Monday, March 11, 2019


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Sojourning the Mystery of Joy Embraced In Grief A CRC Analysis of Shining Gift of God:  A Memoir of the Life of Nathanael Marcus by Steve and Sarah Wickham.

       In the 1991 blockbuster CITY SLICKERS, three men are going through an identity crises and decide to take a supervised cattle drive across the Southwest in hopes of finding new meaning in their lives.  Mitch (Billy Crystal), Ed (Bruno Kirby), and Phil (Daniel Stern) reflect on two questions: What was your best day? What was your worst day?

Mitch: Alright Ed, your best day, what was it? Twins in a trapeze, what?
Ed: No, I don't wanna play.
Mitch: C'mon, we did it.
Ed: I don't feel like it.
Mitch: Uh, okay.
[Ed pauses, then begins to speak]
Ed: I'm fourteen and my mother and father are fighting again. Y'know, because she caught him again. Caught him; this time the girl drove by the house to pick him up. And I finally realized, he wasn't just cheating on my mother, he was cheating us. So I told him; I said, "You're bad to us. We don't love you. I'll take care of my mother and my sister. We don't need you any more." And he made like he was gonna hit me, but I didn't budge. And he turned around and he left. He never bothered us again. Well, I took care of my mother and my sister from that day on. That's my best day.
Phil: What was your worst day?
Ed[brief pause] Same day.

Pastor, Chaplain, and Christian Counselor Steve Wickham and his wife Sarah Wickham had their own City Slicker moment – when they learned Sarah was pregnant in April of 2014.  They viewed this as their best day – a time to get to know their baby Nathanael, talking to him, feeling him through the walls of Sarah’s womb. Steve (in full time ministry at their local Baptist Church in Perth West Australia) and Sarah, considered this pregnancy and the existence of Nathanael was meant to be.
       Their best day lasted until July 1, 2014 when on a cold and rainy winter’s Tuesday their doctor told them the news: their unborn baby Nathanael had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (
The next day Steve began writing his experiences in what would become the devotion of lament and joy in Shining Gift of God:  A Memoir of the Life of Nathanael Marcus (  
It’s a journey through four months of days from July 1, 2014 until he was stillborn on October 30, 2014 and then eight months of weeks unpacking our grief.  Written in the present tense, these daily devotions of lament and learning are packaged in this book for others’ benefit as they journey through the loss and grief.      
Then eighteen days later on July 18, 2014, while Sarah was napping in bed and Steve was out buying her flowers the doctor called their home to give the Sarah the bad news. Nathanael had Pallister-Killian Syndrome (  
Sarah revealed the horrible news to Steve when he returned home with her flowers at 5 p.m. We were immediately sorrowful, yet totally vulnerable in the midst of a mystery.  
And it is in this mystery that Steve and Sarah and Nathanael take this journey.  Even though they are surrounded by loved ones, it is a journey that all three must take alone. 
   In order for one’s journey to
be fruitful one must accept God as his/her ultimate Guide, and recognize His face:  that smiling Shalom of God transcends the difficulty, making the reality surreal.  As we turn inconsideration of God turning His face toward us, we see the liberty He is giving us in circumstances otherwise totally de-liberating.  Of course, the world cannot understand this spiritual reality; the gifting of God that we call faith.

It is during this journey that despite our uselessness, meaninglessness or weakness, we are blessed because God our Guide turns all of our deficiencies into something beautiful.  But He said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12: 9
Along the journey Steve, Sarah, and Nathanael find reasons to laugh and this laughter is necessary for their preservation.   This comic relief is never disrespectful but enables them to connect with that part of our story that is untainted by sadness, which is an emotion all too real.
There were many steps to take on this journey:  realizing there are other parents and other unborn babies that have endured what Steve, Sarah, and Nathanael have endured, while recognizing each individual's pain, though similar, is different from someone else's pain. 
There is also the step of recognizing that closure is just a myth, but experiencing peace and acceptance enables those to be healed. In order to be healed, we must take the opportunities of grief and allow God and ourselves to transform our fear and sorrow into curiosity and wonder.
Through this curiosity and wonder we develop a mastery, which becomes a childlike faith allowing us to go into fearful territory without being disabled or disempowered. This takes down fear and gives us the ability to problem-solve, and when we problem-solve we create strategies for courage, as well as a plan for success.
There is the step of believing the importance of and welcoming authentic emotions as a means to release grief, experience joy, and connect with other people. The paradox of having been moved is that we surrender control over ourselves for the moment just so we may experience some height or depth unusual to our experience.

