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Following Jesus

Living the Beatitudes: On Angel Wings

August 3, 2017 by

Today, Rebekah Domer continues her series on the Beatitude, "blessed are the peacemakers." Catch up on the rest of her posts here.
pencil sketch of a baby
artwork by Sheera Hinkey

When my friend Magdalena’s third son was born, he looked entirely perfect. Each tiny finger and toe was perfectly formed. He resembled his older brother Russell, Magda recalls, with a broad chest and tiny muscles on his arms. He even had his dad’s dimple on his chin. But no life coursed through this tiny body. His soul had already departed; his body remained – the only vestige of God’s creative love. Thus, at what should have been a momentously joyous occasion of birth, Magda was overcome with grief.

Happily pregnant after a heartbreaking miscarriage, Magda was thrilled when early scans showed that her baby was developing normally; his heart was perfectly formed, as were all his other major organs. Now, twenty-four weeks into her pregnancy, Magda began the countdown to her baby’s arrival early in the new year. But in late October Magda felt a dark sense of foreboding. For two weeks her baby had been unusually quiet in the womb, and during the past days there had been no movement at all.

Mommy felt your last little kicks on Saturday evening, October 31. Our family had gathered with fellow community members to sing Christmas carols. Those last precious kicks you gave me, Benjamin, were a real farewell – a moment I’ll never forget.

Magda knew deep in her heart that her baby’s soul had departed. With her husband Ben, she turned to God in prayer, seeking peace in His will. “We made a conscious decision to accept what was happening as part of God’s bigger plan. Rather than casting blame – on medical negligence or on God – we chose to trust our heavenly father. In acceptance we found the peace that passes human understanding.”

Rather than casting blame on medical negligence or on God, we chose to trust our heavenly father.

On Monday morning, Ben and Magda sadly drove to the local hospital where scans confirmed that their baby had died. The pain of grief was indescribable. Magda recounts, “Even if you have peace, you’re still going to grieve. You wouldn’t believe the intensity of the bond between a mother and her child. It is there from very, very early on – an incredibly deep bond.”

As Ben and Magda awaited the birth of their baby, church members surrounded them with love borne of faith in God’s unfathomable wisdom. While Magda was in labor, Handel’s “Messiah” played softly in the background. The pastor’s wife sat at her side offering comfort and support while their church met to pray and sing.

baby footprints

Benjamin was born, a complete and perfect boy, just as the recording of the Messiah proclaimed, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ!” Magda remembers, “Remarkable as it may seem, that’s really what we felt when Benjamin was born; even though it was intensely painful, his birth was, somehow, a victory.”

Magda believes that her son Benjamin was sent as an emissary of peace. Hearing that Magda’s baby had died and that she was delivering the tiny dead body brought the community to an abrupt standstill. Rallying to support Ben and Magda, the congregation was drawn into an experience of God that lifted them out of themselves. A deep awe and peace descended on the community as they sought to comprehend God’s mysterious working through this little child. Crying out against the loss of her son with every fiber of her being, Magda nonetheless knew that God’s purpose had been fulfilled; her baby had brought the church peace.

Peace is an admirable quality in our world, oft-equated with historical giants like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi. But anyone can be a maker of peace.

Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Each of us encounters situations in life that threaten our peace of heart. For one it may be a stillbirth, for another the loss of a spouse or close friend. Or, perhaps, you’ve just received a difficult diagnosis. The key lies in our response to the challenges that confront us throughout life: will we embrace God’s will, making it our own with peace and serenity, or will we resist?

Elisabeth Elliot, reflecting on the riddle of human suffering after her husband Jim was killed attempting to evangelize the indigenous people of Ecuador, contemplates “the thought of the Lord in Gethsemane. He too knew fear and weakness, but his ‘not my will’ was an act of total self-surrender.” Elliott suggests that we too must “abandon ourselves entirely to the will of the Father and live… in this spirit of self-abandonment to God” if we would know the peace Christ offers.

For reasons we may never comprehend this side of eternity, God chose baby Benjamin to be a peacemaker. For his mother Magda, peace came only through the acceptance of God’s working in her – and her baby’s – life. It is never easy to relinquish our dreams for health and happiness. But God’s ways are, truly, very often not our ways. We may struggle to see the hand of God in seemingly tragic circumstances, but we only see the earthly side of the tapestry God is weaving. In her grief at the loss of her husband, Elliot was comforted by a scriptural passage which teaches that our earthly troubles are winning for us an eternal reward (2 Cor. 4:17–18). She realized her need to “start concentrating on the invisible for a change.… There was eternity to consider. Here was a chance to choose happiness and peace. They were not something that merely ‘happened’ to me.… They were given in proportion as I chose to view my sorrow in the light of the intransitory and invisible.”

