An Ear to Hear
Losing our twins late in pregnancy tested our marriage more than any other challenge. Ihab was Egyptian. I was American. We had married against the wishes of our families. After a lengthy wait, we defied military regulations and wed in secret. We began married life together in the United Arab Emirates, a true home to neither of us.
During our 20th week of pregnancy, we learned Celestia, our first twin, had died in utero. Toxemia (pre-eclampsia) thrust my surviving baby and me into a Dubai hospital. A month after I arrived, the nurse yanked a teacup out of my hand. “We deliver baby now or mama die.” In minutes, she whisked Noor away to an incubator. Later I saw her tiny body engulfed in tubes. I stroked delicate chapped fingers but never got to hold her. She died, ironically, a week later on Mother’s Day. Ihab wasn’t there to help me bear it. I sobbed alone under the covers–the first of many moments we grieved apart.
That day I lay in ICU as Ihab buried Noor following Islamic custom, in a plain shroud against loose dirt. The gravesite rested in a cemetery—forbidden to non-Muslims. During my recuperation, Ihab hid our only photo of Noor so I wouldn’t dwell on the loss. Later, I prepared a memorial service to commemorate both twins’ short lives–alone.
Everything about my world screamed ALONE.
Ihab kept himself too busy to talk. Instead of the babies I’d planned to nurse, in his absence, I nursed memories of my baby heartbeats and the first kick—from which twin I never knew. “We need to move forward,” Ihab said. To discuss our loss questioned Allah. The gulf widened as we stumbled through that year of sorrow.
When the teaching year ended, I planned to renew my contract. Ihab and I paced along the beach that evening. In tears, I shouted, “Why don’t you want me to sign it?”
“You can’t even tell how stressed you are. You never took a break; you’re an emotional wreck and it’s affecting us.”
“You mean that you need a break. You won’t talk about the twins or us. Should I just give up? I lost my babies. Do I have to lose you, too?”
“Amy, be reasonable. Taking a break at home is not ‘giving up’ or ‘losing’ anything.”
Wasn’t my home with Ihab? After we started our life together, he promised we’d never separate. He lied to me. When the sun began to set, the waves grew stronger as if mirroring our emotions in the words that slashed back and forth.
Angry, accusing words stabbed at our losses and hacked through the shards of commitment.
But when darkness fell, a peace spread through me. I felt God telling me to honor my husband’s wishes. God, please heal my heartbreak. I agreed not to sign the contract.
Opening the door to our four-wheel drive, I clutched a large, dirty-white shell I’d latched onto during our feverish discussion. I almost tossed the wet and gritty seashell but hesitated. Shaped like an ear, it intrigued me. A white splotched hole resembling an ear cavity spread outward. I kept it as a memento of my peace and faith in God’s promise to heal me.
Time at home strengthened me. I talked to my sister about the difficulties Ihab and I encountered. She shared several scriptures that helped her. Scripture gave me direction and the talks eased my hurt. I prayed with purpose: heal my spirit. By Thanksgiving, I felt ready to rejoin my husband overseas.
Less than a year later I conceived again but in my third month, I miscarried. Our second loss devastated me and strained our marriage again. Even though we tried to make it work, Ihab lost patience. Was it because I couldn’t give him children or that we argued too much or was God punishing us because of our mixed faiths? Whatever the reason, bound by teaching contracts, we continued to live and teach in the same area.
I prayed that year for God to help me forgive Ihab and be grace-filled; I might be the only Christian witness in Ihab’s life.
In time, our sweet friendship returned. My colleagues also witnessed God at work in the forgiveness and friendship I offered Ihab. God’s grace was sufficient and He was glorified!
After my contract finished, I moved back home. When I unpacked, I came across that unique seashell. Over time, the sand had lightened and blended together into a fine white powder that slipped away from the shell when I handled it. I recalled the dark, rough grains sticking to it when I left the beach. It seemed as if those dark specks were all the areas of pain God had wanted to heal, and the blend of white sands falling, His subsequent healing. As I traced the ear-shaped shell with my fingertips, the scripture came to me, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15 (NASB). I did hear Him. I embraced peace that day on the beach, and I reclaimed peace, in time, after my marriage dissolved.
I don’t know why God didn’t fix my marriage. But He faithfully nursed me through my heartbreak. During those anguished years, whenever I picked up the shell and saw more grains of sand fall away, I anticipated God’s healing, grain by grain, until I became whole. I matter to Him. He heard my cries, and I always heard his never-failing promise: “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28.
It comforts me to have this symbol of an ear to fall back on because it demonstrates that no matter how deaf I become, God assures me I will hear His voice. He speaks to my spirit.
What physical mementos have served as symbol (s) in your life to remind you of something important?
You have just read, “An Ear to Hear,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright March 24, 2014. Today’s post was published earlier as an article in Glory and Strength, an online Christian magazine, October 2012. If you enjoyed this post, I’d love to hear from you. Please take a moment to comment, like and share it with your friends.