There is a Good

Lately, I have been inundated with one of our society's newest fad beliefs, “Good does not exist.” This belief is not all that new in the history of mankind, but it seems to be gaining ground in our culture. Video games are being filled with decisions where all the options available to a player are either a bad choice or a very bad choice. There is no good option. This message is not confined to the video game culture, although being there is enough to influence a whole segment of minds in our nation.

This concept manifests itself in politics where we usually vote for the lesser of two evils. We settle on the church we attend because it is most in line with what we want to be part of despite its faults. One of my friends has expressed that people only do loving things for selfish reasons. We never seem to have a choice between that which is good and that which is evil.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and a frequent guest on NPR, was asked about war being a moral endeavor. He answered, "The world rarely offers us a choice between the moral and the immoral. It's usually a choice between the immoral and the more immoral. That's why moral decision making is so tough."

Do I always have to choose the lesser of two evils? Is there ever a choice for good?

Our society screams that we must choose the lesser of two evils every day; there is never an option for good. Look at the world around us. It makes sense to say that there really is no good. Life does not appear black and white.

But what if my intellectual struggle with the concept of there actually being a good is just the result of having allowed myself to be absorbed into our culture rather than to stand as a witness for something greater in it?

These beliefs -- that there is no good and we must always choose between lesser degrees of evil -- are going to be prevailing thoughts that we are going to continue to wrestle with, especially if we strive to be disciples of Jesus and hope to help others become the same. We must know in the core of our being and live in such a way that we testify that there is good. Jesus taught, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). For in living for the good, we draw attention to our Father in heaven.

The Apostle Matthew shared a story about a conversation with Jesus.
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?"
And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 
He said to him, “Which ones?"
And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?"
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?"
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:16-26 ESV).
We must find the good path and walk in it, yet the only good we can ever do is reflect God's ultimate goodness through the lives we live. There is good, but it’s almost never easy to choose. The challenge for us is to be faithful enough that we are willing to sacrifice our own desires and live in the good rather than comfortably choose the lesser of two evils.

In Memory Of Luke and Logan

I was at work. The phone rang. "Clem's Collectibles. This is Regan. How can I help you?" It was Dewitt Women's Health. They told me to meet my wife at the hospital. That was all the information I received. My mind figured that one of our babies had died. We were expecting twins. I walked out to the car and started to cry as I put my key in the ignition. I asked God, "Why? Why does this have to happen?" This was the first of many times that I repeated that question.

I drove across town and twenty minutes later I arrived at the hospital. My wife was not there. This was a headache. At this point I still had no idea what was going on. The hospital called Dewitt Women's Health. They had told me the wrong instructions. I was supposed to have gone and picked Lindsay up and drive her to the hospital. I went back down to my car. Turned on the ignition and continued to cry. I headed towards another side of town.

Upon arriving at Dewitt Women's Health, I went in and gave Lindsay a big hug. I don't remember what was said. But we proceeded to get in the car. We probably prayed together. We arrived at the hospital over an hour after I received that initial call.

All I remember from the hospital that night is the ultrasound. This was the saddest moment of my life. All of the dreams we had of the future came crashing down. The death of a baby that is yet to be born is not just a death of a life that has not taken its first breath of air; it is the death of every dream you have of the future. Each dream had to be thrown away and rebuilt. I was still clinging to hope at this point.

I sat in the corner of the semi-lit room. The floor was cold. The metal on my chair was cold. Everything seemed cold. Lindsay laid on her back. The ultrasound was out her view, so she looked at me for confirmation that they might still be alive. At times I would just weep, more inside than out because I had to be strong for her. For about an hour the ultrasound technician took photos of the babies. She measured their heads, their hearts, everything. I kept praying in my dark, cold corner that God would heal them. I wanted to see them start moving. I wanted them to live so badly. I said, "I will tell the whole world of this miracle if you would just give life back to them." They did not move. Lindsay and I left that room broken and sadder than either of us have ever been in our lives.

In a room in the women's center of the hospital, we could hear the cry of newborns. The cry of newborns became a background noise that was bittersweet, way more bitter than sweet. We continued to hear them for the next few days. I wish they would put people having to give birth to stillborns in a sound proof room. Those cries were a constant reminder of what we were losing.

I remember one conversation I had with a new father by the refrigerator that we were allowed to get snacks and drinks out of. He had no idea that I was going through hell while he was having one of the best moments of his life. "Isn't this great?" I replied, "Sure is." I was short with him, but I also didn't want to ruin his day. I had no idea that someone in the next room could be giving birth to a still-born when we gave birth to Isaac, our firstborn. How close joy and sorrow can be baffled me.

