In order to tell my son’s story, I almost have to tell my own first. Hosea’s life came as a direct result of me receiving God’s Son. Everything his short life represents is a powerful testimony of God’s grace—something that I missed early on in my life. I’m not sure how I missed it exactly, because I know that it was there, but the Enemy is a deceiver and the Father of Lies and I definitely believed the lies.
As I have gotten older and looked back on my life, I have realize that some of what people saw on the outside of my life was a façade. The enemy had created a reality for me that was built on a foundation that consisted of a lot of Truth, but was also mixed with some lies about who God is and who I was. Because this mixture of lies and truth is so subtle, I never really knew what was going on and felt very confused on the inside. I fought to keep the questions and the inner pain hidden–and most days I didn’t even know why I was hurting.
I had so much to be thankful for growing up and I was blessed with many “accomplishments.” I grew up in a Christian home, was a daughter of an incredible Christian school teacher, had a very talented father, and was a student at a private Christian school for 14 years. As a young girl, I was in church three times a week, was Awana champion (memorizing thousands of verses), a leader in my youth group, a top student, great athlete, a hard worker, and to top it off, I was pretty popular. As a teenager, I went on eight missions trips and made weekly nursing home visits. After graduating, I went on to get a degree in Youth Ministry at Liberty University, where I studied under some brilliant theologians of our day. This is where I met and married my gorgeous youth pastor husband.
It really seemed like I had the perfect life. All of these great activities and accomplishments appeared to be the direct result of a good relationship with God. Which made it all the more confusing to me as to why was I continually struggling with things on the inside, such as intense fears (and I mean intense), despair, loneliness, depression, self-hatred, and even suicidal thoughts. I really thought from what I had learned at church that a relationship with God was supposed to help with some of this stuff. It almost felt like I was living two totally separate lives—one which most people saw, where I appeared to have it all together, and the other a silent world in which things seemed to be falling apart.
While I learned so much Truth from all of my years in church and school (for which I am very thankful), I was equally saturated in an environment of religion and rules. Thus a struggle developed within me to believe that God really accepted me just as I was. I am not saying that no one in my life truly understood grace, but this is simply how I personally was affected by my environment and my own perception of things. Others may not have had the same experience.
I personally had come to believe a lie from the Enemy that I had to “perform” and “look good” in order to gain favor with God. Furthermore, I viewed God as a harsh, angry, demanding and judging God. Believing these lies ensnared me into a performance trap. I sought to please God and others in all that I did, but never felt like I quite made the mark. I was driven to do everything as close to perfect as humanly possible in order to measure up to what I thought the standard was. That standard was perfection. Nothing less would suffice. There was absolutely no room for failure. A 102 on a math test was not good enough if I could have potentially gotten a 106. Scoring 20 points in the basketball game did not cut it when I knew I had missed enough shots to have scored 35.
This life of striving to attain an unattainable standard was exhausting, frustrating, and depressing, yet I truly believed I was doing what God wanted me to do. We are saved to serve, right? So I perpetuated this cycle by studying harder, memorizing more scripture, praying longer, meditating and fasting more frequently, increasing my tithe, etc. These were all things that I was sure would secure the relationship that I desired with the Lord. But what actually began to take place was not a more abundant, enjoyable relationship with God the Father. Rather, I began to grow bitter and confused at a God who would demand so much and give so little in return. Where was the strength and joy I saw exuding out of saints in the Bible? Where was the freedom and power that Jesus Himself said was ours to experience? Why did most days I feel more like I was in chains rather than running free, and sad rather than full of joy? I was doing all the right things, wasn’t I?
In addition to the performance-driven world I had created for myself, there were also very real struggles that I began to encounter at a young age, from tormenting nightmares, to an eating disorder that lasted throughout high school, to suicidal thoughts. I knew I was being attacked spiritually, but I couldn’t understand why or what to do. I remember being so confused. Why would a good, Christian kid struggle with the things I was struggling with? Why would I want to die so badly when it seemed like I had so much—parents who I know loved me, a family, friends, athletic ability, etc.? Why did I never see or feel any of the love and power of God that is supposed to characterize Him? I didn’t understand why God, or Who I believed God to be, wasn’t “working” for me. He seemed to work for everyone else, but I was reading my Bible, praying every day, following the rules, and not getting the results I thought I should be getting.
As I wrestled with these questions, I came to the conclusion that this was all there was to the Christian life—a very disappointing God who only claims that He can save us from ourselves, the problems around us, and the pain of our hearts. Or at best, He does save us from our sins and we get out of hell, but we are left to struggle through life on our own. I became cynical and somewhat bitter inside thinking that the God I grew up with was really a very mean and judging God. The Word talks about Christ doing miracles and healing people and rescuing them from demons, but I sure wasn’t seeing that in my life, so I came to believe that “God just doesn’t do those sorts of things anymore.” So much of the Word became very irrelevant to me. It was for “back then” but not for us today in the 21st century.
