I spoke in chapel at our university last Wednesday, filling in for the man who was scheduled. He was a beloved member of our university community, and passed away suddenly last week. Here’s what I said to our students. I’ll post it in three parts, to keep the length manageable.
I am supposed to be 29 weeks pregnant today. I’m supposed to have just two months to go until my twin daughters are born.
In October, I found out I was pregnant, which is always exciting. The due date was perfect timing, timing we had planned. I would be out all summer, and be back just in time to do Step Forward Day with Jennifer Abohosh and Lucy Ryan. I’m a planner, you see. Oh man, am I a planner.
We learned that it was twins just before Thanksgiving. My husband and I were stunned, and thrilled, and more than a little overwhelmed. This we had not planned. “Two babies,” we said, over and over, “two babies.”
I spent the fall juggling between keeping Project Serve going, thankfully with so much help from Jack Murphy and Christine Liewald, fighting nausea, and looking at super cute small things on Pinterest.
But while you were on winter break, at the 5-month mark, I went into pre-term labor. Yes, there are drugs that stop the process, but you can’t use them that early. So I spent the night in the hospital, waiting, hoping, praying my body would quit betraying me. I kept calling the pain “cramps” because I could not handle the idea that I was in labor, that those were “contractions.”
At 8:49 am Sunday January 8, our daughter Kate was born. Her sister Lucy came at 9:47. They were just perfectly formed, with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes, and with dinky little ears and lovely little noses. But they were born too early to survive.
While first driving into the hospital, as I prayed, one of the things that came to mind was a line from Scripture, from a story in Daniel. If you’ve grown up in church circles, you may have heard it, but don’t worry if you haven’t.
Israel is in exile in Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar is king. He decides to build an idol of gigantic proportions for the people to worship. His mandate is clear. Music will play and knees will bow. You are going to bow down and worship this god that I have created. It’s a demonstration of his power and of Babylon’s power.
If you don’t bow down, you will die. So the worship begins, and seems to be working, until he gets word of three men who won’t comply.
There are three Israelites– Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, who know that their God doesn’t take well to be pushed down the priority list. YHWH is the God who says, “you shall have none beside me.”
The king’s command was straightforward. The instruments played and they stood. Now there’s a furnace ready if they don’t plan to change. But the king is feeling gracious, so he offers them a second chance, saying,
“Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
They replied, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver usfrom Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Even if he does not.
Driving down the 101, I thought, God can save us, but even if he does not…