Then there is the step of finding time to reflect and surrendering these reflections to God, which results in God caressing all five senses.  
of life can easily be swept over, but as we reflect we enhance the felt experience and God can be heard to speak through insight.

There are many other steps:  get involved with your community, even a community on social media – particularly a community that shares in your experiences; don’t be afraid to ask questions; take a quick holiday – even a day trip to a lake; believe in the mantra that we  – the unborn and the born – are human beings made in the image of God; and believe in the power of prayer and pray incessantly. Pray in a way that if someone were listening/ They would know something of the God of creation.
On Sunday, August 10, 2014 Steve Wickham writes about the most excruciating step of this journey by first quoting Teresa of Avila (Left) :  “Trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.”   
Steve Wickham goes even further when he writes: It might seem unfair, but a soon as we understand we are in the right place, right now, then life has joyous acceptance about it in the present. . .
Whatever our state of being, God has allowed us to be where we are presently at.  That is the purpose. That is the innate purpose of life; to live the very day; to accept the bases of the situations we find ourselves in; to accept this day.
The blessing involved in trusting God to the degree of accepting just the very circumstance we experience just now is we are at peace, always. . .
And when we can balance this state of acceptance up with the hope and desire to grow, and to be slightly dissatisfied with where we are at, yet accept the slow rate of progress we do make, we might be exactly where God wills us to be.
Life requires of us an acceptance of our reality.  We are blessed to accept what we cannot change.  We are right where we ought to be.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t improve our lot.
How do we come to the point where we believe we are at the place God wants us to be right now – no matter how horrible the circumstances are?  How is this possible?  According to Steve it is to pray earnestly to God requesting that God will give us the perspective God wants us to have about everything, especially the horrible situation we are in. We pray only for the discernment and the doing of Your will.  This baby of ours is more appropriately Yours.  Help us to know how to honour You in the context of our baby’s life – however fleeting it is likely to be.           

To believe we are right where God wants us to be does not mean we or He desires for us to go through these atrocious things that are affected by freewill, poor choices of others, unlawful activity of others against innocent people, the forces of nature, the forces of medical science, or the sin of mankind. We believe in the power and in the promise of the divine movement of your hand; but we will not assume that this is Your will in our circumstance.  We surrender ourselves to You, afresh.
How is it possible to truly believe that the place God wants me to be is where I am right now while at the same time believe the events of the place where I am right now is not necessarily God’s will?

In a Facebook interview date March 2019 Steve recognizes there are dichotomies in Shining Gift of God: A Memoir of the Life of Nathanael Marcus:  “Given the book is a raw devotional, where the day’s thoughts are printed on those actual days, it doesn’t surprise me that there are these kinds of dichotomies. I think grief has us reflecting in different minds on different days.  The Bible itself often seems contradictory – if we juxtapose certain verses.  The Memoir of Nathanael is not scripture, but we really had to say to ourselves, ‘God’s got us. . .He has us. . . we are where we belong.’”       
Steve further journals that God’s will is not a one-time thing, but a journey and a constant surrendering to the Person of Jesus Christ.  We will not reach the final goal of all of God’s will until we reach Heaven; however, we can attain the mindset God wants us to attain when we commune with the Lord Jesus Christ:  Because it was Jesus who was scourged and insulted and disdained so unjustly, we are encouraged to maintain our obedient resolve.  We know that God will vindicate us at the right time if we do not give up submitting to His will. AMEN
Steve expounds on God’s will for every individual who loves Him. That will is for it to be well with his or her soul  - regardless of the atrocious places and the worst days of our lives. In the end it is not our life that saves and rescues, but to Whom we live for that saves and rescues. We must lose our lives to God in order to gain the most bountiful life we can possibly live:  It is no longer our own lives we live.  We live, quite fundamentally, for God

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