In my arms, the baby boy we had met only a few weeks earlier; born too soon, stronger than I could ever hope to be, and the one who had turned our world upside down in that short phone call. Brown hair, wise eyes, easily held in one of my hands. His name always uttered in the same sentences as ‘miracle’ or ‘fighter’. And he was. He was fragile and sick, helpless and damaged to the rest of the world. To us, he was solid and strong, whole, with a life that was full of purpose… no matter how long that life would be.
His footsteps echoed down the hall. A doctor’s shoes sound different than anyone else’s shoes… and they bring with them the power to make or break you. Their faces, too; the stone-cold ability to make anything look and sound okay. But it’s not always going to be okay.
This time, nothing was okay.
Blood work, tests, ultra-sounds and MRI’s… all leading to one short sentence that carried with it his future… and our hearts.
“Your son will die soon. I don’t know how much longer he has or if he will ever make it home but I want you to know now so you can make plans. There’s nothing else that we can do.”
In the haze of heartbreak, questions I couldn’t voice, and with the almost weightless, but living body of my son lying in my arms, one word echoed in my mind… it’s sound was deafening.
Panic set in. It was one of those moments when the walls close in, your line of vision narrows, and all you can hear is the screaming in your heart and mind. Plans?! How in the world do you 'plan' for your child to die?! How can I possibly make plans without my baby?!
And in the midst of my panic, the word echoed again. This time, its sound was almost as silent as my son’s body was almost weightless. This time, the word came from somewhere else… from a place so deep inside of me that when it speaks, I know to be still and listen to its wisdom.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
And in the impossible quiet in the far corner of the NICU, my head cleared, my mind hushed, and my heart listened. Our futures, our stories, have already been written... and they weren’t written by a NICU doctor, or the executives at work, or the pastors at church. Our stories were written by the Great Physician, the CEO of our existence, the greatest story-teller and prophet that ever lived. Damage simply cannot be done to God’s plan.
The word swirled around in the narrow haze of darkness until it settled snuggly in a part of my heart that has been forever changed.
Rooted in my heart is the knowledge that God’s plan is perfect even amidst our imperfections, amidst the damage that has been done to us… from birth, through tragedy, or by the choices of someone else. In a fleeting moment in time, circumstances and opinions often cloud what our hearts know to be true…
We can always find hope in Him… even in the most hopeless moments of darkness. He won’t harm us... Even when it hurts. We do have a future… and even if it’s physicality is short, it’s eternity is forever.
It’s never safe to assume that God’s gentle and encouraging whispers will always cover the inevitable panic and chaos that is this life. They creep in and try their hardest to persuade you to yield to the noise and fear. Being still… listening… quieting the turmoil that surrounds you, that tries to convince you that the damage is done… things I’ve had to learn over and over again since the day I sat in the corner of the NICU, crying out to God, holding a life that he created perfectly in my arms.
But that day? The day that started the end of his life? That day was almost 2 years ago. Today, our son, our fighter…. He’s strong and determined and healthy. He’s our walking miracle. The damage that was done to his body is still there but what came next, what’s still coming, is more powerful than any damage that could ever be explained by any doctor…
There are days when the damage is done- When life simply can’t hand you anything more because you’re already so broken. Our hope lies in knowing that physical damage is never permanent; totaled cars are recycled for parts, broken bodies are put back together, lies told are always uncovered, shattered souls find hope, lives lost find eternity with Him.
That day … the damage didn’t come in the form of sickness or death and the real damage wasn’t done to our son. The damage was done to our hearts and to our faith and to our purpose, and it was done in the most beautiful and miraculous of ways. We are forever changed; forever trusting in His plan that is perfection … regardless of whose shoes are walking down the hall, whose face turns the corner, and what tragedy lies ahead. We can try and fail, believe and be disappointed, or dream only to wake up… these things, in this life, in His plan, will be okay. Healing can be found and damage simply can’t be done to God’s plan.