Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One burning question...

Wow. Two nights by myself in a hotel room. Highly recommend it. Moms, for your next birthday; go see just in case it might work! :)  2.5 star hotel somewhere nearby to sleep, swim solo, read and write, watch your very own show, eat slowly while sitting down: very unique experience. I'm not sure I will check out... hmm... :)
Well I managed to check out, been working on this post for days you see.  Apparently it nearly killed me to leave though; I have a accidentally photo from my phone of the light at the end of the tunnel!  :)  Okay, hallway.  You see? Hee hee.

ANYway, as I have been gradually recovering from the shock of my experience (um no, not leaving the hotel), I have found myself left with one pressing question...  My mom never had a miscarriage that she knew of, and if anyone in my family did I'll never know, as the bloodline I was born into simply does not talk about unpleasant things. 

But my mother had close friends who did have this awful experience. And from the age of 9 I just knew, as I saw these women hug and cry their hearts out, that I could never handle such a loss.

Thus ever since I was a kid who had no clue how babies arrived on this earth, through my teens and into my young adulthood, my most constant request to God was a very specific prayer, asked in the greatest faith and trust: that I never would have a miscarriage or a stillborn. It was my greatest fear.  Second to that was sharks of course, but as I saw no chance of me becoming an oceanographer who handfed steaks to Great Whites for a living, it wasn't a continual prayer of mine, though I'm sure it occasionally made the list...:)
Now I find myself having had one of each (well as close to having a stillborn as I want to get). And my heart is asking why.
At the very time when it has never been more necessary for me, and all the while feeling surrounded and upheld by the prayers of many like never before, and in the very midst of experiencing much more peace and calm and even quiet joy then the situation required, and in weeks where I have felt the grace of God more keenly than ever: I still find myself calling the whole process into question.
Namely, what is the value of prayer, of asking God for something, if He is simply going to do His own will anyway?
And not just doing His will, but in this!!! To separate a mother from her child. To have a tiny child die, possibly to have suffered. To have a mother grieve this loss and feel this absence for the rest of her days. To know no family picture, travel, or holiday will ever be really complete. To wonder "what if" and "what would have been," to call to mind so many questions with no answers. As a dear friend of mine recently put it: Lord, why send a child only to take them away?
I got out my Bible. I thought about everything I'd learned about God's antecedent and consequent will.  Went back to what the Summa says based on 1 Timothy 2:4, that God wants all men to be saved and come to know the truth, but since this doesn't happen, what does this say of God's will?  Seems scholars of Scripture have claimed that this verse expresses God's "antecedent" will, which is the sort of willing expressed prior to considering all the facts of a particular situation. (These terms are used in law, I believe). But what actually occurs at times is God's "consequent" will, which takes all facts into account (such as man's free will).
Naw, that didn't help much, other than to reassure me that God does not like death, that what happened to me wasn't the perfect plan for mankind He had in mind in the beginning.  Just like I'm sure the awful Boston Marathon bombings weren't in the antecedent will of God; it just came to be consequently from the diseased mind of some hapless soul.  At any rate, the study part made tremendous sense when I was in college. But now it's mostly "baby is gone; want baby back." So later I picked up a rosary, and started to pray the first sorrowful mystery, reflecting on Christ's Agony in the Garden.
And I thought of Jesus perfectly praying, three times, very specifically, in great trust and faith and blood-sweating earnestness to the all-good and all-loving Father: "Let this cup pass. Yet not as I will, but as You will."
You know, when I did have the time to study theology back in the day, I wrote my thesis on the "fiat" of Mary, where in response to hearing God's incomprehensible will for her, she said to the angel Gabriel: "Be it done unto me."  The title I used was "Fiat: The Word That Made Man Higher Than Angels."  I was all studious and non-emotional about it at the time.  "Be it done unto me. Not as I will, but as You will."
When Jesus prayed "Let this cup pass" the night before His death, it didn't "work." And He didn't want something that was bad. And He wasn't asking the wrong way. And we wasn't at all lacking in the faith that could move mountains.  And He probably knew the answer anyway, which is way more than any of us do when we pray...
So then why did He bother asking?
With this question nipping at the back of my brain for days, I went to a study session on a book by Priscilla Shirer.  This awesome Baptist church down the road has Bible studies with child care that I recently started attending again.  Child care and coffee.  Frankly, I think I might come to a study on the Cat in the Hat with that setup, but fortunately it was on Scripture. Listening to the video segment, I heard Ms. Shirer talk about how everything that concerns us concerns Him, and then she hadta go straight to talking about the sparrow scripture, and I got all choked up of course, and I'm trying to hide it, and I don't have a tissue, so I sneak out....
After I got back with a tissue and checked to make sure my eye makeup wasn't approaching late Goth, the video had moved on to to Ephesians 3:20-21: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Priscilla reflected that however big a miracle we could ever dream up, that God can do way better than that miracle. The discussion revolved around the indisputable fact that God is able to do all things; He can, but sometimes He won't.   That it is our business to believe He can do anything, while it is His job to decide what will ultimately be for our greatest good.  That it all boils down to trust: if God does not do what you ask of Him, do you trust that He has something better in mind?  And He does; He has tremendous "Kingdom" purposes we can't see from this earth. 'He is way past, my way past," Priscilla kept saying.  His best interests for me are way better and beyond what my best interests are for me.  That's for sure... 
I was in the right place at the right time.  I started furiously writing my own notes, the kind I write so fast I can't read them later because my handwriting is atrocious.  But scanning back over them I was saying something about how on Good Friday, the "good" thing which no one could see as a good thing at the time myseriously was the death of God.   Because He foresaw the resurrection.  I scribbled about Jeremiah 29:11, and was thinking that all things are not good, but all things are worked out for my good because I love Him. That if one stops praying, it doesn't limit God, but being closed off in our communication, and our lacking in faith and trust, does indeed limit how we receive from Him.

