Different Walk, Same Talk: Meet Paul

Please see previous DWST post for my disclaimers concerning the series, but also, this particular post in the series touches on a very sensitive subject: the loss of a child. Please read at your own discretion.

Paul 

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1. Hi there! Nice shoes. Let’s just jump right in: how does your walk differ from mine? My walk differs in the way I came to it. Most Christians can tell you about when they discovered the love of The Lord and how Jesus changed their lives and give a testimony about the awful things they had done before becoming a Christian. I, however, was the son of a preacher, and I can’t remember not knowing who Jesus was or what He did for me. I knew that somehow I was supposed to give my heart heart to him, though I didn’t understand how that was done. As a child, I prayed and begged God to save me from hell, but I never “felt saved”. Everyone in the church and even my own father would push me to “say the sinner’s prayer” like it was some magic incantation that would instantaneously make everything OK. I even had traveling evangelists try to lead me into it and manipulate me into saying a prayer when I didn’t understand what what it meant. Strangely enough, it was one such evangelist that made me realize what I was missing about a relationship with God. I was eleven and he had sat down to talk to me. He asked me if I knew I was a sinner and if I believed Jesus died to save me. Of course I knew that. I had been preached to all my life, but then he just says, “repeat after me”, and a starts praying. I started to become angry. I was being tricked into saying a prayer again like it was all that mattered, and I wanted to tell him that there was more to it than  just a prayer. That was when God spoke to me. Yes, there’s more to it than just a prayer. Just like when I proposed to my wife, there’s more than just a guy on one knee and a ring. The ring doesn’t matter, it’s the lifetime of commitment,  and the same was true of my relationship with God. It didn’t make as much sense sense to my eleven-year-old brain, but I still understood that what mattered was my commitment to Him. A lot of people I meet now that I’m older tell tell me about their intensely emotional conversion, but my first experience with God was simple and almost stoic. He showed me that He wanted me to commit my life to Him, and intensely agreed. End of story.

2. What do you think people would be surprised to know about you? That’s a good question. I’m normally a pretty transparent person, so I don’t think there’s that much surprising about me. I guess the only thing is that one of my favorite things to do is curl up with a good book and something hot to drink and be quiet for a while. I think most people who know me would be surprised that I like some quiet time. I’m usually the upbeat person always trying to do stuff,  but I think my real motivation behind all the doing is to get it done so I can relax without interruption. Of course, as I get older, the stuff piles up and the interruptions come more and more often, so I’m trying to learn that sometimes I should be content with just a lessening of the chaos.

3. What breaks your heart? I never really knew heart break until 3 years ago. I had been a little jealous of people who would talk about being delivered from alcohol, or abuse, or prison,  or broken relationships when they came to Christ, but I had no such testimony. My life had been pretty easy. What witness could I give someone about the difference Christ has made in my life? I never voiced my concerns and realized that desiring misfortune is foolish, but I still was envious on some level.
As goes the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for, lest you receive it”. My heartbreak came on January 6, 2011.
My wife was 29 weeks pregnant with our beautiful baby girl. Everything was going well. Our nursery was set up and the doctors said she was the healthiest pregnant woman they’ve seen in a while, and I was as supportive as I could be. I worked hard so she could stay home and get her rest, and yet still managed to find time to go to all her prenatal appointments. Life was good. I hadn’t missed a single appointment with her until this particular day. It was supposed to be a long appointment, so I stayed at work instead of missing a half day.
In the end, I missed it, anyway…
I was working hard training a new employee when I was interrupted by a phone call from my wife’s doctor’s office. They wanted me to come right away. They didn’t give me a reason, but they didn’t have to. I rushed to their office where they escorted me to one of the exam rooms in which my wife was weeping.  She told me in between sobs that they had done an ultrasound and discovered the baby’s heart wasn’t beating. She had apparently passed away in the night, and they didn’t know why.
Our whole beautiful world came apart in an instant.
The doctor came in later and informed us that the baby was so large at this point that my wife would need to be induced and deliver the baby. They wanted to know if we wanted to go to labor and delivery now or wait a day and go tomorrow. Unable to prolong the anxiety of delivering a dead baby, we opted to be induced immediately, unaware that labor and delivery was currently full and that we would have additional complications due to this crowding.
They placed us in an overflow room since all the normal rooms were filled, and they hooked my wife to all the typical machines and asked her all the typical questions. We prayed desperately for a miracle while we waited for the doctor to come administer the medication that would begin labor. The unknown doctor came and went, informing us that an anesthesiologist would be in to administer and epidural as soon as we’ve moved rooms because they didn’t want to move us after the epidural was placed.
So we waited.
We waited for hours…
Hours in which we saw no one, but experienced the increasing pain of drugs controlled contractions. Contractions made less endurable as they were no longer a herald of a future bliss, but the merciless beating that precludes the crucifixion.
Eventually, the anesthesiologist forces her way into the room, despite the nurse’s protests. She couldn’t bear my wife’s desperate screams any longer and refused to wait for another room before relieving her pain.
Once finally at rest, if 24 hours of misery and no sleep could be called rest, we waited for the medications to finish their job so that we could see our job and hope that the doctors were wrong or that God would have mercy on us.
The hour finally came on the afternoon of January 7th. My wife delivered a beautiful, black haired baby girl with no heartbeat. The doctor placed her in our arms and told us we could have some time with her before they had to take her away from us forever.
I got to hold her just once.  I dreamed so much about being able to hold my daughter and rock her and sing to her, but this was the only chance I would have in this life.
So I held her
And I sang:

