The prophet Habakkuk, when the Lord told him that He was planning to bring the Babylonians to capture Israel as part of her punishment and restoration process, was astounded and deeply shaken. How could a good God not only allow such a people as the Babylonians to exist, but then use them against His own people? What Habakkuk was forced to do in order to understand was to say, "I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower," (Hab. 2:11) to remind himself of all the truths he already knew about God and His character -- truths that never change. God's plan is overwhelmingly full of crazy maneuvers like this one, back-handed slaps to the face and pride that you never saw coming, and yet, are still out of the sweet and beautiful character of a God who loves more deeply than the human heart can understand.
I, too, am Habakkuk. And here, at last, reader, is the story of my first year of marriage. The version you probably don't know.
Andrew and I were married in June of last year, on the most beautiful day of the whole South Carolina summer. About three hundred friends and family came from as far away as Michigan and South America to celebrate with us and send us on our journey together with great joy. It was a day where God's blessing and smile was tangible.
At the end of July, we spent a morning lying in bed, terrified, laughing and weeping. On our bathroom counter lay an unfeeling bit of white plastic: pregnant. This made no sense, reader. We had planned, been so careful, done everything we were supposed to do to avoid this. We had spent months in prayer for this marriage, for the tentative plans we were making together, seeking wisdom and blessing on what we believed was the best and wisest timing. Of course we wanted children! Just... not yet. Not for years.
What would our parents say? What would our siblings and friends say?
We were so afraid, so embarassed, so overwhelmed with every emotion except joy.
And then, reader, we found that joy. Driving back to South Carolina the first week of August, to see my family for a few days (and break the news with pounding hearts), we found joy and laughter in sweet abundance. A child! God gives no greater earthly blessing! This particular person, those particular genes in combination -- God wanted that child to be ours. We named him Isaac. The child of our sweet laughter, the crazy miracle child. We fell in love.
Two or three weeks later, we sat nervously in chairs covered in green ginko leaf print, in a quiet waiting room, our hearts pounding. Once summoned, we sat silently, jazz music softly playing in the background, seeing our tiny child for the first time. It never occurred to either of us that the ultrasound tech didn't let us hear the heartbeat, didn't print us pictures; she just measured in the quiet, letting our innocence buffer for her until we sat in the doctor's office to hear the truth.
There was no heartbeat. There was no Isaac.
All I remember about those days was being surprised at how much the heart can hurt, how harsh and horrible a cry can sound, and how much we both wept. We sat on the floor in the bathroom for hours one day, sobbing so harshly my throat hurt. I could think of no comfort but to speak Psalm 23 to myself, but there was no remedy, no balm, no ease.
On August 30, 2011, my body realized finally what my head already knew, and I spent hours in a mockery of birth. The actual miscarriage was painful, physically and emotionally, of course, but also strangely relieving. Having Isaac leave my body meant that we could begin to heal. Slowly.
In October, God very obviously gave me a job at a daycare. It was strange; I've never been comfortable around small children, and as I was still raw from losing my own child, God gave me fifteen toddlers. Cruel, no. Painful, yes. But healing. I learned how to change a diaper, to say no to a child's tantrum, to understand toddler speak (a skill of which I am very proud, actually), to love these children. I gave my heart away again.
Thanksgiving, Christmas. Again, driving down to visit family. Andrew and I realized how much our hearts had changed since those conversations over the summer. All of our reasons for not wanting to have children seemed nothing but self-centered and faithless. So we can travel? So we can do this and that cool thing? So we can be thirty-somethings under the illusion that we have our life together? Andrew will be in medical school for years. We will be married for years. We will only be young once.
And so, reader, now, as I have been reliving the past year, I have also been watching the mound of my belly pulse and jump at the kicks of a very alive 26-week old boy.
I feel that I am giving up everything I've put my self-worth in up to this point -- most keenly lately, my petite frame (now carrying at least fifteen extra pounds) and my academic ability. I crave praise and commendation, and I am choosing to walk away (at least for now) from the chance at post-graduate studies, a career, a life with marked progress and the praise of co-workers and mentors -- I am choosing to stay at home with my son. It is terrifying to know that I am choosing a life that society does not find valid or worthwhile; I feel that I even have to justify myself to my friends. It is unglamorous, exhausting, dirty and grueling, and I know I will struggle daily to give up my idols.
But I know, too, that this tiny human growing in me, this image-bearer who will bring something brand-new into this world, is absolutely worth it. And the sanctifying work that my God will do in me is worth it.
He brought in the Babylonians and ripped our hearts to pieces without warning, and seemingly without reason. And yet, He always has reason, and this life I carry now is at least one validation to what we suffered.
This baby is due August 31, 2012. A year later.
Though the fig tree should not blossom, no fruit be on the vines, [. . .] yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. Hab. 3:17-19