“…or, God is Not Playing a Game of Cosmic Chess”
Forty-five days ago what should have been one of the happiest moments in the lives of my wife and I turned into one of the worst; she went into labor.
The problem was that she was 5 weeks early. This wasn’t the main problem in of itself however; the doctor said that at that stage the baby was nearly full-term and should have the same survival rate as a full-term child. The main problem was that when we went into the doctor’s office and she performed a sonogram, we couldn’t hear a heartbeat. The visual ultrasound confirmed the worst, and the following words, directed towards my wife, will forever be ingrained in my memory: “Your baby has no heartbeat, it is dead, but either way, you’re giving birth today.”
For eight months we had dreamed how our precious Anastasia Noel would look, what she would be interested in, what foods she would like and what kind of person she would be. We tried to prepare for how our lives would be changed, how we would need to give up this or that, how this Christmas would be the most special Christmas ever and how our parents were going to be transformed into grandparents and we children would now become the parents.
All of this came to sudden halt. We were devastated, and understandably so, but the reality of the situation didn’t kick in immediately. It took some time for us to completely shift our way of thinking, just like it took time after we discovered she was pregnant.
That day, for me at least, was an alternation between a powerful sadness and dispassionate shock. My wife’s mother and grandmother drove five hours to be with us, arriving an hour or two before the delivery and not too long after my own parents and sister, who themselves drove two hours. My wife’s sister and friend were there, as were our friends from church and Anastasia’s planned godparents, Theodore and Stacey (who, coincidentally, was also named after St. Anastasia).
One of the most common phrases I heard directed towards us that day, and in the weeks after, was “Everything happens for a reason, I’m sure God has something special planned for you.” This phrase became for me something absolutely repulsive, although I appreciate the sentiment of those who mentioned it.
I don’t believe that everything does happen for a reason, that God is playing something like a game of cosmic chess. In chess you play tactically; you make a move based on a hoped-for chain of events: “If I move this pawn, then it puts his queen in danger and he will have to move his bishop to protect it, opening up his rook for attack.”
The reason I don’t believe this is twofold: God is love, and because of this love there is free will in humanity, and freedom in all of creation. If God did have a hand in every single event that happened, if He made sure that nothing happened without a specific reason, then it would negate this freedom. This isn’t to say that I am a deist and believe in the great “Watchmaker God” who set the world in motion and then moved on, but I do believe that God created a system around himself, and lets that system play out according to the laws it was designed by.
Our baby did not die for some overarching reason. God did not “want her before her time” (as one person told me) and so take her away from us. I don’t believe this because God is love, and to actively take something away from us which is both an expression of the love shared between my wife and myself, as well as His love for humanity by allowing us to continue on, is not an act of love. Our baby died because something went wrong during her development which caused the placenta to not form as it should, and so not be able to supply Anastasia with what was needed in order to sustain her.
No, not everything happens for some specific reason. Not every action undertaken by nature or by humanity is directed by God. Not every tragedy happens in order to allow some good. Some things just happen as a result of the system which God created, such as natural and extraterrestrial disasters. Other things happen because God loved us enough to give us freedom of the will and not make us automatons.
Not everything happens for a reason, but this doesn’t mean that nothing does, nor does it limit the possibility that once something does happen, it might open up the possibility of something else. Now that my wife and I don’t have to worry about how we are going to be able to afford rent, all our bills, -and- support a child, we might have the opportunity to do something to continue better our situation and our relationship that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do, such as going back to school or being drawn even closer together by what we’ve been through.
I said some words at the funeral for our stillborn daughter, and while at the time I fumbled it up due to my emotions, the following is what I meant to say:
I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, and I don’t believe that God took our daughter away from us. Our daughter died because something went wrong in her development. I do, however, believe that He welcomed her with open arms when she arrived in His Kingdom. I have no fear for my daughter; she is now where I am fighting tooth and nail to be, standing before the throne of God. My prayers are for my wife and I and our family, that we will have the strength to grieve and to carry on. I do hope for one thing though, that even though we never got to get to know our daughter, she knows us and knows how much we love her still. Glory to you God, glory to you.
IC | XC
NI | KA
Memory eternal, my sweet Anastasia. You got to skip all the hard stuff, and are now another bright star in heaven, and a special intercessor for us before the almighty Pantokrator. Please pray for us, that God will have mercy on us.
I love you.