I trace my finger over the outline of her baby portrait. Dated and a bit color-bleached, I gaze at my daughter’s sweetness staring at me from behind the glassed frame. I mark her wide eyes, button nose, and tendrils of hair. I follow the curve of her smile and caress her face. A tear drops from my chin and splashes onto the glass image. I wipe it from her cheek with the edge of my sleeve.

The hospital bed is a white mountain. My twenty-six-year-old daughter’s still body forms the draped hills and valleys. Across the room where I sit my eyes trace the pale silhouette. The impact of her illness punches my gut and sucks my breath away. I grieve for my young daughter-mother, for my son-in-law and their two babies.

And God said, “Let us make man in Our image.” (Gen. 1:26; NKJV)

Which image God, I wonder? Which one holds Your thumbprint, the first or the last? My question whispers in the quiet room where machines whir and beep all day and all night. I look at these two pictures of my daughter, one in a frame from twenty-five years past, and the one across the room. There she lies, paralyzed unable to move. I yearn for her bubbly laughter, I miss her voice. Is my Charity still my girl when I can’t recognize her?

I feel like life’s tracing paper has betrayed us.

Parchment thin pages of time filter through our history. Like beautiful layers they interpose one over another. With each tracing the picture changes slightly, a grade-schooler, teen, a bride. They lie in harmony one above the other dimming and refining the one underneath. I am in love with each stage and every turn.

Until now. Until this.

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me, You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.” (Psalm 139:1-2; NKJV).

I know what her picture should look like. It is clear, sharp and perfect in my mind’s eye. She fills each scene with bounce and vitality, chattering with health and joy. I see her scoop her six-month-old into the curve of one arm and hold the hand of her two-year-old with her other.

“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9-10; NKJV).

But this final layer covered with shock and fear drawn with somber lines and uncertain strokes is nothing like the original. It is incongruent with each previous page. How can it be that what lies before me is so off of the original picture in my mind? With all my being, I don’t want to forget, I don’t want her to fade.

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.”  (Psalm 139:13; NKJV).

I walk to her side and reach for her hand. It is heavy, limp, and unresponsive to my touch. I turn her wrist up where needles prick into her skin and tubes run. Does Christ weep with me? Is He here? Does He still see His image, and is it good?

In the dark tunnel of how will this end, or will it ever end, the words of David scroll through my mind.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (vs. 14).

Did you see this day when you formed her in my womb?

Life as a parent has so many unexpected twists and turns. Images of our expectations mutate. God’s thumbprint is immutable. He is the Master Designer. I will trust His drawing to be exactly what He wants. I will know His glory in His way.

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed…” (vs. 16).

Truth overflows into the dark crevices.

“…And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (vs.16).

Faith shifts to what I cannot see. Someday, this will be past, heartache and uncertainty will be over.

“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them…” (vs. 17)

But today, I make memories as best I can. I let God trace the pictures of our being.

“…When I awake, I am still with You” (vs.18).

I kneel on cold tile floor. My forehead rests against the palm of her hand. I press into certainty. Charity belongs to Jesus. And in a bleak hospital room I worship the Creator, thankful for His glorious reflection in this child forever stamped in His image.

 

Sylvia Schroeder
Sylvia Schroeder is a speaker and writer with a passion for family and missions. She married her high school sweetheart and together they served twenty-four years as missionaries in Italy and Germany with Avant Ministries. They live in Kansas City, MO and continue to provide Pastoral Care for missionaries around the globe. Their four children and thirteen grandchildren often wiggle onto her pages. Find her blog at When the House is Quiet, sylviaschroeder.com.

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