Today my soul hurts.
My husband’s family and mine sat around a table in a little Mexican restaurant last night and feasted on dollar tacos.
I was fine. I was happy. I sipped my Mexican soda and joked around with Dad about his new health diet. I made faces at my baby sister and peeked around the table to watch my brother-in-law and husband talk animatedly about their work.
But then someone accidentally sent a baseball through the window of my heart.
With a few words, I could feel the glass shattering.
“You know what I want?” this someone said, “I want you and Christian to have a baby.”
My grandparents’ property out in middle-of-nowhere
has been the epicenter of many of the
stories I have written (and wanted to write and probably will write) in my
It is alive. It is breathing. It clothes itself in green in the summer. It wraps a quilt of crisp orange and yellow and crimson around its shoulders in the fall. It puts a pure white coat on in the winter. and makes a crown of flowers for its grassy head in spring.
It cradles a huge stretch of the sky each day and rocks it to sleep each night in a blanket of bright reds and pinks and golds. And then it takes the night shift and holds the moon and a billion stars.
One moment, you are hiking along a narrow strip of grass between a humming-with-life alfalfa field and a dark-green forested ravine. The next moment, you are tripping over sun beams slipping through the over-arching branches and you have to stop in your tracks to catch your breath. You run your hand through the shifting light rays and notice the dust mites and pollen slipping through your fingers.
If you are a very good listener, and if you close your eyes, you can sometimes hear thousands of untold stories being whispered as the wind sweeps over the fields and into the forest. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the cicadas are simply screaming for no reason. They also are telling a part of the story. Don’t think that the snap of a twig underneath your boots is meaningless. It’s also part of the story.
What story you may ask? And I’m glad you did.
Everything is part of a story that is older than time itself. Part of a story that was there when it was just God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit hovering over the void, talking about creating a little thing called the universe.
Everything is part of His story. The hipster guy sitting across from you in the coffee bar is part of it. The church with four families is part of it. The sinking of the Titanic is part of it. The first kiss of a father to his newborn daughter is part of it.
But why does it matter if everything is part of His story or not? Once again, I’m glad you asked.
This is where things get sticky and some may cringe and plug their ears and shake their heads and walk away. But I hope you don’t. I hope you listen. At least for a moment.
If everything is part of His story, then EVERYTHING is part of His story.
Think about it.
The death of a loved one is part of His story. The cancer you are battling is part of His story. The loneliness you feel is part of His story. The friend who walked away from their faith is part of His story. The abuse you’ve experienced is part of His story.
If you’re cringing, know that I’m cringing too.
Because how on earth could a loving God have those things be a part of His story?
Oh I have screamed at Him before.
The day my mom miscarried several years ago, I went out to our camper and I threw myself down and I wept and I shouted between clenched teeth.
Why God, why? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO US?
My family had been so excited.
I’ll never forget the pain on my mom’s face as she sat in the recliner and bled out a life. I’ll never forget the hurt. I’ll never forget my sister weeping. I’ll never forget me standing there at a loss for words. At a loss of what to even do.
I cleaned the house more times that week and cooked more food than was necessary. Just trying to find something to fill up the emptiness.
And somehow this was part of God’s plan? This was part of God’s story?
I didn’t want to accept that. I couldn’t.
But in the months that followed, something began to scare me more than the idea that pain could be a part of God’s plan…
What if such pain couldn’t be a part of God’s plan?
What if God was just sitting up in heaven watching bad things unfold without any power to stop them? What kind of God was that?
Of course, God would be sitting up in heaven meaning well, but when bad things happened… He just couldn’t stop it?
This was frightening to think. If God only controlled the good, then my life was one big unpredictable step. Anything bad could happen at any minute. Bad things that weren’t part of God’s plan.
I wouldn’t be able to trust anyone or anything. My life would be directionless. Hazardous.
Some would say “Now, now, Renee, aren’t you being a little dramatic? Wouldn’t God still have the power to use bad things for good?”
Sure He can use bad things for good. He does all the time. But if He has no power over the bad things and can only sort of try to gain control of them after they happen, is He only partly Sovereign? Could something bad happen to me at any moment without Him knowing? Or without Him being in control?
Was Jesus’ own crucifixion not part of His plan? I mean, that was bad. Really, really bad. Was God just watching powerless as His own Son was nailed into wood? Did He just sort of throw a last minute redemption plan together as they carried Jesus’ beaten, bloody lifeless body into a tomb?
