Kurtis, my brother, is hurting right now. Brittany, my sister-in-law, aches.
They will both heal.
I have faith God will see to that.
A little context?
Kurtis and Brittany have been married for eight years. They have lived in two different homes. They have finished Bachelor’s degrees and Master’s degrees. They’ve changed jobs and careers. They’ve had more than a couple of vehicles, dogs, and children.
Their first child, Gracie Leigh, was the first grandchild on Brittany’s side and the second on Kurtis’s. She bound into this world with her round cheeks always full of a smile and a little sass. Their second child, Abigail, came in the midst of a baby boom in Kurtis’s family. She was the last of five granddaughters born on his side in just over a year and the second granddaughter on Brittany’s side with cheeks just as equally full as her sister’s. She is concerned with fairness and justice, and she wants to make sure she’s never left out of the fun. Their third child, Charlie, knew he needed to make an impression in this house of ladies. He is the first one able to carry on the Wright name for his father. The roundness of his cheeks rivals that of his sisters’, and the gap in his front teeth along with his big personality solidify him as Kurtis reincarnate.
Kurtis and Brittany knew they wanted a big family. They love their kids and are hopelessly devoted to them. At any given time, you will find Kurtis still bouncing Abigail on “the pony” or Brittany cuddled up with Charlie watching Barney. They lovingly refer to a good, old-fashioned, Southern “whoopin” as a “butt spank,” and they use them just often enough to show they mean business. They call cuddling on the couch “snugging,” and Charlie will tell you he wants to snug with Mom or Dad but definitely not Uncle Wade.
In the midst of hearing Charlie say, “Charlie toots,” and asking Abigail who stinks only to hear her respond “Iron Tail” (Uncle Chuck), Brittany showed Kurtis another stick announcing the coming birth of another addition to their happily full little family. Sure, they were understandably startled and shocked. But after the initial shock of an unplanned 4th child wore off, Kurtis and Brittany were so ready to welcome another child, to spread their arms just a little further and widen their embrace.
Kurtis and Brittany were ready to welcome little Emmett Allen into the folds of their family. They were excited. They were imagining how Emmett would fit into their family dynamic. They were making plans for moving the rooms of their other 3 children so that there was room. Let’s be honest, they were making plans for how their King bed could hold another kid. They were ready to spread and share their love to another little soul, to another part of them.
Then, at a routine visit, the heartbeat couldn’t be heard. An ultrasound quickly found it. But, that’s not all the ultrasound found. It also found cysts. Fetal hygroma. And a heart defect.
The outlook wasn’t bright.
Then Nathan went home. The Lord struck the baby that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became deathly ill. David pleaded with God for the boy. He fasted, went home, and spent the night lying on the ground. The elders of his house stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat anything with them.2 Samuel 12: 15-17
You may know the story of King David and the beautiful Bathsheba. You may know how David took Bathsheba and then orchestrated her husband’s timely demise on the battlefield to conceal his adultery. You may know that God told David through Nathan that the son given to him by Bathsheba would die.
In the midst of all of that, however, I want you to notice David. Notice his reaction. Notice the posture of his heart.
God, through a prophet, pronounced the death of David’s son because of David’s sin. Scripture tells us that God “struck the boy so that he was deathly ill.” While me may not fully understand this, Scripture tells us this much. This was not an untimely, genetic “fluke” that was taking David’s son. It was God’s pronouncement. A pronouncement from God. From the Almighty. From Yahweh. Even still, “David pleaded with God.”
Soak in the magnanimity of that for a moment.
David had spent time in confession. He has had his sin of adultery and murder laid out in front of him plainly. He has been confronted and has accepted his role and his consequence.
What’s more? That consequence came from God. It came from I Am. Who was David compared to I Am that I Am?
Still, yet, when his son was sick, David pleaded with God.
David was a man after God’s own heart. He had an intensely intimate relationship with El Roi – the God Who Sees. David knew God could see him and his heart. Even though David knew that his son’s illness was a consequence of his own action, he still begged God to save his son’s life because he hoped against hope that God would have mercy and show grace. And when Scripture says “pleaded,” it meant pleaded.
The verses go on to tell us that David fasted and spent the night lying on the ground. David’s posture was one of utter humility and complete surrender.
So, if David — who knew God’s pronouncement against him was one of his own making, who was a man after God’s own heart, who had a fiercely loyal and intimate relationship with God — felt it pertinent and worthy and completely in line to plead for his son’s life, why shouldn’t Brittany and Kurtis have done the same for Emmett?
See, Kurtis and Brittany were told that Emmett had a five percent, approaching zero, chance of survival. This pronouncement to them came from doctors. It wasn’t a pronouncement of judgement for some sin they’d committed. It wasn’t a pronouncement from one of God’s prophets. It was a statistic given by another human about the likelihood that the child they so longed for would survive pregnancy so they could swaddle him in their arms, snug him close to their chest, and love him in a way that he felt their love radiating from the warmth of their arms into the warmth of his little body.
