Incomplete Joy

On May 23 I sat in a rocking chair at a friend’s house and held a precious little girl in my arms and sang to her of Jesus’ love, Jesus’ lambs, the Lamb’s High Feast, and Simeon’s song, which boldly asks the Lord for a peaceful departure from this life. The very next day, on her first birthday, she died. It wasn’t a surprise–everyone knew that this was the likely outcome of her disease–yet it was tragic nonetheless. What once was here is no longer and there is heartache.

On May 28 I sat in a rocking chair in my own house and held a precious little boy in my arms and sang to him as well. In great irony and yet in God’s perfect timing, He chose to send our family new life in the midst of mourning another’s death. Although the wait seemed so long, when we received the phone call two weeks ago that there was finally a baby for us, we were in shock. What once was just a prayer had become a reality and is finally here and there is much joy.

You can imagine the rejoicing, no doubt. I won’t deny that we’ve had our blissful days. Yet behind it all is the knowledge, the grave reality, that it is not complete. I don’t mean that our family isn’t complete. Only God knows when that will be. I mean the joy is incomplete. Why? Doesn’t a baby make everything perfect? Isn’t it everything that I’ve always wanted? No, it isn’t.

I say it isn’t because I live in the Body of Christ, and when one suffers, all suffer. My friend just buried her daughter.  I mourn with her and cry for her, even as I shed tears that come from watching my new son sleep. My arms, now sore from the new weight I’ve been carrying around, also ache for my family members and friends who continue to wait to hold their own gifts. As I pray prayers of thanksgiving for the blessed baptismal day that brought my son into God’s family, I simultaneously cry out for God’s mercy and intervention to stir the hearts of those I love who have rejected their own baptisms. Life and death, both physical and spiritual, continue to surround us all and permeate our daily experiences and relationships. The sun frequently peaks out from behind the clouds to give us a glimpe of the Light that will one day completely surround us, but the clouds never entirely float away.

Therefore, members of the Body of Christ do not move in and out of categories such as “the suffering,” “the blessed,” “the content,” “the afflicted.” We are one, and if we truly love one another we remain together, bearing one another’s burdens, joys, gifts and tragedies. The completeness comes at the end of the struggles, at the resurrection, and only then. This side of heaven there are times when we feel that our cup runneth over and there are times when our parched lips taste no relief. But the living waters flow freely between those mansions the Lord prepares for us, and I continue to long for the healing it will bring to the Body.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

I’ve been thinking of the hymn that starts, “Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal, Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End,” (LSB 533). The wait for this family to be reunited with their child is just beginning. The wait for my family to be united with a second child has come to an end. I pray that the Alpha and Omega, our Lord Jesus, would grant our two families and all the Body of Christ the opportunity to walk this path of life together, focusing on His eternal pleasures, the full and complete joy that will most certainly be ours one day when the clouds all fade away and the Son shines in all His brilliance.