I am a planner. I think ahead, make lists, plan out schedules down to the detail - I process as much of my life ahead of time as possible. I imagine the scenario, adjust to maximize success and have high expectations for myself. After all, I'm so prepared that confidence comes naturally. And I really invest in what is coming; changes hit me hard.
Considering this fact, my 20's were perfect for me. Plan your major, plan a marriage, plan for a move, plan for a mission, plan to have kids, plan to move to Peru…everything was in view way ahead of time so I could accurately adjust my stride by the time it hit. I thrived on this rhythm of life. We lived through each phase, each step and then took the next one. Second kid, new house, another year of marriage, adjust, shift, go with the flow…stresses, but really, no surprises.
Closing in on my 30th birthday, just months away, life clipped right along and I was bracing myself for 30 to be my prime. Life was sweet.
Then the next phase of a plan: Adopt a child. Research, find out legal processes and costs, American laws, Peruvian laws, timetable…ready, set,
STOP!!! (brakes screeching)
I was pregnant. By all accounts, I shouldn't have been, but I was. I, who was done with pregnancy (hate it) and delivery (hate it more), and ready to adopt some child that desperately needed us. And I was walking with friends through the valley of not being able to get pregnant, fertility treatments and struggles - and here I was, with an unwanted pregnancy (they don't always just happen outside of marriage, folks) dropped in my very unhappy lap.
I raged. This was not the plan. My plan was for really good things to happen, so why in the world would God pry that from my hands?! Couldn't He see that my friends needed a baby, not me?! They wanted to be pregnant and give birth; I just wanted to be done with all that. And we had considered applying to adopt siblings, because it breaks my heart to think of kids being separated from the only family they have just because a family is overwhelmed by the thought of two, but it blows my mind to think of going from 3 to 5 kids way more than it did to think of going from 2 to 4. This was upside down and backwards and I had to bear the brunt of the physical and emotional burden of it and I was furious! What kind of trouble was God trying to pull here?! Didn't He love me?! Wasn't He proud of the good things I was planning to do?
Side note: This was happening in the spring of 2011. My Lent discipline focus that year was only daily quiet time, and I was remarkably consistent with it (see this post to understand the significance here). I had already been spending daily time in conversation with the Lord and at this point, it kind of turned ugly. I griped Him out. I am so glad that He handed me this experience right in the thick of our familiarity because I am confident that we never wavered. Oh, I let Him have it, but never turned my back. Talk about timing!
We kept this knowledge to ourselves longer than normal, gradually shared our news with others, always with the caveat that we weren't ready to celebrate. I struggled to embrace the baby growing inside of me, struggled to release a plan that was ripped from me and adjust to what I couldn't escape. Basically, I was grumpy for a loooooong time.
I got many wise words from friends and family.
- Maybe you were about to rush into an adoption and He needed you to wait for the child that will need your family.
- Give it a year and you won't trade that baby for anything.
- Maybe He is preparing you for something down the road and this is a way to strengthen you.
I've always been someone who thought the question, "Why?" is way overused. It's just evaluating something that has happened and typically doesn't yield new information that can be applied in the future. I've always preferred to focus on, "What now?" when something happens. What is past is beyond our control, but let's take a purposeful next step toward well-being. But this time, I couldn't follow my own tendencies and was stuck, really wedged down into, the "WHY?!" And for all our talking and connecting and fighting it out, He never told me. He never gave me that little tidbit of understanding to help me accept what was happening.
Until now. Why now? Not. a. clue. But I get it. I finally get it.
I really feared that the last option given above was the truth - that God was preparing us, toughening us up for something bigger and worse down the road. Ok, how am I supposed to walk graciously through what I see as a bad experience with the "comfort" of knowing this is just a taste of bigger, worse things to come? Yeah, right. I trust that God won't let me be torn to pieces, but I don't trust that He won't put me through the wringer for a good reason. And I really like being in control of my life and plans and having predictability and being comfortable and at peace. Unfortunately, God doesn't prioritize based on those things.
I realize now that what I really, deeply, for-the-well-being-of-my-soul needed was a big, mean-feeling shove into the deep end of the pool. I needed to get knocked off my oh-so-carefully-organized feet into water too deep for me to handle. I needed to flail around there for a while, going into a panic, soaking everyone around me, fight to get back to where I felt safe, realize there was no going back, look around frantically for a way out only to find none and at long last…at the end of it all…to grab desperately for Jesus to just keep me afloat. I had to reach the point where I said, "Fine, let's do this and whatever you want, just don't let me go!" I had to decide that I would trust Him, right in the middle of when He seemed least trustworthy, because relying on myself was just not an option. I had to admit that I was helpless and clueless and it was all too much and leave it at that…no plan for a solution, just acceptance.
I have now experienced being pushed beyond my limits and letting Him somehow keep me together. I have now experienced a depth of relationship that has changed me from someone who feared what I couldn't handle to realizing that what I can or cannot handle really doesn't matter that much. I am now less focused on what I want to do and more focused on finding out what He wants me to do, because He'll make sure it works out. I learned that His love is not based on how much I can make Him proud of my efforts, but it is fully wrapped up in how much I turn to Him.
I would have already been one to say that God takes care of us, provides for our needs and comforts us in struggles, that hard times come because of the brokenness of the world and He works through that. Now I realize that sometimes God really does make "bad" things happen because that's the best way to draw us to Him. Because it is worth some trouble to get there. He loves me so much He wanted more of me.
In my case, God needed me to go where my plans were never going to take me - beyond my control and into dependence on Him.
Now, when I ask, "What now?", I'm not asking myself. It used to be my next step to resume the lead, get things back in order and find that rhythm again. Now, I ask Jesus, "Well, what now?" and wait. I'm better at being off my high horse. My prayers are different. My faith is different. I understand the value of difficulty and pain and stretching and sacrifice. I understand why God might choose that for me, time and again.
And if He says that I need some trouble to come closer to Him, I'm on board.
And a year later, they were right - I wouldn't trade her for anything.
For those of you who are in a struggle right now, it is my prayer that it serves to bring you in closer to Jesus, that you find yourself comforted, not by resolution, but by relinquishing yourself to Him. I still fully believe that this screwed up world throws us curveballs that are not God's intent - just like we have freedom to choose good, everyone has the freedom to choose bad and there are repercussions. I do not want to minimize painful situations; this is based on my experience and does not answer the problem of pain across the board.