Or was it part of His plan? Was the bad only a step into something good? And was that good so much better than the bad could ever be bad?
I think I said that weird.
What I mean is, doesn’t God’s goodness triumph over even the most terrible of situations? And can’t the most terrible of situations lead us to God’s goodness?
Having a God who is not in complete control would be scary. Scarier than accepting that everything everything is a gift from Him. Even the things that break our hearts.
But still. Bad things hurt so much. And where is the hope in knowing that bad things are a part of God’s plan?
Many years ago, a young accountant and his wife had a baby boy.
This baby boy was the firstborn in their family and oh how he was loved. He was named after his father. Johnny. Johnny Paul.
This young couple and their baby were quite happy. They had their health, they had a home, they had each other. They didn’t have God in their lives, but they didn’t really need Him. They had all that they could ever want right at their fingertips.
One day, the young wife’s friend stopped by the house. I don’t know how long she stayed or what she said or what they laughed about.
But I know that after the visit was over, the wife’s friend got in the car and backed out of the drive.
What she didn’t see was two-year-old Johnny. He was killed. Instantly. Right there on the driveway of the young couple’s house.
Why, God? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?
Heartbroken and empty, the young couple found themselves in a pit of anguish and turmoil. Their happy life had been uprooted in one terrifying, soul-wrenching moment. Their center of gravity had been ripped in half and now they were floating without direction. What was the point of anything now? How could they ever be happy again?
A pastor reached out to them as they lay in their grief. And for the first time in their lives, from the bottom of this pit, they saw a need for God. He opened the eyes of their hearts and they believed in Him and His grace. The pain didn’t vanish. But they had hope again. Hope in the goodness of God.
Meanwhile, there was a woman in town who claimed she had been raped. She was pregnant and looking for someone to adopt her baby.
With a home suddenly empty of small feet and with souls that had been newly adopted into the family of God Himself, this young couple decided to take this child as their own.
They got connected to the pregnant woman, and when the time came, the baby was born, and the young couple took home a sweet baby girl.
This baby girl would grow up in a Christian home. In a home with parents who had been saved into grace and love in the midst of the hardest trial of their lives. She would be raised by parents who had been adopted themselves. Parents who would turn from the heartache and raise up a little girl with the knowledge that God is good.
And this little girl who had come during a time of so much bad, would grow up in so much good. Would grow into something so good herself.
You see, this little girl grew up to be my mother.
Does the good lessen the pain? Not necessarily.
When the author of Creation stepped into His own story as Jesus, He Himself cried at the death of Lazarus. He wept for His friend. He wept for the family and friends of Lazarus. He wept over death and sadness.
And yet He wept knowing that in a few moments, He would raise Lazarus from the dead.
Knowing that bad things can be and are a part of God’s plan, shouldn’t mean we can’t cry, can’t feel, can’t grieve.
But it should give us hope.
Because of the curse, because man chose to disobey God, because we are sinners, we deserve no less than death. We don’t deserve any good at all.
But God. (Oh how I love that phrase.) But God IN HIS MERCY has written our stories with “HOPE” scrawled all over them.
Even in the darkest hour, He is there.
Even in the sharpest pain, He is there.
Even in the deepest valley, He is there.
And He is writing your story. Yes, with dark hours, but also with HOPE. Yes, with pain, but also with HOPE. Yes, with valleys, but also with HOPE.
What kind of hope, you ask?
Hope of no more dark hours! Hope of no more sharp pain! Hope of no more deep valleys!
No more tears! No more suffering! No more agony!
Yes this world has those things! But that’s because this is a fallen world!
When Adam and Eve chose themselves over God, this world was cursed. When they disobeyed God, weeds filled the gardens, screams echoed throughout childbirth, weeping followed death and more death followed more weeping.
But those things should only drive us to God! Because He is the author! And He has promised good to us!
Not prosperity gospel goodness. Not fancy cars and mansions and diamond rings and perfect marriages and cancer-free-lives kind of goodness.
But He has promised us a life where there is no more bad. He has promised His children heaven. He has promised us eternal goodness with Him.
Is there bad now? Yes, of course. Is God watching it, just hoping that somehow we make it through all that badness and to Him? I can’t believe that.
