In Sunday school it was often asked “what is the shortest verse in the bible?” To which nearly everyone knew, “Jesus wept”. I have to be honest that this verse never really held much meaning to me throughout the years. Not to say that I dismissed it but I used it as just one of those bible trivia facts that I could confidently answer when asked, not a life altering passage.
This year has opened my eyes to many things. Lately that little verse found in John 11:35 has gripped my heart like none other. Those words are being played over and over again in my mind both during the day and in the night when I am desperately trying to get some sleep. Why would these words all of a sudden hit me like a ton of bricks? Why does God desire my heart and soul to dig deeper into that two word sentence?
My heart has been deeply troubled now for a few weeks. Our lives are being turned upside-down once again and our healing hearts concerning the death of our son has had its scars painfully ripped away.
We are leading up to the anniversary of the day the medical experts deemed most likely possible that our sons heart beat for the last time, we are reminded of what this season looked like in our minds one year ago. This should have been Nathaniel’s first Christmas. I would have already picked out his baby’s first Christmas ornament and hang on the tree. The boys would have paced excitedly up and down the aisles at the toy store, picking out what they thought their little 7 month old brother would enjoy playing with. Life looked the polar opposite of what the reality is right now.
The circumstances of the loss of our baby is not something that we have been overly vocal about. We do believe there is medical reason as to why his heart stopped beating. There was a cause and effect that did bring us some comfort especially when we were faced with the pregnancy of our little Jaxson. The only thing that I can hold on to is that when I get to Heaven I will spend eternity with my third boy.
And yet my mind replays these words…Jesus wept.
When I was in the labor and delivery room, hooked up to IV’s, pumped with drugs and listening to babies being born in rooms around me, I was comforted and reminded that God is faithful. He will never leave us or forsake us. Those were the words that brought me comfort. Never once during my minutes to sometimes hours of tears as I anxiously waited to meet and say goodbye to my child did I think “Jesus wept.” So why now?
As I dig deeper into the facts that lead up to the famous shortest verse in the bible it made me realize what God has been trying so desperately to tell my aching heart. Most of us view God as a God of love and grace. Which is true. He created us, created this world and loved us so much that He died for our sins. But what if we go a little bit deeper than that. There is nothing written in the bible that isn’t intentionally put there by the hand of God. The two simple words of John 11:35 carry a world of significance. I understand now as to why it is the shortest verse in the bible. It isn’t hidden in a longer passage, it was meant to stand out as a powerful statement that although Jesus is part of the holy trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…He lowered Himself to the position of human. With this, He allowed Himself to feel all emotions that we feel. He didn’t walk on this earth and “do His time”. God took on our humanity when He became Jesus. With that transformation He did not omit any of the mighty emotions that we as humans are capable of.
As Jesus was taking his earthly journey which ended at the cross of Calvary, He was faced with the real truth on what the raw, deep and painful emotions the death of a loved one brings to a humans heart and soul. He spoke words of truth and comfort to Lazarus’s sister Martha when he approached the place where He would see his dear friends’ lifeless body. However it was when He approached Mary that His human emotions took over and…Jesus wept. He wept over the loss of His friend. The part that I find the most amazing and comforting is that although this event ends by Jesus raising Lazarus up from the dead, He still felt that painful, gut wrenching, powerful, mighty and heartbreaking feeling that comes when someone we love dies. Wow. Why would a God who in every right could have avoided such a feeling allow Himself to sink to the bottom of sorrow? This is a love like none other.
I know why this verse is my strong tower at this moment in my life. I am not a widow, I am not an orphan, but I am a parent who has lost a child. That statement is not one that I can imagine any parent would want to make. The most painful life event that we have experienced has left us wondering why some of the people we needed the most decided to stand aloof during our debilitating time of need. Why do people considered the loss of a child who goes from womb to glory any less worthy of remembrance than those who breathe in the air of this world before taking that journey to heaven? The pain of losing a child numbs every part of you, the sorrow of seeing your child seen as a little less than human cripples every ounce of one’s being. As we try to work through the grief and pure heartache of these circumstances and decisions that were made I am left with the words of John 11:35.
I am gripped by the fact that Jesus knows my pain, not because He is God and He knows all. But because He is God, who became man…and by becoming man He felt the very pain I am feeling. He knows my heart and He knows the heart of my grieving husband. He is holding us close right now and I believe He is telling me “I have seen the face of death, I have felt your pain and it is valid…I wept.”
There is no ideal time for someone to die. The ground below us was ripped away on January 4th. His memory was honored on the day he was supposed to be joining our family if he would have survived. On that day we were able to honor him in a way that we knew needed to be done to attempt some kind of closure since we did not want to bury his ashes. On that day we essentially planned and endured an event no parent wants to attend, the funeral of their child. We loved our boy. We still love our boy. We will always love our boy. No one will ever take the place of Nathaniel in our hearts or in our family. We have been blessed by the existence of Nathaniel.
Although it has become painfully clear that not everyone views my sweet tiny boy as a valid member of our family the reality is that I have four children. I do not love one more than the other. I love them all. They are all an important part of my life and they were given to me by the God who took one of them away. That same God knew exactly how I would feel and has been here for me, for us…as we grieve and accept what has happened.
Today I draw a little bit closer to the God that is not merely my doorway to heaven, but a God who transformed Himself and allowed Himself to feel exactly what I am feeling right now. How amazing is it that the God I love and serve can relate first hand to the joys and pain that I feel.
As we journey through this Christmas season we will be faced with memories of what transpired exactly a year ago. On Christmas Eve and Christmas day I know that there will be moments of time that I will vividly remember the pains I felt as I was unknowingly experiencing the first signs of the loss of my precious baby. However I will also be wholeheartedly celebrating the birth of Jesus, that moment He opened himself up to experience the vast amount of human emotions so that He could, without a shadow of doubt, relate to any trials we may face while here on this earth. The simplest of verse now holds a world of meaning to me. Jesus wept.