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say:
It is well, it is well with my soul.”

4. What heals it? Through the heartbreak, God gives sweet comfort. He gave it to us is so the hospital in the form of a nurse who sat with us all night, just holding my wife and being a comfort. He gave it to us through the strength our previously struggling marriage gained from sharing tragedy. He gave it to us through two other healthy and adorable children,  and He gives it to me each and every day by showing me glimpses of what He sees.
I’ve learned the importance of faith. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
I’m so grateful that God helped me not to lose faith through my trials. I am so encouraged to read this and know that God has a crown of life waiting for me when I’m done here, and through that I realize that the strengthening of my faith will be worth it in the end. If I could see what God sees, I would realize that the pain will pave the way for something better. Like when I take my other daughter’s favorite toy away, she cries and suffers, unaware that I’m about to take her for a day at the park, God has something so good planned for me,  if only I will trust in Him.

5. Jesus’ commands were to love God with all of your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. I’m on a journey to see what that looks like. In your opinion, what could the Christian community do to better reach out and love their neighbors, maybe others walking in shoes similar to yours?
I think the biggest thing the Christian community can do is show compassion. While it’s true that we live in a world of sin, we are not called as Christians to condemn others. We were called to love. Let God be the judge, let us be merciful. If you as Christian know someone who is hurting, you should comfort them. I don’t care if they are fellow Christians, an acquaintance, a coworker, or some random person behind you at the checkout, God calls us to be like Jesus. Jesus didn’t turn away from hurting people. I don’t care if the one gay guy you know is upset because his boyfriend broke up with him. Be there!  Yes, homosexuality is wrong, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show compassion. In the end, it’ll do a lot more than telling your friend that he got what was coming to him because he was living in sin…

6. How positive or negative has your experience been with Christians, and what has contributed to that? If the above answer didn’t shed some light on it, my experience with other Christians hasn’t always been the best. Of course,  I’m not going to saddle my high horse: I’ve acted pretty stupidly in the past and said things to people that I had no right to say, but I think we as a group do that a lot and need to try to think biblically before we open our mouths.
I think the biggest negative I’ve experienced with other Christians has been in the church. As a preacher’s kid, I’ve been around a lot of church people, and the way church people treat other church people is appalling. I think we try to live for God and “witness to the unbelieving world” that we forget that bible gives way more commands to love and forgive your fellow Christian than anyone else. I wish we could all learn to agree and get along, but barring that, I wish we could learn to forgive and not hold grudges. As I write this, I’m thinking about about an old pastor and friend that I was very close to until I inadvertently hurt his feelings by doing something inconsiderate. I’ve since apologized many times, expressing how sorry I was. I have called, left messages, sent emails, the works, but it has been over year, and he still won’t speak to me. How I wish he would forgive me, and I think we would both find healing in the reconciliation.  Sadly, he wants to hold onto his hurt, and that is what many of us to others in the church.

7. What, if anything, makes you hopeful that things are changing in a  positive way for those on the same path as you? The more I spend time with God, the more I learn that He has so much planned for all of us. I am hopeful because God will never be outsmarted. If we seek Him, He won’t let us miss Him, and if we have pain now, we have only to persevere just a little bit longer. Run the race, keep the faith,  and God will have that crown waiting for you…

8. Anything else you’d like readers to know? That is all.

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