In March of 2005, I began to come to the end of myself. I couldn’t read enough self-help books to “fix” what was going on inside of me. I never once thought that I wasn’t saved in this whole process, but in June of 2005 the Holy Spirit took blinders off of my eyes and showed me that I was lost. I knew all about Him, yet had never submitted to HIS way (which all along I thought was just obeying the rules), the way of grace and mercy. I had believed lies about Him my whole life, thinking He would never accept me unless I was perfect. So I decided to do things my way (works) instead of His way (grace). I was set free that day from years of bondage to the law, and how sweet that freedom was! I passed from death to life that day and was dramatically changed!
Two weeks after this life-changing event, God allowed us to conceive our first son! We name our children after major things the Lord has done in our life, so the next several months were spent prayerfully considering what name God would have us give our baby boy to accurately portray what had just taken place in my life. One day when I was praying, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the prophet Hosea’s story in the Bible. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute, which was an unusual command to say the least! Hosea obeyed. His wife, however, who continued to return to other lovers, neither earned nor deserved the selfless, unconditional love Hosea faithfully showed her. For the first three years of our marriage, my husband Nathan was a “Hosea” to me. God used Nathan to daily portray Christ’s unconditional love even when, unbeknownst to both of us, I did not have a personal relationship with the Lord. I was completely undeserving of Nathan’s love. Yet as I consistently saw the love and grace of Christ lived out through my husband, I began to realize that if Nathan could love me in spite of my failures, then maybe God really could too. Nathan never demanded anything in return for his love to me, and this type of love impacted me to the point of me realizing he had something I did not have.
Our son’s name was taken from this beautiful story. ‘Hosea’ means “Salvation” in Hebrew. After finding out that ‘Nathan’ means “Gift of God” we knew we had his name. Our son’s name, Hosea Nathan, means “salvation; gift of God.” This was precisely the thing that God had just done in showing me that salvation is “a gift of God… not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Hosea not only has a special meaning to his name, but he was also born on a special day. I went into labor around 4:30 pm on April 8, 2006. I knew in my heart that he would not be born on April 8 though. April 9 was a Sunday and it just happened to be Palm Sunday. Our son was born on April 9, 2006 at 1:09 am—Palm Sunday—the day we celebrate and remember our Lord Jesus and His coming salvation!
From the moment Hosea entered our lives, we were forever changed. I will never forget the first time he opened his eyes and looked at me, just moments after he came out of my womb. There was an instant bond and a connection so strong that I thought my heart might explode with joy. That night in the hospital room, after all the nurses left and I was settled down, supposed to be catching a few hours of sleep. I lay awake next to Hosea’s little bed and all I wanted to do was dance around the room with excitement. I was too excited to sleep that night! I just kept laying there staring at my son and thanking God for this new bundle of life. Even though it was 3:30 am, I wanted to call everyone I knew and share my excitement!
The excitement only grew as we took Hosea home from the hospital and began life together. He was greeted into the world by a daddy who was ecstatic to lovingly hold his first born son in his arms and a mommy who could not believe she really had a little man to love. Because of my new found relationship with Christ, I had a capacity for Love in my heart that I had never known before. Nathan would sing “In the Garden” and “It is Well with My Soul” to him each night before bed. There was so much excitement in the air as we took care of this new bundle of joy that I didn’t even mind getting up in the middle of the night with Hosea. There was even a part of me that almost looked forward to holding him in the quiet hours of the morning while the rest of the world was sleeping. Nathan loved to just walk around carrying him or sit with Hosea flopped over his shoulder. He was such a “snuggler” that we couldn’t get enough of holding him. His hair was blond, but darker than either of our girls’ hair. He had big, blue eyes that seemed to look right into your heart. On more than one occasion, as Hosea lay in my lap staring up at me, I would asked him, “What are you thinking, little boy?” He seemed to be trying to tell us how much he loved us with his big, searching eyes. I will never forget those soft, yet piercing eyes. I believe the Lord let us see a message of love in his baby eyes because we would never hear Hosea say the words “I love you Mommy and Daddy.”
Hosea had two sisters who adored him and still do. Micaiah Joy and Eden Grace were 3 ½ and 17 months when he was born. Micaiah had been telling everyone, friend or stranger, for months that her baby brother was coming on March 26 (yes, he was 2 weeks late!) and that his name was Hosea Nathan. She was so excited to meet him. I will never forget the moment they came bursting through the front door to meet him for the first time. It was Saturday, April 15. Micaiah immediately wanted to hold him and Eden just poked him till he made a noise, and then she would laugh. Micaiah says her favorite thing to do with her brother was to go to worship. When he was three weeks old, we took him to hear Nathan speak for the first time. Nathan was so proud of his son. He held him up for all the students to see (it was a Lion King moment). I held him in my arms the entire service and loved watching him sleep and feeling his warm, tiny body in my arms. Micaiah told everyone at church all about her new baby brother. Both of the girls were very territorial with him. Whenever anyone tried to see him or hold him they would come over and try to shove them out of the way! They were both such good big sisters.
