One of our giant saguaros out front toppled over and crashed into our house a few weeks ago. The night of October 20th, to be precise. Our house is fine; we have a foam roof and although it may not be pretty it's apparently good at keeping cactus out. We were surprised to say the least, and I have to admit I was a little bummed. I know, it's a cactus. But those ancient "trees" of the desert are beautiful in their sky-high majesty! However-it was just a cactus, and considering the news we got from a friend of ours earlier that same day...perspective.
Then came the next morning. The house was still quiet and dark; Adam was on a run and all three kiddos were asleep. I walked out to snap a few photos to show our families the danger of living in the desert, and, oh, maybe for instagram because how often does a giant cactus fall in your yard and magnificently smash a prickly pear so that it blows all over the place? It was pretty amazing. And beautiful, in the early morning light. And as I walked back into my kitchen to start making my morning smoothie, I started crying.
Seriously?!? I'm crying over a cactus. What the heck is wrong with me?!? was my subconscious thought.
But from inside, I heard a very familiar still voice....
It's not about the cactus.
And in that moment everything crystallized and I got it.
As I stood there and the knowing washed over me, the tears really started to roll and I had to put the blender down and just hold onto the counter and sob....because the Lord had just spoken beautiful truth to me through a cactus and even though my heart was breaking for our friends that day, I couldn't help but see the awe-struck majesty of a Lord who would speak to me through a cactus. (And the ridiculousness of it. I could see that too.)
You see, the day before a good friend of mine texted me while I was out running errands sans-kids. The gist of it was that my 28-weeks pregnant friend realized she hadn't felt baby move in a day or so, and was going to the midwives to get checked. She asked for prayer, and you can bet I prayed all thorough that hour-long barre class.
When I got out I had a text saying there had been no heartbeat detectable with the Doppler, and she was headed to the hospital for ultrasound confirmation. By 5 that night we found out that yes, she had lost the baby. Adam and I, we're not strangers to death or grief and really, who in this world is? So our hearts broke for our friends and the rest of the night was spent talking, praying, reaching out to them, praying...talking.
Not even a sparrow falls but that He knows it.
I wish I could describe to you in less than 55,000 words what happened the rest of that week and even into the next...the grief and the sadness, but more so the holiness of it all. The night we lived through in just a fraction of what they lived through, waiting to hear the news that she'd delivered their small daughter. That they'd finally met tiny, still Mercy. The updates of moments with her throughout that one day with her; of the only memories they would make with their small daughter in their arms. Painting tiny nails pink, taking hand and footprints, holding close to their hearts the little one whose heart beat no more. But I can't, except to tell you what my friend said in one of her texts- that it was the most beautifully sacred day they'd ever had.
Beautifully sacred. Holding their stillborn daughter...no anger, never anger in that day; although there was-is- sadness. Mostly there was just an overwhelming sense of the presence of the Lord pervading it all and making beauty from their ashes. Just as the light made beautiful the wreak of the cactus in our front yard that morning.
I knew all about it, and I know all about Mercy. I am not a god of cruelty, of mistakes, of senseless pain.
Not even a sparrow falls but that I know it....
And this is what I saw: He has conquered death. Not a new thought, really. It wasn't part of the original plan, death; it wasn't meant to be this way. It came in with sin. This is why death is so weird and just....heavy. I hate death, in a way. I'm not afraid of it, not angry with it...I just plain hate that this is what humanity has brought upon ourselves with our choices to sin. The traditions surrounding death, the rituals...it's all to try to understand, to say goodbye, to hold on longer.
But He has conquered death.
I knew this, of course. When Erica died and then again with Celine the Lord carried us through those valleys with so many, many beautiful touches of His presence, revelations of Himself, His goodness, His peace...even in the midst of so much grief. But it took me being on the outside and watching someone else going through the valley and experiencing so many of the same things to really get it. You see, as Christians who profess Christ is the only Son of God; that He died for us and thus paid for our sins; as we gladly repent and admit we can't do it on our own, be good enough, try hard enough to get to heaven we know He's conquered death to make the Way for us. But this I didn't fully realize until that week....
His death on the cross and conquering of the grave did not simply make the way to heaven for us. It also gave Him the power to come alongside us in our grief in a new way. In the most beautifully holy, sacred way it enabled Him to bridge the solitude of our grief, of death, and create Beauty from Ashes. ALL of the Ashes. ANYONE'S Ashes. He does, and He will, always, because of His love for us-- as well as for His glory-- and so He carrys us through the places we once had to trod alone. By His death, He earned that right.
Not even a sparrow falls but that He knows it.
Not even a cactus falls but that He's there to catch the healing tears of grief.
And so He continues to make beauty of the ashes.