“I made the wrong choice", she admitted, while shifting her eyes around the room. There was no judgment to be made or advice to be given. Her decision was one that could not be reversed regardless of what either of us said in that moment. She was there to talk about it and for that I was grateful. Over the years she learned that I was available to listen. She came when a guy was disrespecting her and she needed to vent. She came when she felt the weight of being an adult on her shoulders. She came when the test read positive and terror filled her soul. She came after she silenced the fear by ending the pregnancy.
"Yes, I would say you meet the definition for being infertile", the gynecologist said while sitting on a stool looking up at me. She said I would be referred to a specialist and they could begin testing me. "What do you really want?” she asked. I told her I was 35 and wanted to be pregnant. She convinced me to visit the specialist to get started with testing right away. "When women are 80 years old most don't regret trying and not succeeding but they regret if they couldn't conceive but never tried to find out why", she shared. I walked out of the office and sat in my car for a moment to reflect. I noticed a daycare next to the doctor's office with children playing on a swing set. I watched them gleefully run around the playground and I begin to cry.
Do you ever feel like you're stuck in this space between life and death? I work at a pregnancy center that's directly next door to a funeral home. Some mornings I'll come into work knowing we have a scheduled ultrasound appointment and see black cars lined up for a wake next door. I ponder the fact that we're giving people a glimpse of life for the first time as our neighboring business is giving a last look.
While working at our center I've seen women joyfully choose life, soberly decide to end a pregnancy or lose a baby through miscarriage. I've witnessed every emotional expression you can imagine from giddy laughter to bitter sobbing. Through it all I try to be a caring, warm and compassionate presence. The women know we are a life-affirming center that doesn't refer for or perform abortions. Yet, the undecided ones come to us in trust because we don't tell them what to do and we love unconditionally regardless of their choices.
Assisting women making pregnancy decisions causes me to have a heightened awareness of contrasts in the world. I'll be at a baby shower child watching a family rejoice when I’ll remember words from a mother who chose abortion. I’ll feel sadness and remind myself that nothing makes one child more valuable, unique or inherently special than another. I’ll celebrate with the family while silently mourning a child who was never named.
Now that I'm dealing with infertility, I grapple with my own unplanned circumstances. I never imagined it would be a struggle to get pregnant. I waited all of my twenties to date and finding my husband at 32 seemed to be a struggle enough. I naively hoped I was done with waiting for a while. How did I find myself in this strange place where my dream for a positive pregnancy test is a nightmare for some of the women I serve? How did I get caught in the tension of faith, worshipping a God who allows a teenage girl to bring life into the world unprepared; while I, a seemingly more 'ready' adult is left waiting and praying?
Being in that strange place between contentment and longing is where I live. I abide in this space between life and death. I see women chose to end a life while I pray for one to begin. I surrender the desires for what I want now, while rejoicing with those who have their immediate desires fulfilled. While I wouldn't have chosen this unique and complicated path, I believe it is one God has called me to walk on.
There's a Bible verse I treasure;
"Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything". 2 Corinthians 6:10 NLT
The Disciples of Christ lived and ministered in this dual reality. They were sons of a Heavenly King but treated as criminals on earth. They had the power to raise the dead and heal the sick, yet saw their friends stoned and martyred. They had the good news of the gospel yet mourned for their Savior who'd gone to Heaven. In that in-between place they lived out their earthly callings and gave glory to God.
I hate the suffering this world brings but I love my God who allows it. There will be a time when sorrow is done away with, but that day is yet to come. While we live as earth dwellers we'll experience great joy and crushing pain. It will not be fair. We won't be able to make sense of it. We’ll wonder why heartache came to our door and not another. We may never get the answers to our questions or resolutions for our plaguing problems.
Yet in the midst of our uncertainty, if we abide in God’s love, we’ll have a supernatural peace. In the difficult times of waiting and in our darkest moments of delay, we'll find a quiet assurance. We can read the Bible and declare aloud, "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13
God is good in spite of all we suffer and endure. Just because God allows pain doesn't mean his heart isn't hurt by what befalls us. God's heart hurts more than we can comprehend because He is the Father of compassion and giver of mercy. Jesus weeps, the Father mourns and the Holy Spirit is here to comfort us. God's goodness isn't dependent on our actions and it won't disappear because we doubt it. If we stop believing God is good, His goodness will never change.
It is the kind providence of an eternal all-knowing God that orders our steps, keeping us in the in-between place when it doesn’t make sense. In that place we'll learn to trust Him and in the momentary trials of our lives we will see His goodness and beauty on display.