There is this tree down the street from our home that started turning beautiful shades of fall colors…back in August. I remember doing a double take when I noticed the green giving way to patches of yellow and orange, eventually culminating in spectacular shades of red. The colors were beautiful but my mind was still in summer mode and thoughts of fall were not incredibly appealing. It was a premature beauty, so unlike the trees around it, that anyone passing by couldn’t help but notice.
It reminded me of my son. Garett would have turned 21 this Friday. Of course, “would have” is really just an expression because in God’s sovereign, pre-determined plan Garett’s life was always and only 33 weeks. Only 33 weeks of living, in the scope of a lifetime, seems incredibly premature and, for Bryan, myself, and our families it felt every bit too short. It felt every bit painful. It brought an end to hopes and dreams we had. It reminded us of what an enemy death is and the sorrow that can easily be ours as we live in this sin-cursed world. It left our arms empty and our hearts aching. We had not expected a loss like that so soon into our marriage. I never imagined that kind of “fall” when our days were filled with “summer”.
And yet, just like the tree down the street, the beauty found in Garett’s short life (all lived inside my womb) was undeniable. At 20 weeks the green leaves of his growing life began to turn shades of yellow and orange in our hearts as we saw, through our first ultrasounds, that God had fearfully and wonderfully made our son for Heaven and not for life at home with us. His body was broken in so many ways and so were our hearts. But our God is not a cruel, merciless Heavenly Father who enjoys the suffering and pain of His children. The trials He takes us through are not simply because He is angry or likes to see our tears.
Every heartache is intended to cause us to cling to Christ, to find shelter in God’s Word, and to nestle into the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Every trial and every pain is transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ…from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). We may not always see clearly in the midst of the struggle, but it truly is “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
I did some research and found out that a common reason that trees change color before they should is because they are in distress. The beauty of the tree was brought about by its own personal distress, and God used our personal distress and pain to display His amazing grace and the beautiful colors of His glory. We had many moments with doctors and nurses to testify to the sanctity of life and the preciousness of our son as an image bearer of God. Although his little body was considered “incompatible for life”, we had many opportunities to declare that Garett was compatible for the only life that would ever ultimately matter…eternal life…through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We were able to testify that the “steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end” (Lamentations 3:22). Though His sovereign plan had caused us pain, His sovereign goodness carried us each step of the way. He was and is enough and His grace truly is sufficient to meet every tear and heartache (2 Corinthians 12:9)!
Day after day, I passed by that tree decked out in brilliant colors…and I gave thanks. It has been a reminder to me of the faithfulness of our great God. He magnifies His name both in season and out of season, and He declares His glory through all He has created…including distressed trees and deformed babies. He works all things for our good and is able to turn our nights of mourning into days of rejoicing.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forevermore. Amen.” Romans 11:36