We finished our year of BSF on Tuesday and we reflected on what we had learned through studying Genesis. I will admit, I was a little hesitant about studying Genesis and it was mostly due to not really wanting to learn anything further this year. I was “learned out” from a practical application standpoint, but decided that it would be good to be studying The Word with other women again and indeed it would be good for the girls to go to the children’s program. When I left partway through Acts last year, most of my answers to the study questions were theoretical to me. I had lived a pretty cushy life and while I had some challenging things happen, nothing had been so big that I couldn’t muscle my way through it. Coming back to study, after living through the isolating, pain-filled, God-dependent ordeal we had lived through was entirely different. I mean, where was I to start? It seemed so many questions needed several pages to answer and depending on the day, I simply did not want to go there. I’ll admit, about halfway through the year I thought about not continuing, but it really didn’t make sense to quit and I knew if I didn’t face some of these challenges now, I’d face them in the future and have to work through them all over again. I reminded myself again that I could not deny the girls the opportunity to attend and learn from the loving, caring women who faithfully teach them the lessons every week. And ultimately, I knew I had to do something “normal” in regard to social interactions. I decided to stay. So reflecting back over the year was an important exercise for me; to see where I came from and where I am now. Here are my big takeaways from a year in the Book of Genesis:
God is purposeful and good.
He made everything purposefully. We are purposeful beings. We have ups and downs and they mean something to Him. Because they mean something to Him, it then changes the way that I view it. I can rest when I know that He has purpose for what we endure and the hardships we face. Nothing feels worse than to go through something difficult and feel like it happened for no reason. This is NOT the case with God. When things feel senseless and meaningless, I can rest in knowing that He will use it all and it will ultimately be good, because He is good. According to Google, “good” means something that is morally right; righteous (noun) or to be desired or approved of (adjective). How many times have we prayed that meal blessing at our table, “God is great; God is good. And we thank Him for our food,” and not really let the words sink in? I realize that when watching the news it is hard to believe that things will be used for God’s purposes or that any good could come from them. The world is full of things happening that seem senseless and terrible. I don’t desire the circumstances Reece lived through or that others endure, but I know in my soul that it will be well. It’s a matter of trust in God that He is faithful to what He has promised.
As we studied the life of Joseph–who was sold (by his brothers, no less) into slavery, believed dead by his family, and thrown into prison for being (falsely) accused of attacking a woman, he ultimately became a powerful man in Egypt and he trusted in God and His plan. Told near the end of Genesis, the story of his life is more than the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat–it is worth your time to read it. But here’s my other deal with it. I’m so thankful that Joseph had things happen later in his life where he could see some, I repeat some resolution here on Earth. He could see how his turmoil resulted in something great. However, there are many people who never see that resolution here. It doesn’t mean that the same promise of God doesn’t hold true or that He is only good when He demonstrates the resolution here. It just means it will be resolved and revealed in Heaven. I don’t think of Reece as losing a battle or not being healed. False. He is perfectly healed. Being delivered into Heaven isn’t a consolation prize for not receiving healing here. Terry and I agreed even on the day he passed away that we would not ask for him to be back here, even in his healthiest, normal state. If we truly embrace the promise that Heaven is our home, I can’t ask for him to come back here. I remind myself often that Reece is doing something today that far exceeds what his day or any of our days would look like here. It’s awesome to think about! Nevertheless, I don’t get to understand how that all plays out for probably quite sometime. I didn’t get the chance to see it resolved here, but resolution for him did happen and I will understand it all one day. Likewise, God knew we would suffer the loss of Reece. This will not be resolved for us here. We expect that we will suffer this until our own bodies give way; we will endure lifelong suffering. But my soul is at peace here when I know deeply that it has purpose and that God is good in it. He made the earth and everything in it and declared it good. He is good. He is good even when it doesn’t turn out the way we want it to turn out. This year, in particular, I needed to see that He is purposeful and good.
My walk with God won’t be easy.
