3.16.2010

A Beautiful Mess

Sitting at the kitchen table, I hid behind the Rice Chex box so my 13-month-old son would not see the tears streaming down my face. Occasionally, I would poke my head around, singing "Peek a boo!" while he munched away at his cereal on his high chair tray. But the tears welled up too quickly, the sobs became more audible, and the grief within me became so physically crushing that I had to run to the hall bathroom to avoid startling my child.

That was March 18th, 2009. A year ago today (the 16th), I miscarried our twins at 8 weeks. On one hand, I wasn't shell-shocked because it was our fourth miscarriage. I knew all along it was a possibility. On the other hand, I was absolutely devastated. I had wanted twins since I was a child, and being that my husband is a twin, we were both pretty excited. What made our loss so difficult was coming to grips with the unlikelihood of us ever conceiving twins again.

Over the next few months, I prayed. I poured over Scripture. I read and reread emails, cards, and notes from family, friends, and even strangers. But I often pushed back the tears. In fact, after March 18th, I didn't cry much at all. And I thought I was coping. I thought I was allowing God to heal my heart and my womb. I acted strong. Because after all, that's what Christian women do. We have hope. We have redemption. We have a Counselor. We have a Healer. But do you know what I didn't have? Conviction.

In July, I decided I wanted to talk with a Christian counselor. Even though I wasn't preoccupied with our loss, I somehow felt like I hadn't grieved well. The wound still felt fresh. Julie carefully and lovingly revealed my altered view of God. I had good theology, but I didn't believe it. Somewhere along the line, viewing the difficulties I had experienced through my self-created filter, I had changed my beliefs about God.
If God really loved me, He would have performed a miracle and saved the babies. If God was really good, He wouldn't allow me to be faced daily with my shattered dream when a close friend conceived twins. If God was really sovereign, ...
At first, I felt defensive. Of course I believe God is good! I certainly believe God loves me. I never doubt his plans for me. But as I prayed and allowed the Holy Spirit to stir in me, I realized Julie was correct. I asked for eyes to see beyond the grid I had placed before me. And the Lord and I began a months-long journey of rediscovering His unfailing love. For me.

Looking back, the false beliefs just crept in, and I didn't even realize it. But I'll tell you how.

I didn't want to appear as a mess before the the Lord. Much less other people. Especially Christians. I didn't want to acknowledge that I had questions. I believed in His faithfulness and unfailing love because I knew with my head that His word is true. But the belief never traveled to my heart. I didn't engage God. I never asked Him to show me and teach me and work out His truths in my innermost being. Having been a Christian for over 13 years, I thought it would appear weak to wrestle with God. And so I pushed forward with His words on my lips but a soul hurting and unsatisfied.

A local teacher and national author, Fran Sciacca, calls this paradox "godless godliness" and defines it as the appearance of godliness without its power. According to Fran, godless godliness most often rears its ugly head when we're faced with obstacles in life. My experience - case in point.

Here's a more day-to-day illustration of how godless godliness can play out. One of the most agreed upon challenges among stay-at-home moms is achieving a balance of spending time with the kids while also keeping a clean house. On the days when my house is swiffed, organized, and crumb-free, I feel good about myself. But my son receives less of my attention and time. My house looks good. But my relationship with my child has not grown.

We can function similarly in our relationship with the Lord. We can read our Bibles, attend church or bible study, and quote Scripture in conversation, emails, or blog posts. From an outside view, our walks with Christ might look pretty darn good. Like we have it all together. But if we spend too much time on the framework of faith without putting our heart into it, we can go through a whole day "looking good" but completely missing intimacy with God. We pretend all is well but miss out on walking in His power, strength, and joy.

And can I be frank? I believe our Christian culture has put this pressure on us. We only share our struggles when they're in the past. When we can say we've already dealt with them and we're back in a good place. We shrink back in horror when someone confesses a current doubt or shares an ongoing weakness. As I've written before, authentic Christianity isn't covering up our wounds with proverbial band-aids but rather allowing a hurting and unbelieving world to witness the rawness of our pain and the restorative power of a compassionate, loving God. Yes, it's uncomfortable to see someone struggle. But instead of simply feeding them Scripture (which is still helpful and appropriate at the right time), we should encourage one another to take our issues to the Lord and dialogue with Him. Engage Him. There is freedom to wrestle. There is hope that grows from presenting your concerns to God. There is healing in laying your heart bare before the Lord. He sees it all anyway. There is beauty in the mess of digging deep to know the God you love. You don't have to have all the answers. And it's okay to admit you're struggling. Faith is messy.

Jacob wrestled. David questioned. Martha had her priorities wrong. The disciples didn't get it. Even Jesus asked for a reprieve.

