All the days ordained for her: Anna Elisabeth Baarendse...

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This memorial is by Anna Elisabeth's father, Stephen Baarendse, who with his wife Sara allows its publication for the hope and comfort of other fathers and mothers whose little ones crossed the valley of the shadow of death at a similarly tender age. If readers wish to thank Stephen and Sara for their witness, feel free to send them an e-mail.

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Anna Elisabeth Baarendse

Stillborn June 24, 2009 after 6 months (24 weeks) in the womb

On Monday morning, June 22, we entered Lexington Medical Center for an ultrasound because Sara had not felt our baby move in four or five days. The Lord had blessed us with a memorable weekend. First, Sara and I enjoyed a fine date night on Friday, June 19. While Rebecca Becker watched our children, we dined at Ruby Tuesday and caught an early evening showing of Pixar’s new movie Up, with its wonderful theme of the adventure of married life. On Father’s Day, we witnessed Ava Joy Becker baptism and heard a message about God’s sovereign control over all of life from Psalm 33 by Pastor Dave Bindewald. The Psalm ends with these verses:

Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee (Psalm 33:18-22).

Indeed, we’ve sensed God’s steadfast love (his Hesed) upon us, from beginning to end. Sunday evening we drove downtown as a family to hear Sinclair Ferguson preach with great feeling on Romans 6:1-14: “Do I know that I have died to sin and been raised to newness of life?” After the service, by a wonderful providence, I briefly met Iain Murray, who was visiting from Scotland. All of this happened on Father’s Day, while our precious baby was already dead in the womb, but gloriously alive with her Father in heaven.

On Monday we decided to take the whole family to the ultrasound...

Things came out as Sara feared: our baby had not moved because her little heart had stopped beating. What could we feel but numbness and shock, and the beginning of the great wave of sadness sweeping in like a tide? But in God’s providence, we were gathered together as a family in the dimly-lit ultrasound room, trying to explain to our children (Abby-5, Jacob-4, David-1) that our little one had gone to heaven. On the way out of the hospital, we passed a small dead bird on the sidewalk. Today, a week later, I read Matthew 10:29:  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” I look back on that now as a wonderful sign to us. That bird did not fall from the sky by accident, and neither did our baby, of more value than many sparrows, die in the womb apart from our Father’s perfect will.  

From my journal on Tuesday morning, June 23, in the hospital:  

Today we’re in “Labor and Delivery” waiting, waiting, waiting for Sara to respond to the pills inducing her labor. We’re grieving, but trusting in God’s goodness and wisdom. His heart is inclined to us in love. He’s near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18).  He will not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoking flax (Isa. 42:3).  God has already shown us His tender care in many ways.  Yesterday the LPC elders voted to help us financially with the funeral expenses.  This morning Dave and Barb Bindewald met us at the hospital at 5:00 a.m. to pray and read Scripture with us.  Dave read what King David said about his deceased son:

He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (II Sam. 12:22-23).                          

Pastor Dave said that the only way King David could say the last line with confidence, “I shall go to him,” was if he knew the child was in heaven. The Lord is merciful and gracious to His little ones. This is a great comfort.

This morning the M’Cheyne calendar led me to Isaiah 55, with its wonderful reminder that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We don’t know why our baby was taken early, but God does, and someday we’ll see His purposes unfold:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.  


His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour:

The bud may have a bitter taste,

 But sweet will be the flower.

(from William Cowper, “God Moves in Mysterious Ways”)

And, at the end of Isaiah 55, verse 13:

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

It would be wonderful to plant a beautiful pink crêpe myrtle tree in our front yard (to replace the blighted dwarf tree there now) as a growing memorial to our precious baby, but especially for the Lord’s renown, as a sign to remember His great faithfulness to us.

And yesterday, before coming in for the ultrasound, there was this promise from Isaiah 54:13: “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.” So many great promises to feed on from the Word! God, thank you for using these means to strengthen us during this difficult trial! How rich and satisfying your food is when we are in these desperate straits. “To whom else can we turn? You alone have the words of eternal life!”  

It’s interesting now to look back at what I wrote on Ps. 119:1-24 a year ago (June 22, 2008):  “Lord, give me a hunger for your Word. Give me an appetite. Give me a craving.” I feel that this prayer has been answered during these last two days of grief, where the Word has satisfied my craving for comfort so deeply whenever I’ve turned to it. In times like these, so many other things seem like trivial junk in comparison to the solid truths, the eternal things of God. Yesterday I was going to shop for dress pants. Today I was going to play soccer. How quickly our mundane plans and priorities can be rearranged by the eternal counsel of God!

