But I get turned around
And I mistake some happiness for blessing ...
--from "Faith My Eyes" by Caedmon's Call
Stress has been on the rise here for me lately (more about that here), and it's been manifesting itself in my body. As we get closer to meeting Ewan and finding out how this whole grand story will play out, I find myself living in anywhere but the present. I find myself wondering about the future, imagining the worst. I don't want to dwell there, but I have a hard time shaking the thoughts of "What if?"
All the "what if" is taking its toll. I don't want to live there -- I know it's not good for any of us. But I'm not sure how to acknowledge it and not feel the effects of it.
James and I have been talking a lot lately about this pregnancy and how our appreciation for and experience of it has been heightened by what we know of Ewan's heart. Both knowing we wanted children, we remained intentionally open to the possibility from the earliest days of our marriage. After eight months, we began to wonder if we would be able to have a child of our own or not. Were it not for the positive pregnancy test that told us Ewan was on the way, we were going to start having some serious conversations about starting our family through adoption.
And then came those two little lines on that pregnancy test -- Ewan was coming.
After that period of time, I can't help but think of all the babies that could have been conceived, but God waited and gave us Ewan. There is something that seems very intentional to me on God's part about giving him to us -- knowing well before we did the story of his heart, and choosing him for us -- choosing us on purpose for this, knowing what we would face.
We have talked about a lot of things here and one of those things is the idea of "blessing" and what people mean when they say "God is good." Typically people say they are blessed or affirm God's goodness when things are going well: someone receives the job promotion, the cancer is cured, an unexpected windfall is received just at the right time. It is very true things would not be possible without the hand of God.
But when I read the gospels and epistles, when I look at the lives of those considered heroes of the faith, those of the great cloud of witnesses, I see people who suffered tremendously. I think of those places where it says God disciplines those He loves, all the promises Jesus makes about the trials and sufferings we will endure, and how these are meant to shape us, chip away at us, burn off the dross in which we are drenched until Christ is revealed in us -- burning brightly. I think of what God asked of His holy ones: asking Abraham to sacrifice the son promised to him in his old age, asking Job to endure the loss of his livelihood, his health, and his family, asking Mary to sacrifice her reputation and her whole heart in receiving Jesus as her son.
Were these people not also blessed? It seems that if we seek to avoid suffering, if we seek only to find a way out of it, we are asking for the loss of the greater blessing -- we deny an invitation to the crucible where the holy are formed, where Hebrews 11 tells us we have a choice in regards to what our suffering does to us: we have the option of being put out of joint, or healed by what we suffer. Healed (I expand on that thought here). In a time and place where the "gospel of prosperity" (the idea that if you follow Jesus, you will be blessed with health, wealth, and happiness) is so alluring and pervasive, it seems so extraordinarily backwards. Even now, I long for the healing that is to be found only on the other side of this, and I long for it to come to an end: to hear that nothing is wrong after all.
But it would be wrong to turn down the blessing that this is and continues to be, and that I know will be. There is no doubt in my mind that I have yet to grasp what any of this really means -- that I have so far to go in terms of my ability to remain in the present, to acknowledge the possibilities without dwelling on those things that haven't happened yet. To embrace my total and utter powerlessness not as a hindrance, but as freedom -- as an invitation to fling myself wholly on the God of mercy, to walk the path of ruthless trust as the ancients did. To say -- no matter the outcome -- that the Lord gives and Lord takes away: blessed be the name of the Lord! and to mean it.
Not to mistake happiness for blessing. Without question, this is far and away the most difficult life experience I've ever faced -- I've never had anything hurt this much for this long. I've never felt so helpless, so powerless, so spiraling out of control. I've never cried this hard for this long. I've never felt so stuck, so hemmed in. I've never been so entirely broken.
But make no mistake: We are blessed. And God is good.