Guest post by Rachel Espazien
“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.”
–Charles H. Spurgeon
I lay there crying, the events of the night plunging me into sadness every time I thought about it. It was the morning after we lost our baby to miscarriage. I had labored through the night to expel the signs of pregnancy from my body. All of my dreams for our child falling away too. I quickly learned of a different sort of pain. One that comes from deep inside of you.
At ten weeks three days of pregnancy I was still having a hard time believing there was really a human growing inside of me. In an instant the child that came into our life by surprise left before we even had the chance to hear his heartbeat.
I was never scared of pregnancy. I have witnessed 54 natural births, most of which I assisted. I read birth books and watched birth stories. I never doubted that my body was designed for this.
Tainted with pain and gore, childbirth is what a woman was made to do. I was prepared for pregnancy and even birth, but nothing could have prepared me for the loss of my first child.
SEASONS OF LOSS
Lately it has been death after death. Death of dreams and so much physical death. This is an ongoing hard season.
Since we left Haiti in April we have lost four people that mattered to us. Our child is the fifth death in the space of four months.
Uncle Eman gave up space in his home for us to live when we were newly married and hadn’t rented a place yet. He loved to read and ask me theological questions anytime I went to sit on the porch with him because the electricity was out again and I feared the cockroaches in that dark bedroom.
He was always smiling, singing, and going to or coming from church. He died suddenly from undiagnosed sickness. We didn’t even get to say goodbye.
One friend burned to death in a motorcycle/semi collision that resulted in an explosion and three additional deaths. Another two friends were poisoned by voodoo neighbors and fell into a month-long coma ending in death.
It’s been four years since I walked through losing someone dear to me for the first time. Four years since I held his frail hand as he labored to breath a few of his last breaths.
The following year I cared for a baby girl for two weeks before she slipped away at the hospital only hours after I had held her.
I have been to funerals and have watched others walk through loss. But knowing about a death and witnessing death are two different things. I have found nothing else on earth that compares to that feeling of helplessness.
Out of all my experiences living overseas it wasn’t the times that I helped a child, made a friend, or nursed a baby back to life that impacted me the most. Those seasons of death and loss were the weeks and months that marked me most deeply.
As if those losses four years ago weren’t enough to stunt my growth into the missionary that I wanted to be, I hadn’t felt anything in terms of discouragement yet.
For the first several years in Haiti I had so many friends, in ministry, at a local school, and in the neighborhood that I lived in. Short termers were in and out. I was getting over my childhood shyness. Though I was exhausting myself 24/7 with ministry activities and very few breaks, it was fun.
Until it wasn’t.
Suddenly, I had gone back to Haiti after some time off and things began falling apart. I had seen a lot of good in Haiti. It was a place that I enjoyed being. And truth be told, I found it easy, up until then.
Then the dark realities of that place hit me like a ton of bricks. It became apparent that there were greater works of evil under the surface than I had realized. Jealousy and hatred began to unravel many of the local relationships I had, despite all my efforts to hold onto them.
After we were engaged I decided to move in with my now husband’s aunt until we got married. It was the safest option for me at that time. Then I got sick. Very very sick, for a second time in Haiti (the first time I had Dengue) and had to be hospitalized because of infection.
Satan for sure wanted me out of Haiti and he was doing everything possible to discourage and drive me away.
As a young aspiring missionary I had ideals of what a missionary was supposed to look like, be, and do.
I wanted to be the one helping the people I was serving without needing their help. I wanted God to protect me from harm and heal sick people when I prayed.
I was supposed to always know what to say and who to help. My presence was supposed to make an impact on the community, and the people back home were supposed to support me without being informed of my needs.
I identified myself as a missionary. I wasn’t in Haiti to sight see or vacation. I had given up everything, all of my personal comforts and dreams, to be there because I knew God wanted me to be.
Things went well for a while. I lived up to my own missionary ideals at first. I felt useful to the ministry I volunteered with. As my boldness grew I took on many rolls that seemed important.
It was great to see a child nearly dead start to walk and talk after I had labored months caring for him. Some short terms that were in and out looked up to me and I got to be the one to answer their questions.
But then, death came and I couldn’t stop it. I lost so many friendships and felt betrayed by people that I was close to. I had given all of me in service, in return I was left broken, discouraged, and alone.
