Friday, April 6, 2012

Two Minutes

 I came across an article by Marshall Shelley entitled Two Minutes to Eternity about the birth and death of his son Toby. While his wife Susan was pregnant the doctor diagnosed their son with problems deemed incompatible with life. They were asked what they wanted to do. 

"It's likely the fetus will spontaneously miscarry. If the child is born, it will not survive long outside the womb. You need to decide if you want to try to carry this pregnancy to term."
 
We both knew what he was asking. I was speechless. Susan found her voice first. Though shaken by the news, she said softly but clearly, "We believe God is the giver and taker of life. If the only opportunity I have to know this child is in my womb, I don't want to cut that time short. If the only world he is to know is the womb, I want that world to be as safe as I can make it."

She carried her son to term. When he was born he lived for two minutes. 

"Do you have a name for the baby?" asked one of the nurses.

"Toby," Susan said. "It's short for a biblical name, Tobiah, which means 'God is good.' "

We had long thought about the name for this child. We didn't particularly feel God's goodness at that moment. The name was what we believed, not what we felt. It was what we wanted to feel again someday.

The words of C.S. Lewis, describing the lion Aslan, kept coming to mind: "He's not a tame lion. But he's good." We clung to that image of untamed and fearsome goodness, even as we continued to struggle with the question: Why would God create a child to live two minutes?

Their grief was only to increase. Only a few short months later, one of their daughters, severely mentally retarded, died just before her second birthday. 

All of us who have suffered the loss of a child, either before or after birth, have wondered that at some point. Why does God create a person who will die so soon? Before even drawing breath? Eventually, Marshall and his wife found the answer:

Why did God create a child to live two minutes?

He didn't.

He didn't create Toby to live two minutes or Mandy to live two years. He didn't create me to live 40 years (or whatever number he may choose to extend my days in this world).

God created Toby for eternity. He created each of us for eternity, where we may be surprised to find our true calling, which always seemed just out of reach here on earth.

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