Even though I have felt sadness that reaches the very core of my being, I believe that God has fully written my story. Even the hard parts. Even the sad parts. Even the bad parts. And that through it all, even through the times when I am screaming at Him, He is saying “Child, have hope. I am here. I will always be here. This is part of my plan. This pain? It’s temporary. It is only a part of the story. And let me give away the ending to you again… you will be with Me in glory and you won’t ever have to suffer again.”
Pain is temporary. His love is everlasting.
The seemingly harmless comment about wanting Christian and I to have a baby was still resounding in my head.
My insides had ripped apart over a few words.
“I want that too,” I barely managed to say.
I didn’t look at this person’s face. I couldn’t look at this person’s face.
I spoke to my plate…
“Remember months ago when you were teasing me about being pregnant?”
“I miscarried that month.”
I said it. Just like that. I hadn’t really meant to say it like that. I don’t know if I ever meant to say it at all.
Instantly tears filled my eyes and I could feel my face burning. Burning with pain.
Back in that month when I was first feeling some of the symptoms, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Then there were the mornings I didn’t want coffee because the thought grossed me out.
Then there was the night at 10:30 when I wanted Chinese food so so bad.
Then there was the car trip when I had to roll the window down and stick my head out in order to suck in fresh air and fight the nauseas feeling in my stomach.
There was the tiredness. The tender pain. No sign of my period. The slight cramping.
I took a pregnancy test and it was negative. But I had heard and read that so many times the pregnancy tests are wrong.
And the symptoms were still all there. Majorly there.
But I tried not to believe I was. I still didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Christian was convinced I was. One night he put his face right up to my belly and spoke to it. My heart reeled with mixed joy and worry. After my mom’s miscarriage I was so afraid to even hope.
And yet I couldn’t help it. I felt like I was pregnant. Everything about the way I was feeling pointed to the obvious.
On a Sunday, I finally let my hopes up a little. I had talked to my best friend who happens to be a nurse, and she had listened to me with excited eyes as I described how I was feeling. “It sounds like you are pregnant!” she had said.
So I had finally looked down at my stomach and held it and quietly asked if anyone was in there. I wondered for a moment whether there was a little girl or boy inside. Would she look like me? Would he have his father's nose? How would we tell everyone? Everyone was going to be so excited!!
And then Monday morning, I got out of bed. And my heart sunk to the floor. I rushed to the bathroom and bled. Bled like crazy. Bled more than ever before.
I was in so much pain from intense cramping. I laid curled up in a ball and held my stomach close to me. And I wept.
I cried all day. Because this wasn’t normal pain. This wasn’t normal bleeding. And somewhere deep inside, I knew I was miscarrying.
But the frustrating thing was that I didn’t actually know if I was miscarrying or not. All of me said yes. But how would I ever know for sure?
I wept for a baby that I hadn’t even “met”. That I couldn’t even know for sure had existed.
I tried to tell myself to be okay. That I was crying over something I couldn’t know.
I sobbed myself to sleep that night as Christian held my hand.
And the next morning, I locked everything up inside. I didn’t cry about it much anymore. I didn’t even mention it anymore.
For a little while I was okay.
But the pain was still there.
And it kept showing itself in little ways.
When I heard that a friend of mine was pregnant, I sobbed. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely happy for her and her husband. But I cried for a good hour.
Then another friend got pregnant. Then someone I knew through Instagram. Then a cousin. And each time, I cried as I remembered the pain I had felt. The deep sadness that dwelt inside me rather than the baby that should have.
And today, my heart still hurts.
Because of a small comment that wasn’t even meant to hurt.
Because of a baby that I know was there. Because of a baby I didn’t even let myself get excited about. Because of a baby I won’t get to meet here on earth.
It hurts. So bad. I cry as I write these words.
But I know my Father well at this point. I know that this pain is only a sentence in His plan.
Yet even though this pain is just a sentence, He cares. I know He is catching my tears. He is holding my hand and my heart as He guides me on to the next sentence. I think He weeps with me even as He wept for Lazarus. Seeing the pain of grief, but knowing that there is healing.
I don’t know why He does things the way He does. I don’t know all the chapters He has planned.
But I know the ending.
And the ending makes the hard chapters worth the read.
Because the ending of this story is just the beginning of the next.
And the next story?
Well let’s just say it’s going to be a good one.