Ellie, Sweet Ellie

John C. Rankin (March 25, 2012)

Ellie Victoria Rankin lived for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, Saturday, March 24, 2012. My eldest son Chad, and his wife, Christiane (pronounced with a long e), have now lost their first two children. Ellie was healthy and strong, but an infection invaded the cervix, it opened prematurely and could not be healed. With weeping and prayers, we committed little Ellie into the hands of her Savior.

I am so proud of Chad, a godly man, a strong, loving and gentle husband, a grieving father able to see how Ellie’s impact will be great and good. I am forever changed, in ways only initially sensed.

I held her in my arms, or I should say, in both hands — as did all of us in the family able to be there. So beautiful, so finely crafted, family traits easy to discern. Psalm 139:13-16 resonates as never before. I could see in her person what she would have been like as a young woman — strength and character in her beauty, a profile of godliness.

In 1987 I wrote a journal article on “Nephesh and the Status of the Unborn.” In Genesis 2:7, as the first man is formed from the dust, Yahweh Elohim breathes into him the breath of life and he becomes a nephesh hayyeh.” That can be translated as a “person alive,” a “soul alive.”

In the Hebrew, nephesh refers to the breathing functions of the neck and throat, and in the Bible, this is always in conjunction with the goodness of the human body as given in the order of creation. Nephesh also indicates our hunger, our thirst, our eagerness for life. Or another way to define nephesh is needfulness, of dependency on the original creative breath of Yahweh Elohim and the ecosphere upon which we depend every day. This is where true and original strength is found. We need our Creator, we need each other as fellow image-bearers of God, in giving we receive.

The unborn are fully embodied, biologically from the moment of conception. They are quintessentially needful, and we all started out likewise. I am forever changed by sweet Ellie, our sweet Ellie. Tenderness and mercy toward all, yet too, no more hesitancy to name deliberate evil. I have always grasped the willful evil of the human abortion industry, where overwhelmingly it is due to men who get women pregnant and refuse the responsibility and dignity of marriage and fatherhood.

But now too, raw emotions. We have a sitting president who dares to state, jokingly, that the humanity of the unborn is above his “pay grade.” Even as he advances the human abortion industry with every fiber of his political muscle, with every coercive agency at his disposal, and pushing the extreme of the partial birth abortions of healthy newborns — I say “No more!” Is not all he does above his pay grade?

The apostle Paul said: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish arguments. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Paul is writing this to the church, and there are many depths to the context of his concerns. The battle is with the demonic powers that manipulate human beings for evil purposes. Such people need to be delivered. But even as they may yet refuse, we labor for their well-being. We are empowered by the Spirit of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to demolish every pretentious argument.

Trotz dem alten Drachen.
trotz des Todes Rachen.
trotz der Furcht darzu.

“I defy the old serpent,
I defy the jaws of death,
I defy fear, too!”

I defy the president, any politician, any academic, any judge or lawyer, any media pundit, any scientist or medical doctor, any activist, any person alive, to justify the tortured thinking of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing human abortion. Show your temerity. Sit with me in front of the camera, or stand with me before any audience of your choice at the Ivy Leagues and well beyond. I will tear down every pretentious argument that tears apart the flesh of the most vulnerable in our midst, that tears at the nephesh of any and all human beings.

As I took my morning walk Sunday, March 25, slowly with a heavy heart, by the end I was not focusing on the suffering and evil of any death. Rather I know that whether we are granted 2 hours as was little Ellie, or 92 years as was my father, we all come from God and will return to God. Thus, in the face of a sin-stained world, suddenly I see the Lord’s loving sovereignty in a new and richer way.

Ellie was his ordained gift to us, she returned to God so quickly, and we are humbled so much more, clothed with tenderness toward all, and equally angry with the ancient serpent and his agenda to kill and destroy.

As my daughter and I drove to the hospital, my wife already there, another son on his way, my brother too — we passed through the ripped up forests from last year’s tornado, and some verse came to me. The first four words of the poem that emerged were already in place before I learned that my daughter-in-law named her Ellie because of its derivative from “light” (“Helen” in the Greek).

And there was light
nephesh was given —
eagerness, hunger and thirst for the breath of life.

Yet by crafty design
the prince of darkness stepped in
and all forms of suffering followed.

Ellie, sweet Ellie
born 19 weeks too soon, unable to draw breath
you were still eager for all 105 minutes.

Now – greater than now – you run in heavenly fields
delicious air in your face and charcoal hair
yes – we will dance and sing with you one day.

You blessed us with your so brief earthly life
we barely had time to say hello
and praise God, all eternity awaits proper introduction.