I go through stages with Caroline's condition. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it, sometimes I can almost ignore that it's there, and sometimes I'm somewhere in between. Through it all, it seems like God meets me where I am and that He teaches me some lesson no matter what I'm feeling. Some I can share via this public domain, and some are a bit more personal. I'm still amazed at God's goodness in gently teaching me these lessons. He's not mean, He doesn't brow beat me or treat me like the idiot I can sometimes be. He'll even patiently re-teach me a lesson I didn't quite grasp the first time...or second...or however many times.
This week has definitely been full of lessons. I'm still trying to process them all. But I am still grateful for them.
This whole situation with Caroline has been humbling beyond words. It hasn't really been an optional thing, either. I have, in a way, had humility forced on me, however lovingly and gently. I could have rebelled, of course, and held on to my pride and arrogance, but it wouldn't have been easy or helpful. And yet, I've done just that in some areas of my life.
When it comes to Caroline, I'm pretty much at the bottom of the food chain, willingly. I know I'm powerless to do anything to change our circumstance. I know she's in God's hands, not my own. I know she was never "mine," but on loan from God. I trust that God will either heal her here on earth and let my loan last a little longer, or He will let her be whole and perfect in Heaven and heal me here on earth from the pain of her loss. It doesn't mean that my life is easy or that I don't struggle to have these mindsets, but for the most part, this is how I think of Caroline. I can't worry about tomorrow, because today is hard enough. I take it one day at a time. I don't really struggle as much to be humble in our situation with Caroline because I just can't...do anything. I have to rely on God. I have to focus on Him and His plan, or else I will go crazy with worry and doubt and fear. It's easy when you're at the end of yourself to give God the glory He deserves, to rely on Him for everything, to give yourself up completely to Him and His will.
It's not so easy when you still feel like "I've got this." When things are still "under control" and you aren't laid out flat by tragedy. When you feel like maybe, just maybe, you don't really need to bother God with this, because you can handle it.
Big. Fat. No.
This is a painful lesson I've had to learn this week. I am a very proud person by nature. I can be extremely selfish when push comes to shove. And although I love God and have learned so much about trusting Him these last couple months because of Caroline, there are still areas of my life where I have maintained control and told God to shove it. Ok, so maybe I haven't been so crude as that, but in a sneaky way I've maintained my grasp on things that I should have given to God long ago.
I haven't trusted Him in some of my other relationships. I haven't trusted him with some of my physical, tangible needs. I haven't trusted Him to take care of certain other things for me. I still struggle to trust Him in many other parts of my life. I like control. I like to be in charge.
I've allowed bitterness to seep in to certain areas of my life. I've allowed myself to justify sinful behavior because it's not as bad as it could be, or used to be, or in comparison to some other people I know. I've made lots of excuses, including my favorite, "It's just how I am."
After all I've been learning in our situation with Caroline, how could so many obvious blemishes on my character slip through? Easy...I'm human. And I have some very bad habits. I need to break them. I've told God this, and asked Him to help me. I can already see the fruit of those prayers, and I know for a fact it ain't my doing. It's amazing to see God work so quickly for those who are open and willing to kill off the old so new can come in. I don't feel guilty. I don't feel like the scum of the earth. I feel like God has gently tried to pry something dangerous out of my hands. I feel like He's trying to show me something better because He loves me. He knows that I will benefit from increased intimacy with Him.
I don't know what you're spiritual beliefs are as you read this blog. I know a lot of my friends and family read this blog to keep up with what's going on for Cameron and I as we walk this path, but I am also acutely aware that I have strangers, friends of friends, old friends I've lost touch with, and people with the same diagnosis of anencephaly looking for hope, all reading my blog as well. Many of my friends and family share my beliefs, at least the basic foundational core of Christianity. Some of you may not. For those of you who don't share my beliefs, my blog might be confusing, or frustrating, or obnoxious. It doesn't bother me to know that some people may not like reading my blog because of the overt Christian spiritual tone. I am who I am, and I'm confident in what I believe. I will say that if you read this blog and ever have questions about what I say, I have a contact tab on this blog so you can email me. I would love to hear from you. I don't think I'm better than anyone. I think Jesus is better than everyone, and loves more fully than anyone here on earth can. I love to share that.
I say all of that to preface this statement. I've been a believer for a long time, and I'm still learning how to die to myself so Christ can live in me. In some ways, I have grown callused to God's expectations of me. I've been "good enough," but haven't sought out what God truly has for me, in ALL areas of my life. God wants the best for me. I just want "good enough."
It may sound crazy for me to say that while I'm carrying a child with a fatal diagnosis. How can God's best for me possibly include such a great loss? Such great pain? I've asked that same question of God. In my prayers, I am often not very eloquent. A lot of times, I'm crying, and what I say to God really isn't all that decipherable to human ears. It's a good thing I have the Holy Spirit there to help me out, let God know what's up. And the fact that God knows everything I'm going to say before I ever utter an unintelligible word doesn't hurt either. Sometimes my prayers literally consist of me repeating over and over again, "Lord, I want to keep my baby. Please let me keep her. You know I want her, so please don't make me give her up yet." After several minutes of shameless begging, I force myself to say, "Not my will but yours be done." I want God to know that even though the deepest desire of my heart is that Caroline would be healed, and that I could keep her, I recognize that He's in charge, He'll make the decision, and I will accept it as best I can because He knows what's best. I've also confessed to Him that I'll need a lot of help if He chooses not to heal her. He knows me. He's got my back, even though I'm not perfect.
In the midst of those prayers, it's hard to think that His best for me could involve losing Caroline. But my ways are not His. He is not limited in His scope of vision like I am. He's not limited by time like I am. He doesn't have to wonder at the end result like I do. And He's way smarter than I am.
I don't know why He would allow this to happen. I don't know why He wouldn't heal her. I don't know why I'm in this position. I never wanted it. I didn't ask for it. But I do know that good is coming from it already, and I know it will continue to. If I wasn't going through this, I might still be a pleasantly complacent Christian, walking through life settling for "good enough" when God has "best" in mind.
This week has been full of reassuring peace. God has been close to me, walking with me through the hardest time of my life. There have still been moments of pain, moments of doubt, moments of fear, moments of frustration. I have still rebelled against some of what God is asking me to do. I don't like putting to death my natural inclinations so that I can grow more fully into a right-living follower of the one and only true eternal Savior. It's hard, it hurts sometimes, and I don't like admitting I'm wrong and need to be changed.
At least God is not deluded. He already knows the worst of me, just as He knows the best. He doesn't hold it against me, because Christ took the penalty. He only wants me to draw closer to Him, and He'll help me strip away the calluses one by one. And, friends, He is. This week, I think He stripped off more than one, but I'm glad my eyes are opened, the scales removed from them. I'm learning to more fully trust Him, love Him, and rely on Him. He's reassuring me that I am better off following Him down a hard path than following my own desires. He's showing me that my ways lead to death, and His to life.
I want life. I want the best. I don't want to settle anymore for "good enough." Will you join me?