Still yet, many people, while having sincere hearts go out to Kurtis and Brittany, didn’t want them to “get their hopes up.” People worried about how hard Kurtis and Brittany may take it “when the inevitable happened.” People prayed for Kurtis and Brittany, but some of them prayed words without full faith that Emmett’s healing could happen.
But not Kurtis and Brittany.
Kurtis and Brittany’s hearts were postured with a more divine focal point. The posture of their hearts mirrored that of David’s lying on the floor.
They went to God with their full hearts. They completely humbled themselves before God pleading for the life of this child they longed to love and to hold and to bounce and to rock and to snug.
If David teaches us anything in these moments, he teaches us to hold onto hope for as long as you can. He teaches us to completely and fully humble ourselves before our Mighty God who is mighty to save, mighty to heal, mighty to hear our humble pleas. Kurtis and Brittany were there. They were face down before the Lord pleading with everything in them.
And, I’m thankful I was witness to their hearts during this time.
On January 4, 2019, Emmett Allen Wright was born.
On January 4, 2019, Emmett Allen Wright passed.
When David saw that his servants were whispering to each other, he guessed that the baby was dead. So he asked his servants, “Is the baby dead?”
“He is dead,” they replied.
Then David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord’s house, and worshiped. Then he went home and requested something to eat. So they served him food and he ate.”2 Samuel 12: 18-20
King David was so distraught while his son was ill and pleaded so fervently for his son’s life that his servants were afraid to tell him the boy had died. They worried about what he may do. But, his reaction is one only a fellow sojourner on this Christian path could possibly understand.
When David knew his son was gone, he got up, cleaned himself, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord’s house and worshiped.
Let’s look at each of these actions.
First, David got up.
He. Got. Up.
David didn’t stay down. He got up. David’s first act is one that shows us that no matter what life has handed us, no matter how down we are, no matter where we are, we must GET UP and continue on.
Second, David cleaned himself. When life gives us something hard, sometimes we just may have to take a little time to wallow and plead and grieve. There is a period, however, in which we get right and clean ourselves so that we are worthy of the title we’ve been given. There was nothing wrong with David lying on the ground in humility before God. Yet, the time for that had passed. He was still King. He was still a man after God’s own heart, and he signified that through cleansing himself. We can do the same.
Third, David anointed himself. Anointing is significant because it consecrates one to holy use. In the same way David cleaned himself, anointing was an act of giving himself back to God and God’s service. Anointing was more than mere words. It was action that said, “I am God’s.” It prepared him to go back into the presence of the Lord in the Lord’s House.
Fourth, David changed his clothes. This seems insignificant. It’s not. When I leave work in the afternoons, one of the things I most look forward to doing is changing my clothes when I get home. I change into something fit for lounging. When I go out, I change into something fit for going out (albeit, my jeans and t-shirt pass muster most days). David was preparing to go to the Lord’s House. He had just spent time lying on the ground in fervent prayer. A change of clothes was in order, especially given where he was going. Furthermore, for David and everyone at that time, changing into a specific outfit was expected when you came to the Lord’s House. The act signified reverence, and that’s what David was. Changing our clothes is yet another symbol that we are preparing for what comes next, and prepare David did.
Then….then, David went to the Lord’s House and worshiped.
His son just passed away, and HE WORSHIPED!
This. It is everything. Truly everything.
David’s actions here show us how Christians mourn in a way completely unlike the rest of the world. With grit and grace. David rose up and worshiped.
He got up, cleaned himself, let it be known he belonged to the Lord, got dressed for going to be in the presence of the Lord, and then he worshiped God.
As I drove Kurtis and Brittany’s kids to the hospital while Brittany was delivering Emmett, my heart mourned for them. My heart ached with an emptiness I felt for them that I knew belonged to Emmett. I hurt for them. I just wanted to wrap my arms around them and tell them it would all be okay, not to lose faith in God, but they were like David.
I was like their servants, waiting and wondering about how they would take this news.
They were like David, all ready to get up and worship God.
I had told Kurtis at a prayer service held for them and Emmett that I was thinking of these verses with King David because I knew how fervently he had prayed for his son’s life to be spared by God. I didn’t fully realize, however, the implications of how David reacted to and handled the moments after his son’s death.
Kurtis and Brittany, however, did even if it was subconsciously.
Then, our Uncle Tony used these verses during the service for Emmett, and I couldn’t believe how fitting they were.
The time spent with them in the hospital was bittersweet in the very fullness of all that word encompasses. Bittersweet.
It was oh so very bitter.
Emmett would never take his first breath. Emmett’s heart would never beat outside of his mother. His cries would never be heard.
It was oh so very sweet.