II Corinthians 1:4 talks about God’s comforts overflowing the extent of our afflictions. Suffering breaks down walls that separate people and builds community. This struck me in fiction with Cry, the Beloved Country in Five Great Novels class last semester. Now we’re living it; it’s not theoretical. But as the suffering abounds, God’s grace in that suffering—His comfort—abounds all the more, and it overflows to others. In the elevator I met a man carrying a Bible who said his mother was dying; I said our baby just died. For one moment, we were brothers in shared grief. I hugged him, he said he’d pray for us, and I stepped out of the elevator. Suffering builds instant and deep community between people who share not just in their afflictions but in the comfort God provides. This is a great and wonderful mystery I’m just beginning to come to know—a whole new realm of experienced truth.  Luther says that affliction (Anfechtung) is one of the things that fashions a minister of the gospel.

From my journal on Thursday morning, June 25:    

Anna Elisabeth Baarendse was born yesterday (June 24) at 1:52 in the afternoon. Sara began the day with much stronger medication to stimulate contractions, and entered into more painful labor around 12:30 p.m. She prayed to have the baby before receiving another dose at 2:00, and the Lord graciously answered this prayer! She did it all so bravely, without any help for the pain.

Anna Elisabeth came out bottom-first in her sack; she unfolded on the bed and when I first saw her I praised the Lord that she was beautiful—no blemishes, perfect handiwork from head to ten little toes. All of her features were so perfectly formed. Her skin was just beginning to peel a little. She was a full foot long, tall and slender, and weighed 1 lb., 3 oz. They bathed her and dressed her in a pretty white gown, befitting a little princess who had already gone to meet her Prince of Glory and of Peace.  

We had plenty of slow, quiet time to hold her, take pictures, cry, and wonder at the hard but good Providence of God. The umbilical cord was unusually long, and had wrapped itself around her neck several times, as if in a close embrace. God is sovereign over the development and movement of these cords in the womb.  Nothing is accidental, as Scripture says:

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:15-16).

This was certainly true for Anna. Her little frame was not hidden to the Lord who intricately wove her in the womb, and He didn’t do this incredibly detailed and wonderful work in vain, just to have it spoil in the earth. Her days, however few on earth, were recorded in his book, and:

A lily of a day

Is fairer far in May;

Although it fall and die that night,

It was the plant and flower of light.

In small proportions, we just beauties see,

And in short measures, life may perfect be.  

(Ben Jonson)

Anna was a girl of small proportions and only six months of life in the womb, but this was her perfect measure ordained by an eternally wise and good God, who performs all things for His glory and His people’s good.

Yesterday morning as I began the day strengthened in the Word, the Lord brought some passages in my M’Cheyne calendar reading to comfort my heart. From Psalm 119:71:  “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” How can we say with the Psalmist that it’s good to be afflicted? No doubt because a secret grace is promised in the affliction. Verse 75 adds, “in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” The affliction comes from God’s faithfulness.

I opened John Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence yesterday too. There’s a wonderful Puritan logic in what he writes:

But indeed Providence neither does nor can do any thing that is really against the true interest and good of the saints. For what are the works of Providence but the execution of God’s decree and the fulfilling of His Word? And there can be no more in Providence than is in them. Now there is nothing but good to the saints in God’s purposes and promises; and, therefore, whatever Providence does concern-ing them, it must be ‘the performance of all things for them’ (Ps. 57:2). And if so, how cheering, supporting and encouraging must the consideration of these things be in a day of distress and trouble!  (John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, 19) 

The second Scripture comfort came from Isaiah 56:5: “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters.” This verse, a consolation for eunuchs who couldn’t have children, gave the wonderful thought that God has a variety of ways of “giving in His house and within His walls a monument and a name,” and some of these are better than the legacy of children. So what we think is a dried-up branch may well be a fresh planting: “Let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’” (Isa. 56:3). Again, God’s ways here are much higher than ours, but He is the God of life to His children. Anna is for His house and His name:  “our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace” (Ps. 144:12).  

This makes me think how perfectly fitting Anna Elisabeth’s name is, and we never knew how well it would suit her brief life on earth. Elisabeth is from the Hebrew:  “God is my oath” or “the oath of God.” God can’t swear by any name greater than His own, and when He swears by His name, the promise is kept, because He’s Truth. And so Elisabeth reminds us that God is faithful to His covenant promises, that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee.” Our daughter’s middle name reminds us that God is faithful in His Providence of taking her from our family directly into His courts. “Elisabeth” also has the connotation of “consecrated,” and this is most fitting because she was devoted to the Lord who took her directly from the womb to be with Him in Glory.  

