Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Threefold Cord (04/12/12)
By Ruth Thoutenhoofd
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I don’t know how much time elapsed before we regained consciousness, but the next thing I heard was my six-year-old son wailing repeatedly, “I wish this was just a dream!” as kind strangers removed him and his four-year-old brother from the wreckage of our car. The boys were taken to the nearest hospital, their little faces resembling raw hamburger. My husband and I were left to wait for the “Jaws of Life” to pry us out of the car.
As they worked to get us out my husband, deep in shock, kept repeating over and over, “My wife is pregnant.” I was nearly seven months into a joyful pregnancy after two miscarriages. But I was never to feel my baby move again. He died in utero of a ripped placenta.
I hardly had time to be heart-broken at first. My husband and I had broken ribs; my ankle was broken; his hip was dislocated; I had whiplash and a gash in my forehead. But these seemed mild compared to our four-year-old’s injuries: fractured skull, jaw broken in three places, spinal fluid leaking from his smashed nose, and sixty nine stitches in his face. (We know because they were counted as they came out later, ten cents for each one!) His older brother got off easier with facial abrasions.
I delivered our tiny lifeless son a few days later, my sister holding tightly to my hand.
Friends came, driving hours in the treacherous mountain snow that continued to fall and make the road nearly impassable. They sat in our room and made us laugh - agony with our cracked ribs - but so wonderful even then. Members of my family flew in to sit by our son’s bedside so I could rest easy. A family we had never met from a local church near the hospital made repeated visits and brought gifts donated by their sons from their own new Christmas stash. When we were driven home two weeks later by kind friends, our house had been made immaculate; flowers and fruit were on the kitchen table; people took turns bringing us meals every single day for weeks. The body of Christ at work.
It had never been clear to me how much I needed other people. I was independent and always thought I could take pretty good care of myself. But I wouldn’t have survived this one on my own. Grief is meant to be born with others surrounding you, lifting the load with you. I was a “single strand”. My broken husband was another single strand. The people around us entwined us with them into a strong rope and we made it through.
Of course we grieved our little son who we never got to meet. Of course I didn’t enjoy having my husband unable to help much due to his injuries. It was terribly hard to see the looks on people’s faces when they saw our precious four-year-old’s face for the first time. (His Sunday school teacher burst into tears!) It took a long time to recover.
But we were carried. We didn’t have to suffer alone. Months later we almost felt like it had been a positive experience. Our sons' faces healed well and God had worked in wonderful ways in our lives. He had a purpose.
We’ve asked ourselves many times since that time what people do when they aren’t part of a church family; when they don’t have the love of friends and family and godly strangers to hold them up when they are too weak to even struggle. We don’t know the answer for certain, but my suspicion is that they “break” far too often. Perhaps these are the bitter people who complain about the “hypocrites” in church and who find it hard to trust God. Maybe they are the ones who try impossibly to endure alone, or ask angrily for help after it is too late. After they have broken.
Lord, show us, the body of Christ, who needs a second, third and fourth strand intertwined with them in order to weather a storm. And when you show us, make us instantly obedient to jump in head-long, pulling together so we can all stay whole. No one should be allowed to break.
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