Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Power of Choice

Many days I feel like I am in an alternate world. I wake up asking questions like, "What just happened?" "How can this be?" "Is this real life?" The current conditions of my life are not the direction that my life was supposed to go. I sometimes wonder if this loss was just a dream or if even having Quinn was real. This doesn't happen. People don't lose perfectly healthy 4 month old children in an instant. There is a sense of terror in the randomness of it all. I've said it so many times, but this is not fair. I did not choose this for my life, this is not because of a bad decision or a consequence of wrong-doing.

I have recently discovered the power in choices. This circumstance is so random, so final, so tragic that I feel utterly powerless. Having no choice in this situation makes me feel so defenseless.  Yet, there ARE choices that I have found I DO have power over. I can choose to see meaning in suffering. I can choose to be bitter or choose to invest in the lives of others. According to the rest of the world, I have every right to be bitter, angry, and selfish- but those are all choices. I did not choose this for my life, but I can choose how I respond to it.

The last couple of months I have been reading Job. I feel a kindred spirit with him. I understand completely when he says, "Everything I feared and dreaded has happened to me. (Job 3:25)" We both know what it feels like to have everything one moment and have it gone the next. I used to hate how Job seemed like such a pawn to God, but lately I have chosen to be inspired by the choices he made and how his choice mattered. Even when the rug had been pulled out from under him he chose to worship God. Jerry Sittser in A Grace Disguised writes:
               "I trembled before the power of Job's freedom to decide how he was going to respond to his
                suffering. How he exercised that freedom had repercussions even in God's heavenly court,
                where the hosts of heaven, including Almighty God, watched to see how Job's life would turn out.
                Job's choices really mattered to them. He had no idea how far his power reached, but he was not,
                as he was tempted to think, a solitary figure whose decisions counted for nothing... He discovered
                that God is the answer to all his questions, even questions he had not thought to ask. Job learned
                that behind the apparent randomness of life is the existence of God, whose greatness transcended
               Job, but did not nullify the importance of Job's choices."

So what do I choose to do in my life? I choose God and to believe in His promises... that He is good, that He promises to stand by me through it all. That heaven is real and that Quinn is there in the best hands- His hands.  The hands I choose to believe formed her, the hands I believe were pierced at the cross for her and I. I choose to believe that this circumstance is not random but is part of a beautiful tapestry that God is sewing. I choose to believe that even if I can't see His entire plan that His plan is good. These choices are choices I have to daily, even momentarily, choose because most days they don't come easy. But I believe in what Jerry Sittser quotes as "God's transcendent purpose." He uses the story of Joseph, who is sold by his own brothers into slavery but later transcends to become the king's adviser to explain God's purpose:

               "God's transcendent purpose makes Joseph's personal story a part of a much bigger story.
                 Although Joseph suffers at the hands of his brothers, all the while God is planning to use
                Joseph's experience to move his family to Egypt, where they will live and eventually become
                slaves. Then, many years later, they will be led to freedom by Moses, one of the greatest leaders
                in the Jewish religion. Joseph has no idea that his story fits into this larger plot involving thousands
                of people and centuries of history. As it turns out, however, his life does not consist of a
                succession of isolated events randomly strung together but rather of a story with a purpose that he
                does not see and will never entirely understand... The Joseph story helps us to see that our own
                tragedies can be a very bad chapter in a very good book. The terror of randomness is enveloped
                by the mysterious purposes of God."

So tonight, in this moment, I am choosing to see that my life does not consist of a "succession of isolated events randomly strung together but rather of a story with a purpose that I do not see and will never entirely understand". That this season in my life is a very bad chapter in a very good book written long before Quinn was born, long before I was born.


  1. thinking of you and Quinn. i understand stand exactly how you feel.

  2. Your insights and faith are an inspiration. I realize that there are times when the reality of these words are hard to hang on to but truth stands. You are an inspiration to me. In a days time in 2009 thru a bad surgeon I lost so much of the quality of my life. I struggle some days.. especially in the last week or two. So the choices you are making are not only making an impact in your story but your witness to the truth is also helping me to examine my choices and trust that it is all part of a perfect plan. Please give my hug to your wonderful husband. Understand that you each will grieve differently and at different times. Grace between each other is so essential. Clearly tell each other your needs and forgive each other when you are not able to meet one anothers needs.
    I pray for the very best for you. God is sufficient.

  3. Hi, Tim and Alison,

    You don't know me, but I am a friend of Christie Slay. I have an 11-month-old son, and I absolutely cannot imagine going through what you're going through, but I appreciate your perspective. There is a poem by William Cowper that I think of often when unexpected tragedy occurs. I hope it brings you a bit of peace, and even joy, as you continue to embrace God's sovereignty.

    Jessica VDM

    God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.

    Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.

    Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.

    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.

    His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.

    Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

  4. Tim & Alison-
    You don't know me but we have a mutual friend Steph Brungardt. She shared your blog with me because 3 weeks ago my husband & I lost our 10 1/2 month old daughter to SIDS. Our stories parallel in a lot of ways. God laid the name Quinn on my heart shortly after my Avery died. I wasn't sure what He wanted me to do with it. My initial thought was that He wanted me to name another daughter Quinn if He blessed us with another. But then Steph sent me this link via Facebook & I was amazed. I still don't know what He wants me to do with this yet, but know that I think of you & little Quinn daily & that I understand fully what you are suffering through.
    Beth Palmer

  5. wow, I am amazed with both you and Tim. I can't stop thinking of you both, I pray for you two every day! I follow your blog to remember to pray for you both and to never take my children for granted. I can not begin to imagine your grief. I am in awe of how you both are reaching out to God and the scriptures. Your raw emotions and words are heart wrenching and so honest. You have an AMAZING gift at writing!! Quinn was a beautiful beautiful little girl, I love her smile!!
    Continuing to pray
    Amy (Schroeder) Johnson NWC '04