Dwight Lee Wolter
"How amazing are your thoughts concerning me, God! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand." - Psalm 139:17a,18a
"In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed...
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand." - Bob Dylan
In one day, I baptized a one month-old child and buried another who had lived for one hour. One child was born in the front seat of a car on the way to the hospital from which the mother had been sent home hours earlier because her time had not yet come. Things could have gone terribly wrong, but they didn't. Later, I presided at the funeral service of a child whose mother had also been sent home from a hospital because her time had not yet come. Things could have gone terribly wrong, and they did.
Both families are part of the church. The family of the deceased child attended the baptism brunch. The mother of the baptized child attended the funeral. One mother grieved her child who perished; the other felt uneasy throwing a party for her child who survived. One life made being born in a car look good.
Ephesians says we are "children of light." But life is not a question of darkness OR light. Life is a matter of darkness AND light. We did not attempt to banish all darkness from death or dim the light of new life. The choir sang at the baptism, and a soloist from the choir sang at the funeral. Gifts were offered to the parents at the baptism, and prayer shawls were offered to the parents at the funeral. Dignity, love and honor were offered as gifts to both children and both families.
All lives are but a single grain of sand on the shore and the desert of eternity. No life is insignificant. One child, in one hour of life, brought a community of thousands together, including you who read this now. He lived his entire life without judgment or unkindness. He showed us how people offer their very best, even during the very worst of times. He breathed, thought and felt. And in one hour of life, he became our teacher.
Thank you, God of darkness and of light, for every hour of creation.
Dwight Lee Wolter is the author of several books, including A Life Worth Waiting For! and Forgiving Our Grownup Children (Pilgrim Press). He is pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York.