God, through Jesus Christ, is what we hope for and His presence is the evidence, though unseen, of our eternal trust in Him.
Dr. Henri Whitfield
The birth of our first daughter was the first time I faced a significant trial after marying my wife. The challenge of raising children has always been a daunting task. But rearing a child born prematurely with chromosomal anomalies can be incredibly taxing. Sitting at the hospital all night and getting up and functioning the next day did was tough and I did not always get the best results. The days were full of tough decisions, and the silence of the night was spent second-guessing the decisions made at earlier times during the day. When I was 32 years of age my daughter, Taylor Iman, which means “Mender of Faith,” was born on February 3. She had a chromosomal disorder and she was born three months premature. By the time she was eight months old her little body had endured six surgeries. We were in constant prayer hoping that God would heal her of all of her physical maliadies. A normal day in our lives consisted of heart rate monitors, nurse shifts and sleepless nights.
One day, I went in to check on Taylor, and to my surprise, she was struggling to breathe. I instantly called the paramedics, and then called my wife to have her meet me at the hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital, I placed a call to the assistant pastor and the senior pastor of the church my family attended. As I sat there alone, I prayed earnestly until my wife arrived. Upon her arrival, her mother and father came in with her. We sat in the waiting room awaiting word from the doctors for several long hours.
The pastors, family, and friends were in the waiting area when the nurse came and guided us into the emergency room where she lay. Our pastors accompanied us into the room. The leads and the heart monitor were all removed from her body, the monitors were silent, the breathing machine was not breathing for her, and the lights in the room were dim as if they were allowing her to get some much-needed rest. However, something was different. Our beautiful baby girl was not fussing and wiggling around on the examination table; she was still… her voice was silent. Her eyes, partially opened, stared straight at the ceiling looking neither to the right or the left. She looked as if she was about to fall into a deep sleep. I reached to wipe away tears from her cheeks that had rolled down her face towards her ears, as I touched her I realized that life had left her small warm body. Suddenly we saw what no parent ever wants to see! Death was slowly moving over our child’s face like a skilled makeup artist. Her beautiful pink cheeks were quickly fading to a pale bluish hue. As we prepared to pick her up the ER doctor stopped us. She positioned herself between our daughter and us, with an intense, tear restraining gaze, she spoke in a soft, stern, compassionate voice. “We did all we could do… there is nothing more we can do.”
As the reality of her death began to overcome us, the doctors, nurses, and our pastors held us up. Consumed with inexpressible grief, we gasped, the air left the room at once, and everything in the place went blank, the dim lights in the room faded to nothing, the noise of a busy hospital emergency room suddenly hushed, the voices in the room became nothing but blurred tones that were momentarily indistinguishable. What began as a typical day in the life of our family since the birth of Taylor suddenly turned into a day of emotional, mental, and spiritual pain. Together we imploded collapsing almost hitting the floor. The picture was one of total and unimpeded collapse. As we were kept from falling to the floor by our pastors. As they picked us up we began to breathe in deep gulping breaths. Upon regaining our composure, we instantly filled the room with cries and tears of total grief. We clung to each other trying to comprehend the sheer horror of her death. Within that instant, we were on the brink of insanity. We wept bitter, agonizing tears audibly in each other’s arms. As parents, we would not give up! Had we failed because we were not able to keep her from death? For eight months we hoped against hope that God would heal her. I reached out and touched her and prayed that God would perform a miracle. Even though the doctors had affirmed that she was physically deceased… we prayed for a miracle. Our inner spirits jettisoned to the spirit realm, and we screamed blood curling screams that shook the gates of heaven. We had abandoned our surroundings, and at once we wrestled, thrashed, and fought with God’s angel of death. Together we wreseled with God. Then God answered us… In an abrupt commanding voice… He said no! Like an earthly father helping his children to understand that he means no to their pleadings to have things their way.
As a father, the guilt of having lost a fight for our only child was devastating. In that instant, we came to ourselves, and we prepared to leave the hospital. Like pouting children, we refused to speak to those around us. In fact, we could not talk, each time we opened our mouths, weeping and wailing escaped from the depth of our beings. Like the women in Egypt, during the slaughter of innocent children, there was no comfort for us. Our wailing soon gave way to a rebellious silence. The noise of our silence was impossible to pierce as we made our way home. We were empty of words, solemn with anguish, and weak from existing in that moment and the earlier hours. These were the moments when our hope was gone; we were momentary infidels. Who we were in Christ was not even a consideration. Disillusionment was quickly grasping at our hearts; our belief was suddenly becoming unbelief. Our daughter’s name means “Mender of Faith” …we believed that God gave us her name… but where was the mending or the faith?
Suddenly, faith seized us immediately ending our turmoil as we walked through the door of our home. We found our way to our bedroom, and for the first time since her birth, we slept without any interruptions. No more monitors were beeping in the night. No cries for comfort from an ailing child. The house quickly filled with concerned relatives and friends, but we retreated to our bedroom and closed the door. Sleep came to us as a soothing gift. In our sleep, we remembered her birth and all the victories of our lives together. We instantly knew that God had, in fact, mended our faith. Faith is not praying and receiving, but it can accept the will of God in life. God taught us that His faith is what we should take no matter how bitter the taste.
By the time the funeral arrived I was prepared to preach, and that morning God gave me peace. My message was a simple one; “God is Still Good!”, By faith, I learned that it was an honor and a privileged to endure the death of a child because it gave me an inkling of what God experienced when He freely give His only begotten son for us. The demise of Taylor refined us into people who mirror the image of God because like God we know what it means to lose our first born. The only difference was our child was not given willingly, but God gave His son willingly! The parallel between God and my wife and I made the message of Christ’s death relevant to me as a minister of the Gospel. More importantly we learned how to suffer through the challenges of life. Though her death seemed cruel, we accounted it as a blessing because we now understand the sacrifice that God gave for us by grace. He gave the precious gift of His son so that we might know Him.
As I completed the eulogy, I said these words for those who were seeking ways to help us get over Taylor’s death. “We will never completely heal from the gaping hole in our lives because of Taylor’s death, but by the grace of God, He will shape our lives around it. And in the days ahead we will visit with Taylor in our hearts until we meet again in Heaven.” These words have been said countless times as we have ministered to parents who have endured the pain of parting with their child through death.
God used this circumstance to mend our faith in the crucible of grief. In our grief we experienced unbearable pain. God, by faith, carried us through the dark corridors of trouble and He delivered us safely to the brightness of Hope. We did not get through that moment because we were faithful but because He is faithful. God is the giver of faith. Our trials are used to cultivate our faith. Once cultivated it prepares you to continue with God even when logic tells you that there is no God. However, when we walk blindly, due to dark uncharted circumstances, God orders our steps. God, through Jesus Christ, is what we hope for, and His presence is the evidence, though unseen, of our eternal trust in Him.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.