If all of the things I knew about missions were true, why was I watching people I loved slip away under my care? Why was I being targeted with hatred and pushed out of the place that I had called home for several years despite all I had poured into it?
My identity was wrapped up in being that good missionary. If I couldn’t change the situation maybe I was just a fake, running from the monotony of life in the US.
I was plunged into an identity crisis.
During that time, living in a new place outside of my comfort zone and forming a different kind of friendship, I came to realize that most of what I thought I knew about being a missionary was false.
God never called me to determine the outcome of my serving. I was never meant to be a savior. As much as I would like to think I have left some sort of impact on those I served, God didn’t ask me to be some great missionary or to conjure up change.
He only asked me to be there, and I was, I am. I may be titled “missionary” but my ideals for what that is supposed to look like is not my identity. My identity is “follower of Christ”.
Whether I follow Him to witness a miracle, down a lonely road, or to the bedside of the dying is not up to me to decide.
I could choose to walk away from the mission field. To avoid pain. I could be angry at the people who have hurt me. Or question God for allowing hard things.
Or I can just be obedient. I can mourn the losses and then get up and keep pouring myself out knowing that God will use my weakness in the way that He chooses and someday things will be “very good” again.
ANOTHER IDENTITY CRISIS
As much as I had ideals of what a missionary should look like, I had more ideals of what a wife should be. Since our marriage three years ago, my greatest goal has been to become more pleasing to my husband day by day.
I have always felt that I would rather not be married than to be some mediocre wife. I see marriage as my very highest calling even higher than being a missionary.
Throughout history, in many eras, a woman’s worth was entirely dependent on her bearing children. In many cultures a woman’s barrenness would bring shame to her husband.
Because our bodies were designed from the very beginning with populating the earth as a main function, miscarriage carries a certain shame. From the first signs of loss I questioned why I was not able to sustain the life of our first child in my womb.
Though he never validated it, I felt like I had let my husband down. That somehow I was not the wife that I was supposed to be.
I was told over and over that it wasn’t my fault. Still, I wanted to be able to control the outcome, to save our baby, and to make my husband proud.
ALL HE REQUIRES
In the quiet evenings following our loss I began to realize that just as there was a purpose to the losses I went through in Haiti and there was a purpose for my miscarriage.
It wasn’t the outcome that I wanted. Knowing that it was for a reason didn’t lessen the pain. But somehow, I was ok.
My loss did not disqualify me as a wife. Even though I wasn’t able to carry my husband’s child, I am still very much called to be his wife. Yes, bearing children is one of the grand purposes of a wife, but it is not the goal. Not only that, but obtaining it is out of our hands.
Pregnancy is a gift whether it brings about a viable baby after 9 months or not. It’s a gift to be treasured, mourned when lost, and a blessing to be thankful for.
I am not called to sustain life. If I am entrusted with a life I’m only called to steward it well in that season. I’m called to love my husband well in nurturing his child or just doing laundry again.
God used the hardest of trials in Haiti to shift my focus off of me. I lost everything that I had in a sense. Those hardships pushed me into a place of deeper surrender and dependance.
Today I have an amazing community of people around me in Haiti. I understand the culture so much better. I am blessed to have selfless volunteers for every activity I am involved in. My husband and I have a flourishing ministry and get to serve and love some extraordinary kids and families. Haiti feels like home more than ever before.
God again used loss, the loss of my baby, for good. He is still using it.
I was given 10 precious weeks of pregnancy, then it was over. It was never about my happiness. It was never about me. It was a season of learning to lay down my desires for the sake of another. And ultimately another opportunity to let go of what I want and rejoice in God’s will.
Through that loss I’ve been learning to be content in this season and not try to rush into another one. I’m learning to hold blessings loosely and not grasp them like I am due. My husband and I are closer and love each other deeper because of what we went through.
He takes what is broken and makes it into something beautiful. When we learn to kiss those waves that throw us into the Rock of Ages, it is very beautiful indeed.
This post originally appeared on Rachel’s personal blog. Rachel is originally from Missouri but now serves in Haiti alongside her husband Nelson, who she meet while working in Haiti. To connect more with Rachel, and to learn more about the work that she and her husband are involved with, check out her blog www.rachelespazienblog.com