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The Slow Wean

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When my daughter Savannah turned two in 2010, we entered the dreaded season of pacifier weaning. It was hard. Very hard. She was not happy to lose her precious “Night Night,” as she called it.

The thing is, I understood all too well. You see, it had only been two months since I’d experienced a miscarriage. I knew how difficult it was to face an unexpected change; to lose something dear. And while obviously saying “goodbye” to a pacifier isn’t the same as the death of child, I sympathized with Savannah. I saw my pain in hers.

As she sat on the couch, screaming, “Night Night!” at me, tears flowing from her eyes, I remained there beside her. I offered comfort, but didn’t fix her pain by returning the longed for possession. Instead, I allowed her to grieve, helping her through the process with my presence and empathy. And, because of the relationship we’ve built, she felt the freedom to run to my arms and cry and scream within my embrace.

While at one point, I did say, “You’re a big girl now,” I didn’t attempt to explain to her all the reasons I took her pacifier away. Rather, I knew from personal experience what Joni Eareckson Tada speaks of in her book, When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty:

When your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, an orderly list of “sixteen good biblical reasons as to why this is happening” can sting like salt in a wound. You don’t stop bleeding that way. A checklist may be okay when you’re looking at your suffering in a rearview mirror, but when you’re hurting in present tense, “Let me explain why this is happening” isn’t always livable….

Besides, answers are for the head. They don’t always reach the problem where it hurts — in the gut and in the heart. When a person is sorely suffering … people are like hurting children looking into the faces of their parents, crying and asking, “Daddy, why?” Those children don’t want explanations, answers, or “reasons why”; they want their daddy to pick them up, pat them on the backs, and reassure them everything is going to be okay.

As I’ve walked through grief and loss, God has done for me what I sought to do for Savannah. He doesn’t remove my sorrow. Most of the time, He doesn’t return what I’ve lost. But He does remain beside me. He allows me to grieve, helping me through the process with His presence and empathy. And, because of the relationship we’ve built, I feel the freedom to run to His arms and cry and scream within His embrace. Joni writes:

God, like a father, doesn’t just give advice. He gives himself. He becomes the husband to the grieving widow (Isaiah 54:5). He becomes the comforter to the barren woman (Isaiah 54:1). He becomes the bridegroom to the single person (Psalm 10:14). He is the healer to the sick (Exodus 15:26). He is the wonderful counselor to the confused and depressed (Isaiah 9:6).

This is what you do when someone you love is in anguish; you respond to the plea of their heart by giving them your heart. If you are the One at the center of the universe, holding it together, if everything moves, breathes, and has it’s being in you, you can do no more than give yourself (Acts 17:28).

And perhaps — just perhaps — He doesn’t offer me specific “reasons why” because that doesn’t, as Joni writes, “reach the problem where it hurts.”

Pacifier weaning was difficult for Savannah — but, just as God is always there for me in my pain, I was there for her during the slow wean of 2010.

Ashleigh Slater is the author of the books Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard and Team Us: The Unifying Power of Grace, Commitment, and Cooperation in Marriage. With over twenty years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication, she loves to combine the power of a good story with practical application to encourage and inspire readers. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband, Ted, and four daughters.

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The Slow Wean

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 2 min