We have a standard of obedience in our household that we expect our children to observe. It’s pretty simple and old fashioned. Here it is:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1
I love my kids and really, as far as kids go, they’re remarkably obedient and well-behaved. But they are still kids. And they are still sinners. And sometimes they act defiantly. We offer incentives for them to choose obedience, hoping that they will come to understand the ways in which we are blessed when we obey those with God-given authority over us. But sometimes the enticement of an extra nickel with their weekly allowance is simply not enough, and they choose their own paths.
As an adult, I don’t have anyone offering me extra nickels for the times when I choose to say “Yes” to God. But somehow the expectation is still there; the expectation that when I say “Yes” and agree with what God has offered me, that I’ll be rewarded. That I’ll arrive at the end of the week with a pat on the back and a jingle in my pocket. Sometimes, by His grace, things work out that way and I’m encouraged. Other times, like now, they aren’t that way at all. I’m left feeling confused, betrayed, and abandoned. Like I said “Yes” and am being punished for my obedience.
Back in January, God presented me with a great opportunity and a wonderful blessing. A life! A baby! He offered it to me, to us, with gentle hands. He knew it wasn’t what we were expecting. He knew it wasn’t what we were planning or even wanting for this year. But He offered it all the same. And we said “Yes”. Because we were confident that He would not give us anything that was too great for us. Because we trusted that His plans for us were plans to prosper, plans to not harm, plans for hope (Jeremiah 29:11). And knowing that, we expected to end up with nickels in our pockets.
The memory of our last pregnancy, with the Peanut, is still fresh in our minds. Four years later I am still peeling back layers of that trauma. We didn’t know it at the time, but the years since have revealed that a severe case of uncontrolled Ulcerative Colitis, combined with several pregnancy anomalies, resulted in a crisis pregnancy that hospitalized me for 3 months. The Peanut was born 6 weeks premature and had her own health struggles. We’ve spent four years sorting out one health problem after another, and felt that just maybe we were starting to step off the shifting sand onto something a little more stable.
So when God offered this new little life to us, one we didn’t ask for but chose to accept, we felt that surely, SURELY, He wouldn’t do so only to send us back into that whirlpool of fear and uncertainty and trauma. Surely, He wanted to use this pregnancy to redeem the last one. Surely, He wanted to reassure us of His faithfulness, and, like Job, restore what had been lost. Perhaps that is what He wants to do, is doing. But it looks nothing like what we expected it to look like. And I again find myself struggling to reconcile my experiences with His promises.
Why do I have the exact same pregnancy anomalies as last time, the ones that resulted in huge blood loss and ambulance transfers? Why does my ulcerative colitis continue to flare, triggering the same contractions that had me on strict bed rest for 3 months? These are things that He can change. He is able to make pregnancy easier for me, but He chooses not to. I know that He is within His rights to either grant the blessings or withhold them, but I can’t help feeling betrayed, like I’ve been cheated out of something I’ve been promised. I’ve had well-meaning friends and acquaintances, upon finding out about this pregnancy, sigh and say, “Bless you for saying yes,” and I feel like pulling my hair out. Exactly! I said yes! So bless me already!
I suppose this is simply the universal feeling of suffering. I recognize much of it from my last pregnancy and from years of pain from colitis. But this time feels like even more of a betrayal, because I chose to agree with Him. He offered me something unexpected, something hard, and I felt like I couldn’t possibly handle it. But I agreed to it, knowing He wouldn’t give me anything that would harm me. I trusted Him. He who does not fail. And yet, I feel like He has failed me. I feel like a small child demanding her nickel that is being unfairly withheld.
I so want this to be one of the posts that I write from the other side. Where I’ve worked through the struggle and have made peace with God’s ways. Where I’m content with not understanding and just trusting. Where I can say with honesty, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” But I am deep in the trenches on this one. I still feel entitled to something that I’m not receiving. I still feel cheated. And, if I’m completely honest, I feel angry. I cling to His promises like never before, knowing that they must be true, because He says that they are. But waiting and waiting to be shown the truth of them.