On the Sunday I was welcomed as a new staff member at Knox in late August of this year, I felt very nauseous on the train ride to church. I thought it was nerves, excitement about my new job leading Home Churches at Knox. But something in the back of my mind made me reach for a pregnancy test when I got home that afternoon. My husband Nick and I were in complete shock when the test came out positive. This was not part of my plan. It was clear to me from the beginning that God was doing something big through this pregnancy, something I didn’t quite grasp. I even cried about it, not knowing how to accept the timing. It is hard to start a new job when you are dealing with the nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester. I would pray “you planned this timing, Lord, not me. Give me my daily bread, please.” And God did.
Day by day I received the energy and grace to be a mother to my two toddlers and the little one I was carrying, and to pastor and build the Home Church ministry. Often this provision came in the form of helpers, like my husband, family, friends, colleagues, congregants at Knox. As I wrestled to understand the timing of this blessing of a third child, God spoke to me through a worship song I heard for first time soon after finding out I was pregnant:
“Your ways are higher
Your thoughts are wilder
Love came like madness
Poured out in blood-washed romance
It makes no sense but this is grace
And I know You’re with me in this place”
God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are higher and wilder. C.S. Lewis said it like this, “He is not a tame lion” (from The Last Battle). I slowly came to terms with what God was doing through the timing of this pregnancy, not because I fully understood it, but precisely because I did not. I was in a wild season, full of the unknown and uncharted for me (as a pregnant pastor, as a woman in ministry, as a mother in church leadership). And I would only thrive in this season, if I was completely reliant on God, and not my own strength or knowledge. From this revelation, came the name Nick and I chose for the baby.
Years ago we had put “Wilder” on our list of names we like, and suddenly we knew why we loved that name. This would be our wilder baby, not because we were wishing rebellion or chaos on the child, but because this child would remind us that wildness (the mysterious, the dangerous, the untameable) is a part of God’s character, part of our good God’s character. We decided that the baby would be Wilder, whether a boy or a girl, just a few days before the miscarriage.
One Friday morning in October, I went to work early to finish prepping for the Home Church leaders training meeting that evening. I was full of anticipation and excitement to be launching the Home Church ministry that week. An hour later I felt a gush of liquid between my legs and, with dread, I ran to the bathroom. I have suffered a miscarriage before, at almost the same stage of pregnancy, and as I saw the amount of blood pouring out and its bright red colour, I began to sob. I knew what was happening. I ran back to my office to call my midwife and tell Nick and my parents and sisters. I was alone in the office and my older sister, Ali, was distraught that I was by myself, so she called the front office to try to find someone to come be with me while I waited for Nick to arrive. Peter de Koning was in the front office and came to sit with me in my time of despair. It is not easy to be with someone while grief takes over, and I am so thankful for his gentleness and kindness while we tried to contact the midwife and while I cried. As I talked with my midwife and checked the heavy bleeding again, she agreed that all the symptoms pointed to a miscarriage. The best thing to do was go home and rest and wait for my body to complete the sad work of delivering my dead baby.
When Nick arrived to take me home, the only thing we could say to each other was, “we don’t understand”. The timing of the pregnancy felt so significant, how could it all be just to end in sorrow. My mind wandered occasionally to the training event, which I had poured my heart into. My amazing colleagues and friends had agreed to continue it, at my urging, and I asked them to share with those present the sad news, that the weight of mourning might be lightened a little by being shared. As Friday wore on, something strange happened. The bleeding slowed to almost a stop. I was confused. When my midwife checked in around 7pm, I reported there was no more blood at all. Uncommon but not unheard of. Because of the amount of blood earlier, and the other symptoms like contractions, my midwife and I both agreed that it was probably just a pause, my body holding onto the pregnancy. Miscarriages can take days, even weeks to be completed, I decided to continue to wait at home. Looking back, I see supernatural timing. I see people praying around the world from the moment they found out Friday morning, culminating in the Home Church leadership team praying powerfully for us Friday night, around 6:30pm. God was at work, although it would take us a few days to find out what he had done.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday we continued to wait, in growing confusion, for the miscarriage to start again. We did not have hope for a miracle, we were living in our past experience and trying to process our sorrow. Although family gently urged us to go to the ER for an ultrasound, we chose to wait for Monday when it could be done without a 6 hour wait. I do not regret those terrible days of waiting. Nick and I worked out some important theology (fancy word for beliefs) as we sat in the pain of not knowing what was happening. We spoke to each other about God’s character, we prayed desperate, short prayers, knowing others were faithfully praying what we could not. Then on Monday, I went to the ultrasound with dread. Ali, my sister, took the day off to come with me. She was the first to see the baby alive from her vantage point in the room. I walked out sobbing with relief and shock that my baby Wilder was not only alive, but well! There was no sign of anything wrong, no need for me to go on bed rest or fret. And I wanted to dance and I wanted to hug people and say, “this is a miracle, there are no other explanations, it is simply a miracle!”
My younger sister told me that on the Sunday, as she worshiped at her church in another country, God spoke to her heart that the baby was alive, using a worship song she had last heard when I miscarried two years ago. What a sign of how the body of Christ is connected by the Holy Spirit. Had I not lived through another miscarriage, were my midwives not baffled by the ultrasound showing a healthy baby, I would conclude this was a simple case of misdiagnosing a miscarriage. And that would be cause for celebration too! But I witnessed the amount of blood, I felt my body begin the familiar miscarriage process and then I felt all of that stop, seemingly out of nowhere. Deep in my bones, I know God miraculously intervened to save Wilder’s life. And I know the prayers everyone lifted up were a part of God’s plan for this miraculous restoration of life. It is heavy on my heart to also say the following: this miracle is not some kind of proof of God’s goodness. When Nick and I lost a baby two years ago, we declared God’s goodness in our sorrow. God was near to us in our pain. And even though we were confused and distraught this time, at no point did we question God’s goodness or think that death and pain come from him. This miracle is a gift. Of course, it points to God’s goodness and love… because all of creation points to that! We rejoice in this supernatural intervention and we will shout the testimony of it for God’s glory. But our ultimate hope is in God triumphing over death completely. I know I will meet my lost babies in heaven, death does not win even when it appears so from this side of heaven.
My brother-in-law, Jon, wrote us a note saying that this miracle reminded him to be bold in prayer, and it brought him back to this verse, which is where I hope we all land with this testimony of God’s power at work within us:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21