I knew this to be true already, but it was powerful to read about the lives of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) and Joseph and to see how while God chose these men to establish His people, they struggled in life. They made poor decisions, they endured hardships, they wrestled with God (Jacob, literally), they struggled to trust God, yet God was faithful to them. He showed his love for them through it all. While I already knew life here would be tough, it was oddly reassuring to read through it this year and realize that these struggles have been going on since Creation and will always be while we are here. It doesn’t mean that God is necessarily punishing us (although at times, it might). It means I am guaranteed suffering here, but that shouldn’t be falsely interpreted as God not caring for me or loving me. God’s love isn’t solely demonstrated by what He spares us from, but also includes what He helps us endure. Since the beginning of time, God has persevered with people by His love and mercy–The Fall, The Flood, The Patriarchs, slavery, the death of Jesus, and so much more up to the present day. It really gets back to my first takeaway. Even when life feels raw, when we suffer, when we are hurt, when we make bad choices and suffer the consequences, God cares and He is faithful to us. I needed to see that come through the lives of the men in Genesis.
I should preface this next part by saying it has been an ongoing process to discern what is laid on my soul by God/stirred through the Holy Spirit, what is produced in my mind as a fear or protective, innate response to something, and what is just my mind wandering. It’s one thing to look backwards and sort through things to see God’s hand, but I have been paying attention to try to understand, at present, what the Lord is trying to communicate to me. I will never know God’s plan for me or my family in full until I get to Heaven and God reveals as much as I need to know.
With this in mind, I had something laid on my heart a few weeks back that has been aided by my learning in Genesis and that I feel God specifically pointed out to me one day. Scarlett, our third child, has always been a mystery to me. She is the one child of our four that seemed to come out of nowhere. I love her so much, so this does not reflect any sort of negativity towards her. However, we were quite surprised to find out that we were pregnant with her about six weeks prior to Reece’s blood work. As the pregnancy continued on, it limited my ability to help with Reece (picking him up, doing overnights at the hospital, etc.). I felt frustrated with my lack of ability to do things with him and often had to tell him I couldn’t do what he wanted. I felt torn between Reece’s many needs and Scarlett’s baby needs after she was born. I felt somewhat resentful that pregnancy should be a happy time and instead my pregnancy with her was full of stress and tears. I have felt anger over having to tell Reece “no” to anything at all in his last months with us. There were many times I felt I had to choose between the two kids and it felt so wrong given the serious nature of the situation. Also, I struggled with knowing that Scarlett’s birth and Reece’s passing were only 9 weeks apart…forever associating the two in that way.
In addition, while I don’t regularly struggle with this line of thinking, it is difficult to not feel at times like Reece suffered for something we did. In my pursuit to try to make sense of Reece’s failing health, many things have run through my mind and certainly one of them is that we are somehow punished by this circumstance. The Bible discusses punishments–even punishments for sins committed generations before. I don’t get mentally stuck there, but it of course has come up in conversation. However, as we continued to study Genesis, it highlighted how blessed people have been with children. Certainly, we know we are blessed with all four of our children. Children have been a source of blessing back to the Creation.
Keeping all of this in mind, I had this moment of peace and understanding one morning that touched me so deeply, I believe it is from the Lord. It occurred to me that Scarlett was given purely as a gift of life at a time of earthly death. This might seem obvious and when I read it, it seems obvious, too. But on a deeper level, I thought about it in terms of such a contrast of blessing with both the beginning of life here for one child and life in Heaven for another. I feel like Scarlett was, among many other things, a way for me to understand that God’s purpose for us is parenting. He continued to show His love in such a powerful and joy-filled way through the obvious blessing of her. The joy over (well, all three children at the time) Scarlett and Reece are so vastly different, but bringing life into this world at such a time is, to me, a sign of God’s faithfulness to us. It really overwhelms me to think about it. It doesn’t mean we will be spared from other suffering or loss, it just means to me that God is faithful to us. He would be faithful without having given us Scarlett, but He chose that for us, just like He chose to take Reece away. He didn’t have to give us a child to show His faithfulness, but He reassured me that He indeed has chosen a path of parenting for us and that we are blessed with this path. I don’t believe He is punishing us for something we are doing or something we did. It seems affirming in our decision to parent as though He is saying, “I’m going to take one child from you physically, but I am going to entrust you with another, so you understand that I trust you with these children and that I love you. This is about my plan for Reece and your lives, but it isn’t about your punishment. You need to trust Me.” (He didn’t audibly say that, but that is what the message felt like to me.) He blessed us in the middle of it all. So many of the blessings felt like they had to be wrung out of that circumstance, but Scarlett was poured out over us. He didn’t have to do that for us. Now, what seemed so frustrating in the midst of it all has turned into a completely different realization. It doesn’t change our longing for Reece. However, He knew our desires before we even knew them ourselves and worked it out for our good, so while in the midst of our suffering we can also literally see our blessings.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28