“Hey, honey. Wake up. I’m not feeling well.” My wife’s steady voice drew me out of slumber about one o’clock a.m. on our first Sunday in the new church.
“Wha… What? What’s up, love?”
“I already spoke with a nurse at the hospital. We need to go to the emergency room. I’ve been up for an hour now. I’m having some pain in my belly.”
We were four days removed from a four-hour trip north to a new church assignment and about four weeks or so removed from the beautiful blinking static pinto bean confirming that our first child was indeed planted and growing inside Abby. We had driven home from the doctor giddy, knowing that one of our first tasks in our new town would be to locate a good OB/GYN to shepherd us through our 40-week journey into first-time parenthood. It was clear on this night, from her calm but direct tone, that Abby was more than a little worried. But there was no sense getting ahead of myself; I would stay cool and see what the professionals discovered.
“Ok,” I answered, becoming less groggy by the minute as I got out of bed quickly now and began to dress in jeans, un-tucked short-sleeve polo, and running shoes. Pulling on a cap and snatching up my wallet and keys, I checked for Abby’s whereabouts. She was dressed by now and ready to get in the car.
We lived a short drive from the larger, regional town. It had been years since I had driven these roads of my youth but managed to pilot us straight to the hospital. Parking was no problem at this hour of the night. I picked a spot near the front, placing us a stone’s throw from the automatic doors. A nurse checked us in and in short order we were sitting in a sterile white room, waiting.
In order to remain optimistic about the health of our baby, yet realistic about what we knew was possible I had adopted something of an agnostic position on the matter: I would remain undecided for now, hoping for the best. Abby had a seat on the emergency room bed with its paper-cover freshly rolled and taped after the room’s previous occupant.
I remember the difficulty the nurse had sticking Abby’s arm with the needle. I remember going to another room for some sort of screening for Abby. And I remember the doctor, with whom we had become familiar over the blur of a four hours we spent the ER, walking into our room for the last time with a caring expression on his face, a sure give-away. He took a silver pen from his white coat and began to draw on the bed’s paper-cover. “You’re having a miscarriage,” he said. He was direct in speech while empathetic in tone and demeanor. He drew simple pictures to illustrate what was happening inside Abby. He assured Abby that she had done nothing to bring this on — “No, you didn’t overdo it with the packing.” Then he shared his own story. His wife had miscarried in each of her first four pregnancies, devastating her every time. On the fifth try, she finally broke her streak en route to five successive babies delivered safely into their family.
We knew he wasn’t promising anything out of his control. But we also knew we were thankful for some perspective, delivered with genuine warmth and compassion. Then he asked if he could pray for us.
Not long after we arrived back at home, the sun already greeting the day, Abby called me into our bathroom to point out a tiny bloody glob in the toilet. She looked at me solemnly. I told her to flush.
Abby felt the baby was a girl, and named her Grace.
In Christian parlance grace is unmerited and unexpected blessing, an unforeseeable gift to be received with thanks and humility. And grace has a way, once it has taken a foot-hold in one life, of spreading.
Seven weeks later, about a quarter to five in the evening, there was a knock at the door. Abby answered it. I was working from home. A young mother in our congregation, roughly twenty weeks pregnant, had just been told that her baby boy had died in her womb. They would induce her in the morning because she had to deliver him stillborn in order to get him out. Tears upon tears. I would perform the funeral three days later, woefully inadequate to the task. And yet somehow a blessing to this hurting family, having lost and found Grace on a sticky June night myself.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV)