When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teenager. Then once I was a teenager, I wanted to be in college. That sounded so mature. The freedom that comes with moving out and moving on in life is alluring, compared to living under parental authority. Once I was in college, being married and 25 seemed perfect. College is a giant leap from high school, but marriage means I'm an adult. A real adult. By the time I turned 25, I had been married several years and had my first child. And I realized something: with maturity comes responsibility. And responsibility includes making the hard decisions, missing out on some things, and perseverence. None of those really appeals to me.
It's been the same for me spiritually. As a young teenager I admired my student pastor's daughter, Christy, who was three years older and much more mature spiritually. It was because of her that I chose the college I attended; she went there, and I thought that if I surrounded myself with the same environment and people, I, too, would grow. And I desperately wanted to grow in my faith. I wanted to be a strong woman for God, with a faith that was admirable to others coming after me, like Christy.
I've been out of college eight years, and with time I've grown in many ways. Marriage and motherhood will do that. I've experienced the work of holding down a full-time job, managing a home, giving birth, and keeping those children when I really would've liked someone else to raise them. Especially during the terrible twos. Now that my full-time job is staying home, I've learned a lot about loneliness, boredom, doing the mundane when I'd rather not, restlessness, not judging other mom's decisions, and perseverence.
I really thought I was done. Not that I was perfect; that's never going to happen, and most days I'm not so inclined to try to achieve it. I figure that I'll be perfected in heaven, and so I'm enjoying my humanness on earth. But I really thought, okay Lord, I have a quiet time, I've read through the Bible, I'm a pastor's wife, and I generally refrain from yelling at my kids. I'm doing pretty well!
It's that mindset that has probably made the last seven weeks harder to bear. With the birth of my daughter--my long-awaited daughter, after two little boys--have come disappointment, shock, fear, anxiety, and sorrow like I never knew I could feel. Add to that a stay in the NICU, a trip to the ER, more than 15 doctor's appointments, a possible diagnosis from a geneticist that would be devastating, and an open-heart surgery that has now been moved forward several months to later this summer. And as if that's not enough, I have two little boys to take care of, give attention to, and keep safe. (The keeping safe part is probably the most trying! Standing on the kitchen table just seems to be more temptation than a toddler can fight off.)
Over the last seven weeks I've pondered how God could let this happen to me. To my dreams. To my family. And to my daughter. She may never know that she's different, but everyone else will. Being different has never been seen as good. We call it special, but everyone knows that's just a nice way for us to say "different." Nobody really wants to be different.
I've started reading the book, "Disappointment with God," by Philip Yancey. If there's any emotion I've felt most, that's it. Disappointment. And I didn't really expect to feel better by reading this book, but I figured I might as well do something, since there's very little else I can do right now. With a diagnosis that's uncertain, un-provable, and very rare, all we can do is wait. And I don't like to wait. So I'm reading.
This is what I've read today that has given me a measure of comfort: "Despite the honor accorded him as the father of this new race, however, Abraham emerges as the Bible's first example of a person severely disappointed in God." This refers to the promise God made to give him children. Twenty-five years later, he was still waiting. Then, "What kind of game was He playing? Whatever did He want? God wanted faith, the Bible says, and that is the lesson Abraham finally learned. He learned to believe when there was no reason left to believe. . .A cynic would say God taunted the creatures He was supposed to love. The Bible simply uses the cryptic phrase 'by faith' to describe what they went through. Somehow, that 'faith' was what God valued, and it soon because clear that faith was the best way for humans to express a love for God."
I can't say that I think it's fair that I have to learn faith this way. I look at other mothers and their healthy children and feel jealousy. My best friend is due to deliver her first daughter any day--any second--and as excited as I am for her, I can't pretend that I'm not sad for myself. But this is the path God has chosen for me. I don't know if I'll understand why before I get to ask Him face-to-face, or if it will ever be 100% okay. I doubt it will. And I also can't say that the idea of going through such a dark valley, with no end in sight, just to grow my faith, holds any allure for me. Like I said, I was fine with the way I am. I'd rather give up maturity for comfort and happiness. But this evidently is not what's on God's agenda for me, and I'm starting to see that I can either surrender and allow the work to begin, or I can continue to fight and just make it harder on myself, and harder on my relationship with Him.
Does this make me feel any better today? Not really. My life is still the same regardless of how I look at it. But I do have to admit that it does make me feel special that God is so interested in my growth that He would go to such great measures to make sure it happens.
As an interesting non-coincidence (I made that up, how do you like it?), my friend Lisa recently felt impressed on by the Lord to find someone with younger children who could write for her website, to minister to those moms with little ones who read her weekly journal. She has asked me if I'd like to do it (Um, how fast can I say yes?), and Monday, June 26th she'll be "introducing" me to her readers. When she first asked me, I wondered how my meager life experiences could be relevant. Several weeks later, I'm getting a glimpse. Please pray for me as I seek to use my own walk with Christ to bring glory to God and to minister to Lisa's readers.