But our world was instantly turned upside down on May 6, 2006 at 6:28 in the evening. I was busily preparing dinner when I dropped my knife and rushed into the master bedroom closet where my perfectly healthy four-week old son was sleeping. Something inside of me had alerted me that something was not right. My son was 30 minutes late for his evening feeding. As I rounded the corner and walked into the walk-in closet, I found him cold and blue. I knew in my heart that he was gone, yet I screamed for my husband to call 9-1-1 and watched in shock as my husband administered CPR to our 28 day old son. The fear in Nathan’s eyes as he came up for air told me the worst was true. The rest was a blur as the paramedics rushed into our house, whisking our tiny son away. We rushed to the ER and were ushered into a holding room where we were to await the outcome. I knew that nothing short of a miracle would bring the doctor back with the news that Hosea was alive.
A few minutes later I felt like I was living a nightmare. It was the most surreal moment of my life. I get now when people say, “This can’t be happening.” It felt like I was out of my body and this was someone else’s bad dream. The doctor walked in and sat down. He looked at us and said the words you hear in the movies all the time, but pray you never hear in your own life, “There is nothing more we can do for him.” I was so numb with disbelief that it was actually me going through this, that this was actually my life that I was living right then. I walked down the long corridor to where doctor’s had been frantically working on our baby boy. As I walked into the ER room, I will never forget how odd it looked to see our tiny baby laying in a bundle on a huge gurney. He barely even took up any room on the bed. Those beds weren’t made for babies. This wasn’t supposed to happen to babies! Those beds were made for older people—old people die, not children, especially not mine! He didn’t belong on that big gurney. He belonged back home in his crib.
That was the blackest night of our lives. We left the hospital empty-handed and broken-hearted. No one could ease the pain of our hearts. We wept all night long and for many nights after. Nathan and I clung to each other all night hoping that each other’s embrace would somehow ease the pain of our souls, but it did not. How were we supposed to go on living when a part of us had just died?
Hosea’s birth seemed to be the commemoration of the beginning of a new life for our family. The problem was, I had predetermined in my mind what this new life was going to look like. In the two and a half years since the loss of Hosea, we have suffered intense pain and grief, but we have also entered into a relationship with our Lord that we never knew existed before. We continue to seek the One who promises to “bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1). Through the power of His Holy Spirit, the deep places of our hearts that we never thought would see life or wholeness again are being healed. We now know that it is the enemy who is out to steal, kill, and destroy us, not our God! He has come to give us life abundant (Jn 10:10). We have learned what it truly means to love and to die to oneself.
It is almost as if we have crossed over a bridge that we can never cross back over. For we know that if we go back, we will never truly experience what it means to live. Part of us died over the past two years. But in losing ourselves, we have gained Life. It is only through dying that we ever learn to live. Our preconceived ideas of who God was and how He should manifest Himself have slowly been reprogrammed. Our souls are being awakened to God and His Holy Spirit in a way that we never thought possible. We have entered into a relationship with our Lord that we only talked about before Hosea passed away. Tragedy seems to have a way of pushing one to cut through the fluff of life and determine what is really worth holding onto.
Because of Hosea, our lives will never be the same. We have been forced to evaluate if all of the traditions and doctrines we have held on to all of our lives are Truth and will carry us through the bleakest moments in our life, or if there are parts of our thinking that need to be “undone.” One such revelation has been that there is Power available to us through a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit of God. He does still move mountains and do miracles…for those who have eyes to see and hearts to believe. Furthermore, we have learned to walk in true freedom as we have taken an honest look at our adversary, the weapons he uses to wage war against us, and our protection against his schemes. We have also learned much about taking our stand against the Enemy on behalf of our children.
No amount of knowledge can prepare you for tragedy, but when it comes, you can choose to take what Satan meant for evil and allow God to work it for good. You can choose to grow in faith and understanding of God in a way that is not possible through knowledge alone. God, in His grace, will work out for good the very thing that the enemy wanted to use to destroy us. Much good comes as we allow Him to dismantle beliefs that we have always assumed to be true but may not have been based in Truth, particularly in regards to His character and how He works. We have learned to redeem the time, for we never know when our last moment may be. Micaiah, Eden, and Asher will be different because of the journey the Lord is taking us on. Their lives will be greatly affected by the immense changes in us as their parents. And we pray that they will always be impacted by the legacy their brother Hosea Nathan has left behind.
As the journey continues, we often find ourselves at a crossroads. We can choose to continue down the path that has now become comfortable and normal, or step out in faith on the path that is unknown, yet exciting and full of new life and hope. And as we have found out, taking the risk of journeying down the unknown path brings treasures from the deepest wells of our Lord. The risk is great, the cost is everything, but the result is life and freedom.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1