An old friend of mine from high school recently posted something on Facebook that stopped me cold in my tracks. We are the same age and are both pregnant for the first time, both wanting so much to be mothers, both concerned that we had waited too long to be able to carry a child in our wombs. She commented that even though she was experiencing some difficulties in the process, she was trying to do all things without complaint (Phil 2:14). Um. Uh. Really????
Shoot. Before I got pregnant, that was my solemn vow. I was going to be the most cheerful pregnant woman you ever met, looking up from the barf bucket with a smile on my face, just so happy to be carrying a child in my womb. I was going to make a joyful noise to the Lord every day, no matter what the day brought, so thankful to finally get to be a mother. But then the terrible, awful sickness began; and with the sickness, my resolve to be cheerful and grateful disappeared.
I became someone entirely other than myself – a whiny, complaining, crying, screaming, lethargic, puddle of tears. I didn’t want to see anyone, talk on the phone, read my Bible, or pray anything other than – “Help! Please heal me God.” When God didn’t answer that prayer, I didn’t want to talk to Him any more either. And the worst of it is that according to C.S. Lewis, I wasn’t actually turning into someone other than myself. Who I was during that time was the truest me that exists – the one that cannot hide behind good manners and social graces, but has been reduced to the rawest form of herself. That was ME, even if it was me on serious pregnancy hormones. Everything else is just a better presentation of ME to the world. Ugh. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of ME.
Thankfully, the constant vomiting is now under control. There are other super-fun symptoms to deal with, but they are nothing compared to that misery. In spite of feeling better, I got into a bad habit of complaining and I allowed it to continue. I was experiencing very little joy in the pregnancy and a lot of fear and self-pity.
When I read my friend’s words, I was immediately convicted. No, I don’t think she’s been through what I went through in those first five months, but the Bible doesn’t offer a side-bar to excuse those of us who experience extra suffering. It just says to do ALL things without grumbling or complaining. That particular Scripture is taken out of context for this point, but the whole of Scripture and the life of Christ point to this example of godliness. We are to look to the cross, remember the pain our Lord suffered for us, and walk as examples of Him in this world. We are to take up our cross and follow Him. Just because I’ve committed my life to Christ, gone to seminary, become an ordained pastor, or made sacrifices to be obedient doesn’t exempt me from the troubles of this world. Genetics are genetics (thanks, Mom). And obviously God has something to teach me through this experience or else He would have healed me. I have faith and believe that with Him all things are possible. I believe that He could utter a single word and I would have no more illness or suffering. I wish He would. But that is not the path He is giving me to walk right now and I have a choice to make. Will I continue to grumble and complain or will I do all things without grumbling or complaining?
I believe there’s a fine line there. God doesn’t ask us to lie and say that everything’s fine when it isn’t. When I was a nanny, I had a rule that I didn’t hear the children when they spoke to me in a whiny tone of voice. They would whine and whine and receive none of my attention. But when they stated the problem in a normal, matter-of-fact tone of voice, I immediately stopped what I was doing and helped them. I didn’t ask the children to ignore a problem, but just to approach it without whining. In the same way, I believe God allows us the freedom to state our difficulties matter-of-factly. In that way, others can pray for us, help us along if needed, and understand why we aren’t full of energy or strength. To do so without grumbling or complaining is the key.
For the last two days I’ve gone over and over what that means for me. I talked to my husband about it. I shared it with my Sunday school class. And now I’m sharing it with you. I want to spend the next eleven weeks or so, depending on when the baby comes, doing my best to refrain from grumbling or complaining. I will answer cheerfully, find the humor in the situation, and thank God every day for the opportunity I’ve been given to be a mother. It will probably be easier now than it was when I couldn’t keep anything down, so I’ll be thankful for that too. And when the baby comes and I’m physically sore and sleep deprived, unsure of myself, afraid that we’ll do something wrong, and emotional, I will focus on the joy of that precious little face. I will sing praise to God for the gift of a child. And I will cling to Him, ask for His strength and wisdom, and beg for His grace to smile through it all.
Those are my plans. If I fail, and I probably will, I will repent and start over. I have been blessed beyond measure and when I keep my eyes on Jesus and ignore the wind and waves, He reaches out His hand to steady me every time. Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You.