My wife and I have been married for over nine years. In fact, this summer we’ll make it ten. Looking back, I thought our lives would follow the pattern I had seen play out in the lives of so many others. You get married. You wait a few years. Then you begin a family. You take it for granted. That’s just how things go, right? There’s not a category in your mind that the plan might not unfold for you like it has for others. And then the few years pass, and it’s time to begin the next stage. So you do. And you wait. The months pass. You wait some more. Well, maybe this month! No, not this month either. Hmm. Then the announcements begin. You rejoice with your friends that they’re moving right along, right on track, right on schedule. They have baby number one. You wonder. They have baby number two. You weep. And something from somewhere in the deepest part of your being cries out, “Why?”
Did we do something wrong? Is this punishment? Is this just temporary or is it forever?
And as much as it hurts to admit, the fact that you come from a Christian culture that cherishes the birth of each child doesn’t help. Some push the limits. You witness the fact the worship of children is as evil as the worship of Molech. Then you move overseas to a culture in which your children are one of your family’s greatest sources of pride and in which to not have children is as unthinkable as not liking sheep meat, and that doesn’t help either. You wonder and weep some more. You again ask, “Why?” And heaven is silent.
The advice pours in. “It will happen. Don’t you worry.” “Everything is in God’s control.” “God will give you children. Just wait.” Then the taxi drivers feel the need to share their two cents. What I need to do is get another wife. Apparently if Laura slides down a rock on a holy mountain in a city to the south, she’ll get pregnant right away. I get tips and tricks from strangers who feel the need to impart to me all their reproductive wisdom.
More wondering. More weeping. But you can’t escape. Facebook posts keep getting posted. Your friend’s kid starts kindergarten. What was the name of that other friend’s third child? God’s command to fill the earth with his image bearers keeps being carried out. And all of it in living color, most of the time with beautiful filters, right before your very eyes.
“Someday when you have kids you’ll understand,” a group of parents tells you, laughing. “You’re so lucky to not have kids.” “Being a parent is the most sacred responsibility in the world.”
And even though you try not to hear the condescension, you do. And even though you wish you could ignore the tinge of superiority, you can’t. And even though you don’t want their pity, it comes. But what do you do? Curse them for enjoying God’s abundant blessings?
Whether real or imagined or a combination of the two, the judgments come. You can see it—at least you can imagine it—in their eyes. “Living the good life, huh?” “Not ready for the responsibility?” “Must be nice.”
They probably think we’re just living it up. They probably think we’re selfish. They probably think we’ve chosen dogs over children. If only we could show them our tear-stained pillows.
Time grinds by. You figure you’ll just have to live with the dull pain floating there in the background—this unanswered question, this elephant in the room, this burden, this reproach. This is your life. You probably would have made a bad father anyway. You don’t think you could carry the weight of messing up a child as badly as you’re sure you would mess one up if you had one. Or perhaps you’re being spared some tragedy. Maybe you’re supposed to adopt. But how do you know?
So you try to settle. Your life simply won’t include toy trains and tea parties, tiaras and T-ball. No little tears to wipe. No scuffed knees to bandage. You won’t get to teach your son to drive a stick shift. You won’t get to tell your daughter she looks beautiful regardless of what any boy thinks. You won’t ever send him off to college or walk her down the aisle.
You’ve suffered no loss. Except for the loss of all the could have been’s.
So where do you land? The beauty of a life isn’t fully perceived until its end. The last page puts it all in perspective. That’s when the nagging questions you’ve pondered for the last 30 chapters finally become clear. We’ve not reached that page yet. We’re still trudging through the thick of it. We’re still trying to see if all our theology is strong enough to hold us up even here and even now. Ultimately we think it is. We admit sometimes we still wonder.
Of course, you have your moments—those days you wake up and realize that God, in his infinite grace, has caused the sun to rise yet one more time. Another chance. And for no other reason than he is just that good. When everything—every moment, every breath, every heartbeat—is received as pure and undeserved grace, the sky changes color. The gray clouds don’t seem so dark. Blue peaks through. The sun remains king of the sky.
You dare lift your head again. You dare ask the biggest, hardest questions again.
And again, he’s silent.
But then something unexpected happens. From the silence he whispers to you.
“What?” you cry, straining to hear.
“There is another, a great high priest, one who is not unable to sympathize with your weakness, your reproach, your broken heart.”
And then you look up and see him there, the suffering servant, the one who will not bruise a broken reed or quench a smoldering wick, the one who came from on high and walked among us. You catch his eye, and you know he knows. He knows this heartache and every heartache, and though the promise of complete healing remains yet future, you reach up, and he reaches down, and you realize he’s worth trusting. With all your unanswered questions. With all your unmet expectations. With your very life.
And all he asks is that you cling to him. Children or not. Fulfilled dreams or not. Understanding or not. And so you take the leap.
We’re still waiting to land in his arms, but we’ve chosen to trust him as we fall.