Six hundred and fifty one is the page number I’ve been stuck on for over a week. I had been looking forward to reading this section of this book, but recent circumstances changed that. Just three days prior to our highly anticipated family vacation to Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, my beloved friend of over 20 years sent a shocking message. She wrote: “I need your prayers like never before…my little girl has trisomy 13 which is basically incompatible with life.”
While at the beach I found myself singing the lyrics to the song Oceans (Where My Feet My Fail) by Hillsong. Whether on a morning run, bike ride, collecting shells, or boogie boarding with the kids, I continued to sing this song, the chorus crashing over my heart as the ocean waves crashed over my head. While looking at my perfectly formed children, I prayed for my friend who already has a son in heaven and now this.
“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”
You call me out upon the waters The great unknown where feet may fail And there I find You in the mystery In oceans deep My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name And keep my eyes above the waves When oceans rise My soul will rest in Your embrace For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters Your sovereign hand Will be my guide Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name And keep my eyes above the waves When oceans rise My soul will rest in Your embrace For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger In the presence of my Savior
I will call upon Your name Keep my eyes above the waves My soul will rest in Your embrace I am Yours and You are mine
A few days later another, I received another message from my friend giving me an update on her pregnancy. I learned that Trisomy 13 is a genetic disorder which each cell has three copies of chromosone 13 in every cell, instead of two copies. This leads to a variety of birth defects. Due to these life-threatening medical problems, most infants die within the first few days of life.
During vacation, my devotion time had been hit-or-miss…ten family members and not enough space. Quiet time…yeah right! I finally locked myself in the bathroom and turned to where I had left off at page 651. My handwriting in purple, pink, and black ink is all over this page. Phrases circled, underlined, and highlighted. Exclamation marks and arrows all pointing to the importance of these words…God’s truth. Over the years I have added these words in the margins: God is previous…God knows all about me…The value of human life.
As I read Psalms 139 I cried. Thinking of my friend I struggled as I read:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.
I know that full well.”
I remember back to Spring Break when another friend tried to teach me to knit/crochet. I fumbled with the needles in my hands as I attempted to make a simple washcloth. I learned first hand, that a pattern can be completely ruined by an extra stitch. An extra stitch. My friend’s daughter has an extra stitch in every cell causing her to be incompatible with life. Incompatible with this life.
“When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days of my life are written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Psalms 139: 15b-16
I close the book. This is too much. I walk around the bathroom of our vacation rental. Sand is everywhere even here in the bathroom. The sand, hiding in the grout lines of the cool tile floor, feels gritty under my bare feet. I am angry because there is sand everywhere. No. I am angry at God.
I know better to ask “Why?” but yet I ask. “Why Lord? My friend already a son with you in heaven. Why this?” I sit on the edge of the tub and open the book to page 651 again. I continue to read.
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”
I close the book unable to continue reading. For the rest of our vacation I open this book to page 651 and reread the words I used to love. But these words do not bring comfort as they once had. Unable to turn the page, unable to comprehend why God is allowing this to happen, I close the book again.
I talked with my friend on our drive home. I called to console her, but instead she consoles me. She and her husband are at peace with whatever outcome God allows. I remember how the death of their son four years ago, brought them both closer to the Lord, and to each other. Peace. If she is at peace with this, why can’t I be at peace also?
The worship songs on Sunday morning targeted my heart. I continued to pray for my friend and my struggle with God over page 651. At the close of the service a guest singer, a young girl who I remember enjoying before, approached the microphone. Words fill the screen behind her and I immediately recognized the song: Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong! I stand. With my eyes closed I sing the song to an audience of One just as I had sang everyday while on vacation. I can feel the tears splashing on my feet (yes, I wear flip-flops to church). Something in me begins to shift.
I was awoken at 3:30am Monday morning. My friend was on my mind so I prayed. I send her a message and You-tube link to the Oceans song. Unable to sleep I was stirred to keep praying. I was still awake praying when my 6:00am alarm sounded. I listened to the song Oceans over and over on my morning run. When I stopped to readjust my ponytail I looked at my phone. At 6:51 my friend sent a message their daughter had been born as soon as she arrived at their vacation destination. I fell to the grass and cried. Later that morning she updated her Facebook status:
“Can’t think of a better place to mend a broken heart than at the beach. As we arrived yesterday afternoon we headed straight to the hospital to deliver our baby girl into the arms of our Lord and Savior. We are doing well and this was expected, just didn’t know it would happen this soon…”
Later Monday morning, I phoned a prayer warrior and asked her to pray for me. I shared about my struggle over my friend’s circumstance and Psalms 139. She quoted Matthew 11:6 to me and lovingly reminded me to not be offended by God.
“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”- Jesus
Matthew 11:6 NIV
“If anyone is not offended by me, then they are blessed.” -Jesus
Matthew 11:6 HCSB
“Blessed is the person who does not get uptight about the way I do my business!”
Matthew 11:6 paraphrase
I opened the book to page 651 and reread the familiar words this time not stopping.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalms 139: 23
This time I turned the page to read:
“See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ” Psalms 139:24
The problem was me not God. The offense was mine. How dare I be uptight by the way God does his business. I wrote in my prayer journal:
“Lord, I realized I’ve been stuck on a page of my friend’s life and in my heart. I’ve been offended by Psalms 139 because of my own selfishness. Lord, you good and your plans are good! Forgive me for wanting to question you. You owe me nothing! Forgive me for thinking you owe me anything. Forgive me for being stuck on a page and lead me in the way of everlasting.”
“God’ s already written the story of your life in His book–
don’t get stuck on a page!
Psalms 139:16 paraphrased
“May you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12
P.S. These texts and messages were used with permission.