We’ve been up at Willow Creek for the evening. Sarah Bessey was there, and so I had to go.
And then I had to stay and then I hugged her and didn’t tell her well enough how her words have given me courage and turned my anger into determination and how her story has strengthened my heart and helped me fall in love with Jesus all over again. And I grinned like a high school girl and made David take my picture.
And now I sit on the edge of the bed exhausted. I had toted along my three and one year old babies because I want seeing a woman teach in church to be normal for them, but oh man was bedtime a disaster. I’m so tired. Just a month ago, I crossed the threshold into the second trimester and cried tears of joy, relief, exhaustion as I rode the elevator up to my midwife’s office, medicaid card in hand. I stretch my exhausted body out on the bed and try to go to sleep, but a dull ache on my left side keeps me tossing and turning for a while. I doze for a few minutes to be awakened by sharp pain that grows into the most excruciating pain I have experienced in my life. It gets worse, steadily, until I am kneeling on my bed, practicing the breathing and pain management techniques I use during active labor. My mind is racing. I call my mom and she comes to the house, takes one look at me and orders me into the car. We are on our way to the hospital.
It is the scariest car ride of my life. My medical/biological knowledge in all areas besides pregnancy and birth hovers somewhere right around zero. I don’t know what is happening to me. I am pretty sure I’m not in labor, but other than that, all kinds of things are swirling around in my head: rhymes about appendicitis from Madeline, half read WebMD articles about a host of internal issues, and the tiny gnawing fear that I am just really super constipated and going to be just so embarrassed in the morning. By the time I get to the emergency room and they send me to labor and delivery, I break down sobbing. I have been in constant pain for the past 2 hours and I am scared to death. I have no idea what is happening to my body. I’ve given birth twice without drugs, and never have I been in so much pain. A nurse pokes and prods me, listens to the baby’s heartbeat (relief!), takes my temperature and says, “I’m thinking round ligament pain.”
I punch her in the face. Just kidding, but seriously?
“You’ve been pregnant before. Have you ever had round ligament pain?”
“Not… if….this is round ligament pain.” I say through clenched teeth.
While I assume someone was reading my chart and noticing that I have had two natural births before and maybe I wouldn’t come to the emergency room at midnight for round ligament pain, I just lay in the hospital bed jabbing myself in the abdomen trying to make it stop and praying for the Tylenol to kick in.
When the ultrasound tech comes in to try to see what was going on, she jabs that little wand all around on my abdomen and takes a countless pictures of the baby, the placenta, and my ovary. Much to my relief, she informs me that the baby is a girl, and tells me she found out what is wrong with me.
Round ligament pain nurse comes in again around 4 to tell me that the ultrasound tech found a cyst inside my ovary and that it won’t go away and that if I am in this much pain now, my ovary will probably twist and there will probably have to be surgery, even though it’s risky to the baby. My midwife wants me to stay overnight so that we can decide what to do in the morning.
Um, thanks. Goodnight?
My first instinct, my natural tendency, is to hop on the internet and look up every article I can find about ovarian cysts. To read about how often people have to get surgery and what happens if you don’t, and if there are any diet changes I can make, and why did this happen, and on and on. And I feel the Lord so gently and so calmly say “You could do that. Or, you could just ask me to take it away. You could just ask.”
So I read one definition of Ovarian cysts, and then I pray. And I don’t try to convince God that he should do it or that it would really benefit him somehow if he did. I just ask. I tell him that I trust in his goodness and his kindness and just ask him if he wouldn’t be willing to just take care of that cyst.
And then, I read first Peter. The entire book, which I have been studying. And the most amazing thing begins to happen. My current physical circumstances fade at the reality of the living hope to which I have been called, that God is guarding for me in heaven. The truer, bigger, brighter story takes shape in my mind, engulfing the smaller story I am experiencing. I find myself praying that God would glorify himself. That he will guard the life of this dear baby girl. And trusting that a good God who didn’t spare even his own son from the suffering and the brokenness of the world could be counted upon even as I sit in the hospital, waiting. And then I close my eyes and I go to sleep. I drift in and out of sleep all night, waking and falling back asleep with prayer.
I treasure and cherish the way that Christ in me makes me steadfast. It is something so utterly different than the works-based righteousness I have been so familiar with in my past. I don’t try to conjure anything up. Once again, I just respond to an invitation. To the invitation of Christ in me to be steadfast. To the invitation of Christ in me to trusting and resting when my flesh wants to control and strive. And sometimes I look around and I just see it and it’s breathtaking and I just marvel at it — the steadfastness that is growing in me, apart from any effort on my part, independent of my strategies or plans. All I have been doing is making space. This is the beauty of what this Christ-in-us life is like. It is not an attempt to conjure up the things of God, or to make ourselves like a god by controlling or managing our growth. It’s making spaces in our life for Christ to become greater and ourselves to become less. It’s emptying out so that Christ can fill. It’s telling the whole truth about our weakness and our lowliness and our brokenness, yes, but it’s telling that truth in the light of the Gospel of Christ-in-us, the hope of glory.