Will we embrace God’s will, making it our own with peace and serenity, or will we resist?

Magda still mourns the loss of her baby Benjamin. But in longing for her son, her heart is drawn, as if by an invisible magnet, heavenward – to the day when all separation will be overcome. In her book, Keep a Quiet Heart, Elliot describes the powerfully creative potential of loss when she writes, “Heaven is not here, it’s there. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to himself and his still invisible kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.”

There are millions who, like Elisabeth and Magda, have been touched by the raw pain of loss. But our sorrow is not in vain, for the souls of our loved ones bind us to eternity. And when, in stillness and silence, we draw near to God, we are caressed by God’s peace, like the gentle brush of angel wings.

Check back in three weeks for my next post in this series. Comments

About the author

Rebekah Domer

Rebekah Domer

Since Rebekah’s upbringing at the Woodcrest Bruderhof in New York, life has taken her on many diverse assignments, from the...

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  • My first reaction to the story of Magdalena’s son and how his death was perceived displayed the intense love of a mother for her son and the intense love of the community for this family. It seems to reflect the intense love which God has for us in all things. The belief that Benjamin was sent as an emissary of peace is profound. The way that this family embraced this child and was embraced by a loving community is in a real way as was stated; “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” This peace can be defined by many persons to satisfy their own needs. We may here the phrase ‘Peace through Strength’ proclaimed by warmongers. Is it true peace? How do we know when there is true peace? The sense of peace described in this story shows how true peace comes from a merciful God in ways we cannot imagine but can feel and know in our hearts as true because it is God.

    Tom Rowan
  • Thank you for sharing. Only this past week, my fiance's sister-in-law learned that one of the twins she is carrying has died and the family has been suffering their grief quietly. I tried to comfort them, but wish I had this blog at the time.

    Rosalie V Gambino
  • I was very touched by your blog post. It strikes just the right balance of horror and compassion -- you write from a deeply compassionate place -- of "suffering with" Magda.

    Rose Folsom
  • Many thanks for your recent blog. The loss of babies for one reason or another is quite common and painful especially for the Mother. Sudden deaths at any age are very painful and very difficult to accept. I myself had the sudden death of my own mother in l947. We were six children aged 6 years to 13 and she went to bed one night and woke at 4 a.m. with a very bad headache and asked my father to get a doctor for her. When the doctor arrived he said get a Priest for her and at 11.30 a.m. she was dead. Her sister came to mind us and she said to all of us "It is the Will of God and you have to accept it". Since then - The Will of God has been what controlled my life. I hope the mother of that child will find the death of her baby will enable her to accept "Will of God in all difficult conditions." I hope you will help many to find "The Will of God" as a powerful gift to find peace in difficult conditions.

  • Thank you, Rebekah! That certainly is a beautifully powerful illustration of the 'Peace of Jesus'. One of my favorite sentences in your blog: “Even if you have peace, you’re still going to grieve." resonates with much of my experience.

  • Beautiful witness to accepting and surrendering to God's will. Thank you! Suzanne

    Suzanne Walsh
  • An excellent article I thought Rebekah thank you. A tough subject which you have handled sensitively yet in a way that still challenges.

    Guy Partridge
  • This is a very deeply moving story of the loss of their baby, but also very comforting. To accept God’s will is the only way we can regain peace in our thoughts, in our souls. May we be always able, with God's grace, to be one with his will! Thank you.

    Sister Ferrera
  • What a sad but beautifully inspiring blog. What faith people have at such a distressing time. How wonderful that the community came together and supported her and her family. The power of the Lord is great.

    Marcia Bullock
  • What a touching and incredibly sad story. How difficult it must be to find peace after the death of your child. Blessings to you

    Chris Armstrong
  • How very moving and it is amazing how God uses this terrible time of loss as a way to bring peace and a greater understanding of what is required of us to understand his purpose.

    Jacquie Watson
  • very good

    denis Jackson
  • BINGO, Rebekah. A truly great blog, and just in tune with me at this time. Acceptance and the promise of heaven are what helps heal a broken heart from grief and the loss of someone we love with all our hearts. I'm truly thankful that I have Jesus in my heart, and that His love gives me the joy and peace I so crave, especially these days. Thanks so much for a very inspirational blog. Always enjoyable, inspiring and greatly written. Love in Christ, Emily

    Emily Russo
  • This story made me weep. It has a strong resonance.