No I'm not saying "I completely get it now"; prayer is still mysterious to me, with God's plan prevailing overall, yet with Him taking what we ask into account, somehow.  But I know we are tremendously valuable to God, so it stands to reason that our thoughts and desires and words to Him matter too. Scripture tells us He holds every one of our tears (Psalm 56:8). That He loves us, and sings over us (Zeph 3:17). We are paradoxically always safe in his hands while still on the great and unpredictable adventure called a lifetime, the journey we don't get out of alive. After which, we are immortal. Not a bad deal, that last part.

Don't get me wrong: I have not reached some magical place of total peace at a second trimester loss.  I haven't.  I'm deeply saddened, and on this earth I never will fully understand why this happened.  But I believe I will someday understand.  And I trust in the truth of one of my favorite verses from the Lord: "For I know the plans I have for you  . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you: to give you hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11)  I still don't get how Samuel's mother Hannah, after her years of infertility, had the courage to give her son up to a life of service in the temple. (1 Sam. 1:22) But I can believe that Perpetua was called to a life far better than one I could give her here, and that she has a meaningful purpose, summoned to serve in the courts of the Lord. 
In the end, I'm realizing more that prayer is a profound expression of trust, not a list to Santa. And as we trust and talk to God in prayer, by pouring out our hearts to a God who knows us intimately and loves us deeply and feels our smallest suffering: having this conversation keeps us open to grace. Knowing He can do all things, we ask for what we want and need. Knowing that the price is paid and the bill is taken care of, we are very free to ask for any good thing. But while I pray to my God for what I believe I need in good faith, I can confidently add at the end, "Do that, or something better." I want to have that courageous trust in my Father, even while I remind Him to go gentler on me.  To remain open not only to what I, in my limitedness, think is good, but to a good so good as to be beyond my wildest dreams.

Lord, I trust that You love, You care, and You know better than I.  Not my will, but yours be done. Fiat.
For in the end, sometimes, if the cup passes like we ask, we could miss the Holy Grail.

"When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation." Luke 11:2-4

(Linked to http://www.catholicbloggersnetwork.com/p/link-up-blitz.html)

1 comment:

  1. I am so very sorry for your loss. I find it very easy to say "Thy will be done," but sometimes it is so very, very hard to let go and accept His will. You will be in my prayers.