This reminds me that yesterday when we were driving to the hospital to introduce the children to their baby sister, our four-year-old Jacob, from the back of the van, spontaneously began to sing over and over again: “Better is one day in your courts, better is one day in your house, better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere.” It just now occurs to be how fitting this song is for our little Anna. She did not see this world of sin, but went straight to God’s courts to worship: “And there was a prophetess, Anna . . . She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:36-37). Every day Anna was in the temple courts, waiting for the Savior and speaking “of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel” (v. 38). She was very old when she finally saw baby Jesus, the hope of Israel. Now our little girl is with Jesus and there is no waiting, no growing old, no fasting—but all is perfect rest and worship in His presence, and like Anna before her, our Anna will never depart from the Temple not made with human hands and will never stop giving thanks to God and speaking of Him to the souls in heaven waiting now only for the resurrection of the body when Jesus returns to consummate all things and “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

From my journal on Friday morning, June 26, the morning of Anna’s funeral service and burial:

This morning I’m greatly comforted by this verse in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” How can we expect a blessing in the midst of mourning? But the blessing is most surely promised. “Blessed” is deeper than happiness—it’s spiritual well-being. And today we’re deeply grieving, but it is well with our souls. Why? Because the One who made this promise, Jesus, suffered and died for us and healed us by His wounds. We have a Savior and Lord who shares our heartache today because “surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4). So where suffering abounds, grace and comfort abound all the more through Jesus our Lord and the Holy Spirit, our great Comforter.

There’s no doubt that along with this great comfort, we feel Anna’s loss very deeply. Abby wished for a little sister to share her room. We were so much looking forward to her growing up in our family, being able to play with her and teach her. I would have loved to walk her down the aisle to give her to her husband on her wedding day. It’s hard to put these dreams to rest. But God has a better, wiser plan. When she was delivered the nurses washed her and put her in a beautiful white little dress. Then we were able to hold her, and I did get to give her away to the best hands of the best Bridegroom. And like Anna in the Bible, she’s in His presence today, worshiping the One who died for her and will one day raise her body to life. And knowing this, we say goodbye for now, but as our Abby said to Sara after we held Anna for the last time:  “Mommy, give Anna a kiss for me and tell her I’ll see her in heaven.”      

From my journal on Monday morning, June 29:

We had a strengthening day of Sabbath rest yesterday. God gives us one day out of every seven to “go from strength to strength” (Ps. 84). Better is one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere. The Christian takes even bereavement into God’s courts, and receives in exchange a blessing and rest. Going to church on Sundays is not a duty, but a delight, one of the “means of grace” by which the Lord lavishes His loving presence on us.  

From George Herbert’s poem “Sunday”:

O day most calm, most bright,

The fruit of this, the next world’s bud,

Th’indorsement of supreme delight,

Writ by a friend, and with His blood;

The couch of time, care’s balm and bay:

The week were dark but for thy light;

Thy torch doth show the way.

. . . 

The Sundays of man’s life,

Threaded together on time’s string,

Make bracelets to adorn the wife

Of the eternal glorious King:

On Sunday heaven’s gate stands ope;

Blessings are plentiful and rife,

More plentiful than hope.

Good old Herbert. These are just two stanzas of his wonderful hymn to the glory of Sundays. Last Sunday we rested on Father’s Day, strengthened in the Word. It was a day of calm before the storms of this last week began to blow. Everything unfolded from beginning to end in the space of a week, with the Sabbath rests as pillars or bookends marking the limits:

Sunday: Father’s Day; Ava Becker’s baptism; Dave Bindewald’s message on Psalm 33; Sinclair Ferguson’s message on Romans 6:1-14.

Monday: The heavy ultrasound news; Mick arrives.

Tuesday: 5:00 a.m. in hospital; induced labor all day.

Wednesday: 6:00 a.m. double dose of induced labor; Anna delivered just before 2:00 p.m.; kids and Mick come to hospital after supper; Anna’s pictures; Sara and Anna together overnight.

Thursday: 10:00 a.m. Sara comes home; 11:00-1:00 arrangements at funeral home and cemetery with Dave Bindewald; Monica arrives.

Friday: Alex arrives; 11:00 a.m. Anna’s funeral; 12:30 p.m. burial at Southland Memorial Gardens.

Saturday: Breakfast at Cracker Barrel; Mick and Monica leave; Alex leaves.

Sunday: Clay Werner’s sermon on Psalm 61 (beginning with a faint cry and ending in praise); rest.

