by Sarah Carson

When I went in for my check-up at 31 weeks pregnant, I had no idea anything was wrong inside my body. The nurse said my blood pressure was high, and I was sure it was a fluke. When the doctor announced, “You’ve just won yourself a trip to the hospital,” I remained unfazed.

Later I was told I couldn’t return to work, that my baby might need to be born three weeks early, then five weeks early, and that I would need to stay in the hospital until I was induced. Still I didn’t worry. Then four doctors entered my hospital room and closed the door behind them. They said it’d be­come too dangerous for me to stay pregnant. They wanted to schedule a C-section that afternoon.

Over the next few hours, my pastors, friends and family rushed to my side. They held my hand and prayed, they told me jokes, they reassured me that no matter what happened, God was listening, God was there.

When I delivered a beautiful, tiny, healthy little girl that night, I cried with relief. Then I picked up my phone to find that in the hours while I’d been attending to my own health, someone else had been losing a battle with hers.

As doctors had worked to protect my baby and me, doctors had also been with a member of my congregation as she succumbed to her battle with cancer. In the same hours that my pastors had rushed to pray with me, they had also rushed to pray with her. My daughter’s first day on earth was also someone else’s last.

In this issue of Gather, we explore what it means to believe in a God who is intimately familiar with these moments. As we learn about the Apostles’ Creed in the second session of Julia Seymour’s Bible study, we are reminded that God, in Jesus Christ, faced birth, sickness and death head-on. God says to us, “I have been there; you can do this, too.”

“The beauty of a God who is both fully human and fully divine,” writes Cara Strickland (p. 23), “[is that] Jesus knows what fear feels like, what it is like to doubt your own eyes.”

“Jesus did not ignore or circumvent pain,” Ange­la Khabeb echoes (p. 16). “God is Alpha and Ome­ga, Beginning and End, but sometimes I think we forget that God is Middle, too.”

We are reminded in this issue that as Christians and as Lutherans we live with paradox. We embrace both life and death. We believe in a God who is both human and other worldly, who has both lived among us and always existed beyond us.

“In everything from bodily suffering to spiritual joy, Jesus has experienced and understands our real­ity,” Seymour writes in the Bible study (p. 26).

Thanks be to God that he has.

Sarah Carson is associate editor of Gather.

This article is excerpted from the October 2017 issue of Gather magazine. To read the full story and others like it, subscribe to Gather.