I’ve always been amazed at how quickly children change and grow. Nine months in the womb transforms a bunch of cells into a pudgy, giggling baby. Barely a year later, this helpless little angel throws her first tantrum, takes her first steps. The old parenting adage holds true that the days seem long but the years fly by.
A lot has happened in my children’s lives in the 16 months since Rob died. They’ve gained new skills in music and sports. They’ve matured in beautiful ways. One of my children has grown almost 5 inches. One has learned to read well. Another has braces now. Sometimes I look at my kids and think, “Rob would be so amazed and heartbroken to see how much they’ve changed — how much he’s missed — since he left.”
I sometimes worry about what my children’s lives will look like without this man who loved them so deeply. Rob was such a good dad. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination (kids are so good at pointing out your faults!), but he was really good. He was present for our children, deeply interested in their thoughts and committed to their growth. Rob was affectionate and gentle, rough-and-tumble and strong. You can say all the cliches like “You carry him in your heart.” But my kids know the hard truth — their dad is gone. He’s not here in the ways any of us want him to be.
When I think about all of the ways my children have lost their father, I can’t help but worry and wonder. But then I remember that in some mysterious way God wrote this into my sweet children’s stories. When Rob held them at their births, God knew they’d lose him young. When he played football with them in the backyard, when he hollered the loudest at the 4-H competitions, God knew one day they’d miss his strong arms and his enthusiasm for their successes. God knew the sorrow we’d experience, and in his beautiful goodness he gave Rob to us anyways.
Every night, I read my children a novel aloud before bed. We’ve read almost 20 in the year and a half since Rob died. I love reading aloud the books I’ve personally read before. I know the plot, and I love seeing my kids discover it along the way. When the storyline feels boring, I encourage them, “Stick with me till the next chapter.” When the protagonist winds up in trouble, I reassure them, “It’s going to turn out okay.” I encourage them along because I see the full arc of a story they only know in part.
I trust that God has written good stories for my children, that the lines for them have been drawn in pleasant places. The sorrow they endure is being woven into a storyline more magnificent than I could ever imagine. Grief and pain are being transformed in the hand of a great Author. I can trust that the Writer knows what he is doing. That God’s plans for my kids have been and always will be filled with loving intention. I believe that, even in Rob’s death, God is working in my children’s lives for good.
Early in my grief journey, my therapist told me, “Your job is to learn to parent your children without knowing what is ahead.” I wrote those words down in my journal. I’ve gone back to them over and over again. In the face of loss, without my beloved partner at my side, that task often feels impossible. It terrifies me to admit I have no idea what lies ahead.
But then I remember that I parent in the strength of the One who knows exactly what is before me, who wrote each of my children’s days before any of them came to be. I may not know my children’s storyline, but God does. Even in the absence of their earthly father, my children’s lives are ordered by a good Father who knows the beginning and the end and every moment in between.
And so I receive those words of Divine encouragement.
Stick with me till the next chapter.
It’s going to turn out okay.
I am the Alpha and the Omega.
You are worth more than many sparrows.
On days that are hard.
On days that are good.
On days filled with grief.
On days ringing with laughter.
I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.