Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Waiting: An Easter Reflection

This is the third post in a four-part Easter Series. You can read part one, Hope, and part two, Despair, before continuing.

Hartwig HKD (Creative Commons)

Hartwig HKD (Creative Commons)

I wish, Thou knowest, to be resign’d,
And wait with patient hope;
But hope delay’d fatigues the mind,
And drinks the spirits up.

Waiting is the hardest part.

I am walking home from work through the heart of Sarajevo when the phone rings. From the other end, I hear crying—not soft sobs but wailing moans. The kids are yelling and my wife is blubbering incoherently.

My heart seizes— someone must have died.

At last, her syllables form into words.

Our eight month old fell out of the crib.
She landed on the hardwood floor.
She is throwing up.
She is lethargic.
What should I do?

To my left, the 150-year-old Orthodox Church gleams sunflower yellow in the late afternoon sun. I am fifteen minutes from home, dressed for work, and carrying a computer bag stuffed with books.

I run.

As my heart beats faster, my stomach drops lower. I see her little face. I see her sitting up for the first time a few weeks earlier. I see her pulling herself over the railing. I see her hit the ground. I see her lying unconscious. Then I see it all again.

What will I do when I get home? What words can I say to calm my wife? What can I do to help my baby?

My lungs burn as I cross the stone bridge where World War I began with the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I think about death.

Can I survive this? Can we survive this? After the miscarriage, can survive the loss of another child?

My mind wanders:

I hold her limp body in my arms.
I speak at her funeral.
I drop dirt into her grave.

Will I make it home in time?

The waiting pierces my heaving gut like a spear.

I am angry at myself: I should have lowered the crib. I am angry at my wife: She should calm down. I am angry at God: How could you do this to me? The anger tastes like vinegar.

I run and I wait. And waiting is the hardest part.

It has always been so.

Mary watched the Hosanna King die. She saw him laid in the tomb. But she could not go to him. She could not prepare his body for burial. She could not grieve properly. It was Sabbath. She had to wait.

Did she sit in the corner of her house, rocking and weeping?
Did she stare blindly out the window?
Did she stay in bed?
How did she survive the waiting?

Twenty-four hours to replay his death in her mind.
Twenty-four hours to experience the pang of crushing grief.
Twenty-four hours to cry out in anger.
Twenty-four hours before she could even give him a proper burial.

She could only wait. And the waiting must have been the hardest part.

I arrive at the base of the hill where we live, sweat soaking my button-up shirt. My eyes are drawn to a swath of color in the sky. Above the mountains surrounding the city, the setting sun paints a masterpiece of orange, purple, and red. The beauty invades my waiting. I am awestruck.

In that moment, I know, God is good.

I don’t know if my baby will survive. I don’t know if we will survive. I am still waiting. But there, in my waiting, I am no longer alone.

The Waiting Soul (William Cowper)

Breathe from the gentle south, O Lord,
And cheer me from the north;
Blow on the treasures of thy word,
And call the spices forth!

I wish, Thou knowest, to be resign’d,
And wait with patient hope;
But hope delay’d fatigues the mind,
And drinks the spirits up.

Help me to reach the distant goal;
Confirm my feeble knee;
Pity the sickness of a soul
That faints for love of Thee!

Cold as I feel this heart of mine,
Yet, since I feel it so,
It yields some hope of life divine
Within, however low.

I seem forsaken and alone,
I hear the lion roar;
And every door is shut but one,
And that is Mercy’s door.

There, till the dear Deliverer come,
I’ll wait with humble prayer;
And when He calls His exile home,
The Lord shall find him there.

When I got home, our baby was lethargic and acting strange. We took her to the Emergency Room. As soon as the doctor walked in to check her, she sat up and started laughing. She has been perfectly fine since then.

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  • Peter Sayal

    Your post reminded me of Prov. 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Waiting is never easy, but it is the lot of the believer – when we think of Abraham, Joseph, David and so many others in the Bible.

  • Dea Irby

    thank you again for offering up your words so eloquently

  • Howard McCrory

    I have enjoyed your Easter posts.
    (One editorial comment on this one. WW I was started there not WW II.)

    • Josh

      Yep, I wrote it too late last night. Fixed it.