Crossing the Jordan

2012-10-02 by . 5 comments

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Our sermon this past week was about Joshua and Israel. It’s a triumphant moment, but it had to be one that Joshua met with at least a small amount of trepidation. The scene is an interesting one. All of Israel (The Bible lists 40,000 fighting men, so figure at least 3-4 times that total) is arrayed on one bank of the Jordan, with the promised land on the other side. However, the Jordan is at flood stage; it’s overflowed its banks. A risky crossing or waiting until the river recedes appear to be the only options.

However, God has a different plan. He tells Joshua to have the priests take the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan. When the priests set foot in the river the rushing waters of the river are held and Israel crosses the river on dry land.

My Jordan wasn’t a river, but I find the metaphor apt. This is the story of being on the banks of the river and having the waters recede as we move forward. This is the story of something hard, that could have drowned us, but did not because of grace and God’s providence.

It started in the spring of 2010. My wife and I had just become pregnant with our second child. Although Mrs. Eagle had a bit of a bad feeling about the pregnancy everything seemed normal and we had begun thinking about what life would be like with our new arrival. We were anticipating but not really buying much in anticipation. We knew that the 20 week anatomy scan would be the time when things really started to get going, we could start working on the nursery etc. Only something happened.

At about 18 weeks we went in for our anatomy scan. It was clear from the beginning that things weren’t quite right. The tech began doing some tests and measurements we hadn’t seen before and the resolution on the scan wasn’t very good. There was not enough fluid in Mrs. Eagle’s uterus. Something had gone wrong.

We came back two weeks later and nothing had changed. The baby still did not have enough fluid. The banks of our Jordan were rising. The doctor mentioned Potter’s Syndrome (bilateral renal agenesis if you like big medical terms) and said that it was still early enough to abort if that was what we wanted to consider.

A specialist confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis. Our baby did not have kidneys and this would lead to low to no lung development. While in the womb our baby was fine, but when she was born she would be unable to breathe.

Our Jordan river had hit flood stage. This was devastating (although not unexpected) news. Many around us prayed for a miracle, for our baby to be healed. This was something that we hoped for, prayed for even, but to us the medical evidence was clear. Yes God could do it, but that did not mean he would and the blind confidence of some was not something that we could let ourselves embrace. Instead we asked for the strength to deal with the path that lay ahead of us. If he chose to heal our little one Praise Be To God. If he did not, then Praise Be To God.

The next several months were very difficult. Mrs. Eagle became more and more pregnant as the baby grew, but every few weeks we had a doctor’s visit or specialist visit and each of these just served as a reminder of what was coming.

Finally the due date approached. This was going to be a new and different experience, a different hospital from where we had our first baby, somewhere completely unfamiliar.

Out of the blue Mrs. Eagle gets a phone call, its a coordinator at the local hospital where we are planning to deliver, she sets up meetings for us with the hospital’s grief counselor, a neonatologist and gives us a tour of the maternity wing. She even briefs the medical staff at the hospital to let them know who we are and what our situation is. She apologizes that we had slipped through the cracks but mentions that she had gotten an email from another nurse at the hospital apprising her of our situation (we still don’t know who).

In a lot of ways that phone call was the beginning of our Jordan parting. Mrs. Eagle went into labor just three days later. Her labor was much easier than with our first child. At our meeting with the neonatologist we had discussed and made the decision not to attempt any life saving care for our little one (it would have been futile anyways) so we were able to spend her entire life holding and loving her. She lived for about an hour unable to breathe, but very precious.

The hospital had a photographer from an organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep come in and take pictures of our little one with all of us (myself, Mrs. Eagle, and our son). These photos, while hard to look at are very much cherished by both myself and Mrs. Eagle.

The next morning our doctor came in and something he said helped us realize just how gracious God had been to us. Our little girl looked perfect physically; she had all her fingers, all her toes, no exterior deformities. Had she been born before routine sonograms we would have been completely unaware of anything wrong until she was born and would not breathe. Our Jordan had been parted. Little did we know that this parting had taken place before the waters had even begun to rise.

Almost two years later we’ve gained some perspective. The ~20 weeks that we were able to prepare for and mourn for our child made the aftermath of her death significantly easier (although still very hard). The hour that we were able to spend with her alive was and will always be one of the most cherished hours of my life. I will always be most thankful for the person who emailed the hospital coordinator and told her about us.

I was sitting in church this past week, to some degree wondering what I’d say in this post. How I could tell you about one of the most tragic, miraculous, and beautiful things that had ever happened to me and how God worked to show himself in a bad situation, even when he did not choose to heal the afflicted?

Miracles aren’t about healing the sick, giving sight to the blind or hearing to the deaf. They are about showing God’s power. I believe he did that in this situation. He showed himself to my wife and I, not by healing our daughter, but by putting the right people in our path, preventing the devastation of a sudden loss, and by giving us even just an hour with our beautiful baby girl.

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  • Peter Turner says:

    Thank you for sharing that touching story. My wife and I lost our 3rd baby at about the same time that year. Jude died at only 8 weeks, but it was still heartbreaking.

  • Jon Ericson says:

    God is good; all the time. I wish there were more stories of the grief of Christians who are even so praising God and fewer stories of people who lay claim to the name of Jesus to cause grief for others. Thank you for this.

  • affablegeek says:

    @Wax, I know it sounds cliche to say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but I can tell you it is genuinely heartfelt. Just this week, I was remembering an intensive class in seminary when the professor decided to play the song, “Blessed Be your name.” You have to remember, this was a class full of touchy-feely peopl, and I was “the iceman.” I’m not particularly comfortable with emotion.

    But when the song said, “Blessed be Your name // On the road marked with suffering // Though there’s pain in the offering // Blessed be Your name,” I lost it. I lost in ways that I never have before or since. I was bawling like a baby, reflecting on how God is Good, even when the circumstances aren’t. Despite what others around me say, I don’t feel God’s presence very often – but I did at that moment, and I think for a second I got a glimpse of what you describe. God is good. Thank you for reminding me of that.

    • waxeagle says:

      This is one that we sing relatively frequently at church and I didn’t used to be a very emotional person, but it doesn’t fail to bring tears to my eyes now. Heck, I’m welling up a bit at work just thinking about the lyrics.

    • I had this mental image a few days ago when I read that, and it has stuck with me since. The mental image was of you and your wife standing next to each other in the pews, you on the right and your wife on the next. While the song is playing, you’re leaning on the pew in front of you, shoulders slightly hunched, and head bowed. And even though my perspective is from behind you, I know tears are leaking out of your eyes.

      The feel I get from that mental image is somewhat hard to describe. Though it is sad, it is also…Good. It is True in a way few things are.

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