This precision of timing is another sign to us of God’s Providence in knowing the beginning from the end and fulfilling His purposes for us (Ps. 57:2). We had nothing planned last week; it was the week before Taylor CRAM and our trip to Chattanooga, empty of all calendar commit-ments. After Abby had recovered from her ear infection the week before, no one in the family was sick. We sense that God supported all of us supernaturally, carrying us on eagle’s wings.

There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:26-27).

From my journal on Wednesday morning, July 1, a week after Anna’s delivery:

He continues to carry us, though the grief washes over us like waves—some strong, some milder—but they’re all coming from “an ocean vast of blessing,” the “deep, deep love of Jesus.” Just this morning I read the wonderful invitation Jesus gives in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Our rest is Jesus Himself—not any other person or thing. He’s our rock, our hiding place, our shelter in the time of storm. If this time of grief drives us to Him, it’s good.  

Looking back over this past week, there are several things I want to record so I don’t forget:

1. The loving care we received throughout the difficult delivery process at Lexington Medical Center. Our doula, midwife, and most of the nurses were outspoken Christians. Where else could we have found this? It was as if the Lord had arranged our hospital room as a place of worship. Our doula Dianne was a rock of quiet strength and one in whom Sara could confide spiritually. The young black midwife in training, Alexandria, helped Sara immensely at the moment of her greatest trial by whispering in her ear, “He’s your strength!  He’s your strength!”

2. The loving care of our pastors Dave Bindewald and Clay Werner. They were involved from the start, so quick to comfort and help. Dave prayed with us when we went to the hospital, held our baby, and helped make all funeral arrangements. In the midst of his busy Saluda VBS sche-dule, Clay visited us three hours before Anna was delivered, prayed for us, and sang two stanzas from “Be Still My Soul” in the hospital room. We’ve felt also felt very supported by the elders and deacons, who set aside $2,000 of mercy funds to cover the casket and grave plot, and by the congregation, who have blessed us in numerous ways with cards, meals, hugs, and strengthening words. We don’t know how people go through these things without God, the Word, and the Body to support them in it. How thankful we are to be at a church that so obviously loves us.

3. Mick’s selfless service in coming to our help immediately on Monday. Little did he know he would spend all day Tuesday and Wednesday watching the kids. But without his assistance at home, what would we have done?  And then there’s Mick and Monica’s generosity in making up to us the funds I “lost” by not going to Taylor this year.  

4. The kindness and understanding of Tom Jones, Phil Collins, and Jim Spiegel up at Taylor in counseling me to stay home to support my family during this time rather than teach at CRAM. In seven years, this is the first summer CRAM session I’ve missed. The Lord must have known it was time for a sabbatical rest from these duties.  

5. Dave Bindewald’s memory of Anna in his funeral sermon as a picture of our redemption in Christ: Anna was sinful from her conception, not “innocent” (Ps. 51:5—“in sin did my mother conceive me”), so she needed the same work of her Savior on her behalf that we all need. Jesus bled and died as the Second Adam and with His perfect obedience earned a righteousness to clothe His people with perfection. When Anna was born the nurses washed her and clothed her in a white dress that soon became saturated with her blood. And Sara and I held her as our precious child. Dave saw this as a picture of how we are washed and clothed in the righteous white garments of Christ purchased with His own precious blood. We’re cradled by God and sung over as His most precious child (Zeph. 3:17). Dave said at the funeral that this was the most powerful illustration He had seen of the glory of our salvation in Christ.

6. Dave ended his funeral sermon with the words Goodness, Mercy, Glory—words that, he said, are often misused in casual conversation. But these words define what we have witnessed this past week in Sara’s labor and Anna’s birth and death. Goodness, Mercy, and Glory filled that hospital room; we sensed the presence of God, the “weightiness” of eternity breaking into time. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to Moses’ experience of the burning bush. And like that bush, we felt the burning of God but we were not consumed. Those around us—our doula, the midwives, and the nurses—seemed to sense something of this Glory too. One of the nurses said it was “an aura.” And indeed, Paul says “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (II Cor. 4:7). We were broken, afflicted, and weak, but God displayed His surpassing power in such a way that we can only call it glorious. These things will always remain deep mysteries, but as Christ suffered to enter His glory, we shouldn’t be surprised to find the two—suffering and glory—so closely intertwined.

7. Heaven has come closer and become more dear to us. Sara said the other day, “This makes me long for heaven more.” Some day we will see our little Anna, and she may be all grown up (we know so little about the transformation that awaits us all). Without doubt, the more loved ones go on before us, the more our hearts will be tugged in that direction. But the great prize of heaven is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and He should be enough to make our hearts yearn to be with Him for eternity. But maybe God stoops to our weakness by “sweetening the deal” with these loved ones we look forward to seeing again. In Christ, it truly is “Auf Wiedersehen.”

