometimes we need to get to the other side of the Sea and thank God for something He’s doing that we don’t quite understand, to lay it into His hands, to weep over those lost, and praise Him for eternal life in Jesus, offered free for every one of us both left standing and drown underwater.

He is working, ransoming, redeeming, and saving souls every where, every day. Rest in Him.

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Exploration:

Take a moment to work on memorizing the Heart verse for the week. Write it out, stick it up somewhere.

Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life.  (Isaiah 43:4)

Who are you praying for, that they would come to God, whether through joy or struggle? (You can use a name or vague description of the situation, however you are most comfortable for privacy sake.)

 

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