If someone managed to do an X-ray of the soul, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that our places of deepest joy are located right beside our places of deepest sorrow. I’ve spent the larger part of a lifetime assuming life should come one emotion at a time. A season of joy, then a season of pain. Heartache followed by a dream-come-true. All compartmentalized into neat categories.
But as it turns out, life rarely unfolds that way. The good and the bad often fly at us scattershot: joy and pain in simultaneous explosions. The happiness is so woven in with the tears that we can’t separate them out without losing both.
There’s an old song I love by Rich Mullins called “We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are”:
With these our hells and our heavens So few inches apart We must be awfully small And not as strong as we think we are
Isn’t that about right? Our hells and our heavens, mere inches away from the other.
And that’s where Daniel and I find ourselves right now—smack dab in the middle of both. Great joy intertwined with deep sorrow.
Twenty weeks ago, God fulfilled a dream I’ve held on to for years—one of the most tender desires of my heart. My body wasn’t cooperating, my biological clock was working against me, and the doctors said it was impossible. But one brisk morning in January, to our speechless delight, Daniel and I found out there was new life growing inside me.
This is our miracle, our answer to prayer, our little piece of heaven on earth.
But just inches away—and weeks away—we bumped into one of our deepest fears.
We went into the ultrasound rather giddy about meeting this baby of ours, naïvely thinking the biggest question would be whether to find out the gender. After much contemplation, we decided to be surprised.
We were surprised. But the gender was the least of it.
After the ultrasound was over, the doctor came in and did a second one. That’s when I felt the first niggling of trepidation. Wouldn’t a doctor be too busy to repeat what the tech just did? But I was on such a high after seeing the baby’s button nose and tiny fingers that I was caught off guard when the doctor called us into her office.
“We suspect a genetic abnormality,” she said matter-of-factly, as if she were mentioning it might rain later.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
I’ve heard Psalm 139 countless times, but honestly, I’ve always skipped over the “fearfully” part and moved right on to “wonderfully.” The images we saw in the ultrasound served as incontrovertible evidence of the wonderful part. Before our baby weighed a full ounce, the kidneys and liver were formed. Before this child was the size of an avocado, the heart was thrumming away at 150 beats a minute. Wonderfully made indeed.
But in that doctor’s white-walled office, fearfully took on ferocious new meaning. I am carrying a wonder inside me, yes. But inseparable from that wonder is fear. Fear about what could happen if something is amiss with just one of the 46 chromosomes. Fear about the ramifications if this baby enters the world too soon. Fear about how fragile life is for all of us, but especially for someone who is currently only about one pound.
This baby is, even now, being masterfully and tenderly knit together by the Creator himself. In the meantime, I need to know: How can I hold on to both the fear and the wonder? I don’t want to revel in the wonder alone and deny the legitimate fear. And I don’t want to let the fear eclipse the wonder altogether. So somehow I need to find a way to embrace both at once.
It’s a risk, this business of loving someone. But isn’t that part of what it means to be made in the image of the Creator who knit us together? He knows full well our frailties and weaknesses and humanness. And yet he loves his children with abandon. To love is to risk being hurt. But it’s worth the risk.
As we wait in the unknown these next four months, I wouldn’t choose any other way than the bumpy road of love. Even if it means that our hells and our heavens, our fears and our wonders, are separated by mere inches.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.
C. S. Lewis