8. One last note: After the funeral service Friday, which seemed to strike such a deep chord of comfort in so many hearts, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of that mystery of the gospel whereby God’s power is declared through weak and broken vessels: “Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength” (Ps. 8:2). “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (I Cor. 1:27). What is a weaker instrument for declaration than the mute tongue of a stillborn premature baby? Anna in the Bible was a prophetess: she spoke to people in the temple about the goodness and glory of God; she fanned into flame their expectation and hope of salvation. And so too did our little Anna at her memorial service. Though she could never speak words with her mouth, the Lord spoke eloquently through her short life to proclaim His goodness and glory, and to fan into flame our expectation and hope of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ!

On July 10, 2009, two weeks after the funeral and two days after our ninth wedding anniversary:

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7). Though Jesus spoke these words to Peter at the foot washing before He went to the Cross, they’re good words for us too. We can’t know why God took Anna to heaven at this time, but we trust that later we’ll understand and worship more fully where now we take it in faith that, as Cowper ended his great poem about the mystery of God’s ways, “God is His own interpreter, / And He will make it plain.” Now we can’t see what He’s doing, but later we’ll understand. This is a sure promise, as firm as “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). Grieving in the now, with hope we look forward to the later; in between, we find comfort and rest in His perfect plan.

We love you, Anna Elisabeth, and we know that even now you’re rejoicing with your Savior who in perfect meekness stooped to say, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven,” and then “laid His hands on them” (Matt. 19:14-15). There’s no better care you could receive than His, so we blow you a kiss and say with joyful expectation, “See you in heaven,” where sin and death will be done away, and no more will these partings pierce our hearts with grief.

Your loving Daddy 

An update on Monday, July 27, one month later:

We’re beginning to sense that the Lord may be turning our heavy “afflicting time” into a season of laughter and singing again.  “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).  We’ve returned greatly strengthened in the Lord from a three-day family vacation at Fairhaven in the mountains of eastern Tennessee.  Standing at the top of the breezy Roan Mountain bald at 6,000 feet and looking down “from lofty mountain grandeur” at ridge after smoky ridge of the Appalachians gave a refreshing new perspective after a month of walk-ing through the valley of the shadow of death.  The same God holds us by the hand whether we walk through the dark valley or across the sun-drenched tops of mountains.  

It’s a great mystery how, in the midst of our lamentations, the Lord comes close to give such extraordinary comfort:

This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;

They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’


The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.


Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him;

Let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope;  

Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.


For the Lord will not cast off forever, 

But, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love;

For He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:21-33)  

Finally, we rest the loss of our precious Anna in the comfort of God’s sovereignty over all of life. He’s got the whole world in His hands:  “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (v. 38). But what may seem bad to us is never ultimately bad to those He loves, for whom everything works together for good in the end (Rom. 8:28). So we bow down in worship, leaving the explanation to His perfect will that works all things for His glory and our good: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). 

A tale of two little birds:

On the morning of our ultrasound, we walked out of the hospital to find a dead sparrow lying on the sidewalk in front of us. It was such a poignant reminder that no bird falls to the ground apart from our Father’s will. “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” Seeing the dead sparrow, we were comforted, knowing that He who ordained the bird’s fall has never stopped holding Anna in His hands. He fashioned her in the womb and took her, but never once did she slip out of His grip.    

Two weeks later, at Mick and Monica Henley’s home in Chattanooga, another sparrow hit the sunroom windows with such force that he lay on the patio as if dead. Sara was very concerned for the bird. He was lying on the ground, breathing heavily from the impact. When we tried to scoop him into a box, he suddenly jumped up and flew onto Sara’s shoulder. Then he flew off into the trees. The collision had only stunned him for a moment; he was fine. 

Two birds fell: one died; the other looked dead for a moment, but hopped up and flew on. God in His sovereign wisdom looked after both of them. Here we find a great and mysterious object lesson for our hearts to ponder.   

Bede, the Anglo-Saxon church historian, famously compared the lifespan of the godless to “the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thanes and counselors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another.” But for the believer in Jesus Christ, no winter rain or snow rages outside; what reigns instead is the glory of the Lord’s presence for eternity, and the true banqueting-hall is not here but there. Our sparrow Anna flew in and out of the narrow hall of this world quickly, as if in great haste to get to her eternal home where she could join the chorus of voices in praise to Her Lord:  

Even the sparrow finds a home,

and the swallow a nest for herself,

where she may lay her young,

at your altars, O Lord of hosts,

my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in Your house,

ever singing Your praise! (Psalm 84:3-4)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!