It’s been three weeks today. Three weeks since the doctor said those fateful words, “I’m so sorry.” Three weeks since we finally got to meet the little person who has been a part of my body and our hearts and our dreams since May. Three weeks since we held the tiny body of our baby boy, and covered him with our tears. Tears of longing for all that will never be. Three weeks since we finally got to say hello to Charlie…and then had to say goodbye.
And yesterday, was my first due date. I say first, because I was given four different dates and eventually just gave up and said, “I guess this is all going to be a big mystery!” A mystery…in so many ways. I don’t know why God chose for our baby to live with Him and not with us, but learning to live with that mystery is going to forever be a part of our lives. It’s amazing how many answers God did not give Job, he who lost 3 daughters and 7 sons. What deep hurt there must be in losing your whole quiver at one time. I’ve read Job over and over again…but never really felt the depths of his suffering like I have over the last three weeks. I so wish he had had some good friends to meet him in such agonizing pain.
And that’s what’s on my mind today: pain. One of God’s greatest kindnesses to me over the last three weeks is that He has brought a few incredible women into my life who have actually walked this same painful journey. One of them writes me letters every single day. Letters on grieving. Letters that make me feel normal even though there isn’t one normal thing about my life. Letters that make me think “I’m ok,” even though right now I am so not ok. I am so thankful for each one of these incredibly strong, brave, tender, and wise women who have suffered this same great sorrow, continued to walk with Jesus, and willingly and lovingly chosen to walk with me.
The other day one of these women wrote something to me that I just keep thinking about every day. She said,
“Or have you gone to Target yet & wanted to scream at the top of your lungs, “I just had a little boy! He should be in my cart! And nothing except my jiggly tummy would communicate that to you!”
As I read these words I thought to myself, “Yes!!!! Exactly! I’ve never even met you and yet you understand completely and perfectly the pain I am feeling!” I am feeling so painfully misunderstood because my physical life (mainly my empty womb and empty arms) just so does not match my emotional and relational reality.
Because of this, I was dreading going to the grocery store this week. When you live in a small town you just happen to end up knowing every Trader Joe’s worker by name. And over the last 8 months all these lovely TJ’s employees have gotten a weekly viewing of growing belly. I just knew that one of them was going to ask me, “Oh! So you finally had your baby!” “Um…yes. And no. And honestly, can we not talk about the deepest heartache of my life in the check out line?” But they couldn’t possibly know my story. How could they? I mean, do any of us really know the stories of most of the people in our lives? My empty womb tells them something of my story…but it’s like the tip of the iceberg really. Covered deep below the surface of my physical appearance is the PAIN of my story, which is obviously not going to be unveiled in the grocery store line.
And so, my encouragement to you today dear reader is to be patient with all those strangers around you who are carrying around “deep below the surface” stories. Stories of pain and heartache. Stories of beloved children whom they have had to bury. Stories of wanting to be married. Stories of abuse and suffering. Stories of feeling alone in their story. We just can’t possibly know anything except what we see. And for most people in our lives, we don’t see much of anything…at least anything that matters really.
For those few people in your life where you do know their story…please be patient with them too. Please try to reach out to them and love them even though you both know that since you haven’t gone through exactly the same thing…you don’t know half the pain they are carrying. Don’t worry about being like Job’s friends…I doubt you will be. I am so thankful for all of the people in my life who have tried so much to show love to us as best they can, even though we have very different experiences of suffering and heartache. We all still have something, or we certainly will someday…because life is just so very full of heartache.
And for those of you who actually do understand acutely what it feels like to have lost your mother, or battled with cancer, or seen your child suffering in pain…please be that person who reaches out to someone who is suffering in the same way. Even though I seriously couldn’t pick out some of these women in a crowd…the women who have written me, and walked with me, and shared life with me in this worst moment of my whole life have meant the world to me. This is the precious fellowship of suffering.
with gratitude for the God of all comfort “who comforts us that we might comfort others”,