The hospital gave my wife a prescription for sleep medicine and we headed home. Our insurance did not cover the pills. It was a long ordeal at Meijer. I remember running into Dr. Alvin Kuest, a professor from our college, and his wife while we were waiting. He was comforting. We sat and waited in misery. We could have spent $3 for one pill, which is all we needed, but we had to spend $30 because the prescription was for 10 pills.

Then we went home. We went to bed. I am sure we held each other in bed and wept. The sleeping pill did not work on Lindsay. I cannot imagine what it is like to lay there in bed knowing that two lifeless babies rest inside of you, two babies you already love. At some point during the night I woke and joined Lindsay who could not sleep. We decided, out of desperation, to go get some oil and anoint Lindsay with it. We wanted a healing so desperately. We read Scriptures of healings and Jesus bringing back the dead. We prayed. It gave us hope that when we would go to the hospital the next day, the babies would be alive.

(Some times I wonder if we should have had the church over to do that. Would things have been differently? I have seen God do great things through the church. I will never know, and I cannot beat myself up for it. I think it is a good suggestion in the future for anyone dealing with something like this to include their church in prayer at the earliest possible moment. Maybe a miracle will happen.)
The next day came. I think the sun barely rose. We asked for another ultrasound when we arrived at the hospital. They thought it was ridiculous since they confirmed the death of our babies the day before. However, the hospital staff will do anything for parents going through what we were going through to comfort us. They took us back up to the same cold ultrasound room.

After many tears and prayers, the screens confirmed the same findings as the night before. No heartbeat. No movement. They were dead.

We proceeded to a delivery room. We were placed in the same room that we were in after the birth of Isaac. It all seemed so ironic, so dreamy, so nightmary. They gave Lindsay pills and a drip to induce labor. They can use much stronger medicine when they do not have to worry about the life of the baby.

All I remember is waiting. Both sets of our parents visited. It was hard on everyone. At times when we were alone, I remember climbing in bed and hugging her, weeping uncontrollably. We spent periods weeping. Sometimes it was only one of us. Sometimes it was both of us. Other times it was one of our parents. All the time we could hear the cry of newborns in the background.

The delivery does not stand out much in my head. It was not until the 2nd full day in the hospital that they arrived into this world. They were so small and they came out so easy. However, seeing them was sort of a blessing and a curse.

This might be disturbing to those who have never given birth to stillborns. I do not mean to disturb, but I am sure if you have given birth to stillborns you can relate. We held them. We kissed them. We longed for them to be alive, to see their lungs move up and down with life. The hospital gave us a cute little basket to place them in. They sat there at the foot of the bed for a while. Their bodies were with us about three hours in all.

The basket seemed like the basket Moses was placed in. Although they were really taken, we had to reach the point where were comfortable with giving our babies to God. At the risk of being a heretic, we baptized them. It wasn't for their salvation. It was just a crazy idea that I came up with that would be an outward sign to God that we were okay with him taking our babies. Our parents and Isaac joined us in the room as we sprinkled the babies and shared a prayer together. I wept while leading prayer. Everyone understood.

That followed with times of uncontrollable weeping. Life was dreary. We went home. The sadness did not stay at the hospital. A local funeral home provided free cremation for our babies. We have their ashes in our living room and plan on burying them with Lindsay when she joins them on the other side of the grave.

Isaac was a blessing throughout the whole experience. Without him, it would have been much tougher. Although, with him, we knew what we were missing by losing the twins. 

I remember going back to work. I would just weep when nobody was in the store. I went back too soon. Life seemed like it would never get back to normal. Every dream we had was ripped apart. Our future needed to be reconstructed.

Some friends had given us flowers. Some sent us money. Others sent gift certificates to restaurants. Our church provided us with meals. Some drove all the way to the other side of town to pick up my car. It was a time of being loved. Something we desperately needed. We were so thankful, and still are, of the support that was shown us during that time. The saddest days of our lives sort of shine because of the love showered on us by friends and family.

We named our next boy Elisha Zane. Elisha means "God is generous." Zane means "God's gracious gift." I am looking at him right now and he is a blessing we have that we would not have if we hadn't lost the babies.

In memory of Luke Alexander Clem and Logan Nathaniel Clem. We miss you though we never got to know you. 

May this story be an encouragement to others who find themselves in similar situations.