Our relationships with the Lord aren't always spotless and perfect. The danger in simply pressing on during trials without engaging the Lord is that unbelief sneaks in. Lies can take root. And the changes are so subtle that you may not even be conscious of them. Take comfort in the fact that you can be totally known, understood, and loved by the Creator of the universe. And He delights so much more in your efforts to hash it out with Him and reach a new level of intimacy than He does in your ability to maintain godly living without His presence and power in your life.

I have been burdened for months to share what I have learned because I don't want others to make the same mistake. Don't convince yourself that going through the motions is the same as being a strong Christian woman. Tackle those fears and doubts head on and allow convictions to take hold. If you feel like your faith is messy, remember that in God's eyes, it's a beautiful mess.

As I stared at our ultrasound pictures earlier, I smiled. Only because I finally fought with the Lord and worked out my unbeliefs do I once again BELIEVE that He is faithful and loving. He has carried me and Scott through the pain and loss, and my renewed convictions have cultivated gratitude and joy in my heart. I finally sorrowed well, with the grace and guidance of an amazing Father. And because of that, I can look back on my pain and feel blessed for it. Sweet friends, embrace faith's messes and know they're worth it.

10 comments:

elizabeth said...

I appreciate your transparency Kelley. I wish each of us could practice such vulnerability among believers. Why do we pretend?? I really was encouraged by your post. God is good, all the time!

Mama Matteo said...

not only was that beautifully written but oh so much more importantly it showed off the beauty of God in your heart. thank you for walking through the trials faithfully and sharing your lessons with us all. we all need to be reminded and encouraged to truly lean on God and not just appear to lean on Him. i have encouraged a friend before who was going through a "minor" trial to make sure she learned something from the trial so it wouldnt be wasted. well i defintinely think you have come through and are going through this trial wiser and i appreciate you sharing your wisdom.

Amber said...

This is was beautiful and so encouraging! Thank you for being so real and vulnerable. This was a great way to start my morning! God Bless!

Amy said...

Yes....we must not pretend to be okay. The truth is, none of us are okay. We are all struggling with sin...pride, unbelief, self-pity, etc. Unless we are honest about our sin and our hardships, we will miss out on the blessings that come with suffering. We will also be false witnesses for Christ. As believers, we are called to suffer and count everything as loss except for Christ. It's only through suffering that we learn what it means to truly need only Him.

Susan said...

Such a beautiful post! Been thinking about you this week! love you!

Fittsy said...

Thanks for writing this. It's beautifully well said, and I'm tearful reading it.

Praying for you and sweet Grace.

Rebekah

Jess said...

Kelley! You must write a book! You have no idea how much people can learn from your experiences and glean knowledge from what you have learned! You really should think about writing a Christian book on your journey over the past few years. You have been through a lot and are coming out on the backside having learned so much and still being faithful! It is inspiring and we could learn so much more from you - not only mothers and hopeful mothers but all the way to single girls yearning for the next step in their lives. Think about it...

Ericka B. Jackson said...

I agree with what EVERYone has said - thank you for not pretending! I wish more Christians were honest and vulnerable. I believe that's how the devil keeps us from impacting others, he says 'keep it in, pretend you're ok, don't let them see you don't have it all together!' The truth is though, our vulnerability 'sets the captives free' - other people learn from what we're going through and are comforted by knowing they aren't alone!

Beautifully done! Love you!

Ericka B. Jackson said...

ps - have you ever heard of Angie Smith? Her blog is INCREDIBLE. I just sent it to a family member who went through a miscarriage a few years ago. I'm sure it's something you never really get over and it helps to have 'community' who understands (even if it's online!)

http://audreycaroline.blogspot.com/

Her husband is a singer for Selah - they have 3 little girls and a 5th on the way. When they were pregnant with their 4th daughter, they found out she had serious complications and wouldn't live. She carried her to term anyway and they had 2 precious hours with her.

The blog is her 'journal' of it all. She also wrote a book:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com//search.barnesandnoble.com/I-Will-Carry-You/Angie-Smith/e/9780805464283/?itm=2&USRI=I+Will+Carry+You

And a BEAUTIFUL song! You have to give it a listen:

http://audreycaroline.blogspot.com/2008/04/slideshow.html

Ericka B. Jackson said...

In case that link doesn't work - here are the words to that song:


I Will Carry You

There were photographs I wanted to take
Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes
Who could love you like this?

People say that I am brave but I'm not
Truth is I'm barely hanging on
But there's a greater story
Written long before me
Because He loves you like this

So I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All my life
And I will praise the One Who's chosen me
To carry you

Such a short time
Such a long road
All this madness
But I know
That the silence
Has brought me to His voice
And He says...

I've shown her photographs of time beginning
Walked her through the parted seas
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes
Who could love her like this?

I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All your life
And I will praise the One Who's chosen Me
To carry you