He was loved as if he were cooing in his mom and dad’s arms.
His life was cherished by two sisters who had prayed alongside their parents while he was still in the womb.
His heart, defective in utero, beat a thousand times stronger in the hearts of those who loved him and his family.
Those moments spent with the rest of Kurtis and Brittany’s family as they met the son, brother, grandson, nephew, great grandson they’d never speak to on this side of heaven made hope spring new inside my chest.
How could such grief and heartache and raw loss be handled with such grace and beauty and love?
That’s the only answer.
He did that.
God’s hands simultaneously ushered Emmett with his brand new, perfect heart and body into heaven while also cradling Emmett’s broken loved ones here on earth gently so that they could worship Him in the time they were given with Emmett and in the days that followed.
Only God could do that.
His servants asked him, “Why have you done this? While the baby was alive, you fasted and wept, but when he died, you got up and ate food.”
He answered, “While the baby was alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let him live. But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I’ll go to him, but he will never return to me.”2 Samuel 12: 21-22
The sheer hope and faith in David’s words here astounds me. Let me paraphrase, if you don’t mind.
David’s servants were confused. They asked why he has climbed out of the floor and decided to eat when he’s done nothing but fast and weep for all this time, especially now that the thing he so desperately wanted NOT to happen, happened.
David’s matter-of-fact answer seems to beg the question “What’s the point in continuing that now?”
He told them that while the baby was alive, he was going to keep his hope in God’s act of grace, and now that the baby is dead, his hope is in an entirely different place, but still with God.
He said that the baby could never be brought back to life to be with him now, but – and here’s the most glorious part of all – David would be with the baby some day.
That is the hope that we Christians have. That is why we do not grieve as the world grieves.
When the world loses someone they love, hope is lost. When Christians lose one they love, they have the hope of heaven.
David knew that!
Kurtis and Brittany knew that!
Were there tears? Yes.
Will there be tears in the future? Yes.
Was there sorrow? Yes
Will sorrow return? Yes.
But, is there hope? Absolutely!
Do you know what hope does?
Hope enables Kurtis and Brittany to close their eyes at night and imagine a boy with the signature Green family cheeks and Kurtis’s dark hair and chocolate eyes completely healthy.
Hope brings a smile to their face as they imagine Charlie saying “Emmett stinks” and “Emmett toots” instead of “Charlie stinks” and “Charlie toots” when they make it to heaven one day. I don’t know that there’s actual tooting and stinking in heaven, but hope gives this ethereal earth-heaven mashup of how their children will interact, and it just makes your heart smile.
Hope makes their heart beat a little faster as they close their eyes and feel the warmth of Emmett’s heavenly perfect body pressed into their warm hug as he snuggles into their chest for the first embrace they share when they are joined with him and God.
Hope trumps all earth’s tears and sorrow.
Hope brings light to every shadow.
Hope is there even when God doesn’t grant you exactly what you want.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the god we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”Daniel 3:16-18
It’s an ignorant thing to the outside world. To believe in something you can’t see that doesn’t do everything you ask.
It’s wisdom to Christians. To have hope for what you ask and believe it without seeing it.
It’s everything. Faith is everything.
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is one of my most favorite in all of Scripture. In a society that tried to belittle believers and use the law to force them into worshiping false gods, these three stood their ground, against a king no less.
The beauty of the story, though, is that they did this not knowing if God would reach out and save them. They hoped, sure. Yet, even in their hope, they acknowledged that “Even If” He didn’t save them, He is still where their hope would lie instead of with idols and false gods.
To have that kind of faith!!!
You have to just love Mercy Me and the way they put the beauty of these verses into song.
“God when you choose to leave mountains unmovable, give me the strength to be able to sing ‘It is well with my soul.’”
Kurtis and Brittany faced probably the largest mountain they’ve had to face to date in their relationship. They became like David and humbled themselves with full faith and trust that God could and would answer their prayer.
Kurtis and Brittany found solace in Scripture knowing that God knew Emmett before He formed him in Brittany’s womb, and that while knowing him that early, God had a plan for Emmett. A mighty plan. A purpose.
They hoped and believed that God would heal Emmett.
But, they were like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They knew that “Even If” God chose not to move this particular mountain, they could still cling to Him for their hope.
God did not heal Emmett on this side of Heaven. However, God’s purpose for Emmett was made manifest and beautiful when you witnessed the outpouring of love at Emmett’s service and saw the way Brittany and Kurtis were brought closer together and to God through Emmett. God may not have answered their prayers in the way they wanted, but God remained and remains their Hope.
They have hope that one day their entire family will be united in Heaven with Emmett. One day they’ll see his chocolate eyes, full cheeks, and gap teeth grinning at them as they walk toward him with their arms wide open to embrace him.
This, their joint hope in God, it makes their marriage and relationship one I will forever admire.
Please continue to pray for them.