Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mothering and Faith

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
Elizabeth Stone

Ethan was a "surprise" baby.  A very welcome surprise, not at all outside of what we had planned would "eventually" happen, and certainly the best gift we've ever received, but a surprise nonetheless.  Given that, I am happy to thankfully report that due to some combination of God's grace, what I'm sure is pure dumb luck (our kid is pretty easy to get along with), and our very best efforts as newbie parents, we've gotten into the groove of raising this little tyke pretty well and are all getting along quite swimmingly.  We've made it through 8 months without any major meltdowns or blow-ups, and Clay and I are constantly remarking to one another how it feels like he's been here all along.  Now I am definitely not trying to brag, and I'm certainly not counting my chickens before they hatch- I realize that it is the height of hubris to pat yourself on the back before a child is fully mobile or verbal!  I just mean to say that it just feels completely natural to be Ethan's momma, to be this little family of three, and I absolutely love that.  However, it goes without saying that even on it's best day, motherhood throws some curve balls at a girl, some more expected than others; in my case, the biggest one has been that motherhood has actually rocked my faith a little bit. I don't even know if I can explain this accurately...

I recently read something in Parents magazine that REALLY resonated with me.  I remember feeling relieved to read on paper that someone else knew exactly what I had been secretly wrestling with for months.  Here it is: "Worry is part of the dark underbelly of parenthood, the flip side of joy, pride, and fulfillment. The part they never really warn you about — that you’ll discover a fate worse than your own death. Worrying is right up there with providing food and buying cute dinosaur pajamas.”

I mean, wow.  Even now, I can't read that line without emphatically nodding my head!  Before having Ethan, painful contractions, sleepless nights, and horrendous diapers, all not-so-fun aspects of parenting, were frequent topics of conversation at baby showers and girly lunch get-togethers, and yet NO ONE EVER TOLD ME ABOUT THIS!  Don't get me wrong- I don't live in fear and worry. It is not my dwelling place.  But before having Ethan, I never went there.  I just wasn't a worrier.  Part of that might be because I have been extraordinarily blessed to have lived, thus far, a tragedy-free life.  But I think a greater part of it is that I have not, until now, really had anything in my life that I would ever even think to worry about.  And now, there's this little person that literally came from me, through me, who will be walking around in the world without me (a.k.a. outside of the realm of my control) for a large portion of his life.  Heck, even when he's with me, he isn't bullet-proof!  Children die every single day and Ethan could be one of them.  My son could be badly hurt.  He could lose his life.  I might not get to see him grow up, and there's nothing I can do about it.  When I stop to really think about that, it scares the bejeezus out of me!  It fills me with a paralyzing, nauseating feeling unlike anything I have ever experienced.  Now, news stories about complete strangers losing their children bring me to tears, because I can't stop thinking, "That could happen to me."

Now.  Let me pause to say I already know the way I should feel, the Christian way I should look at this.  That Ethan is not now, and never was "mine" to begin with- he belongs to God.  And who am I to not have to suffer when my God Himself lost his one and only son, not to mention the countless Christians around the world who suffer and lose loved ones every day?  What makes me think that I should be so special?  I know that faith involves trusting God even when, especially when, your world is rocked.  And yes, there are just as many days that having a child reaffirms my faith in God in a HUGE way, and opens my eyes to a completely new perspective of my walk with Him. In a lot of ways, being a mother has drawn me closer to God than ever before.  And I say all that to say, even though I know all that, I still feel like if anything ever happened to Ethan, I would be mad, really MAD, at God.

That sentence was really hard for me to write- it has taken me a while to admit that I feel that way even to myself, much less to God (which is laughable, the idea of hiding my heart from someone who lives there)!  For a born and raised Church of Christ girl, it seems, well, unseemly, to openly acknowledge that I might feel anything other than the traditionally appropriate emotions toward God: gratitude, love, humility, etc.  And I do feel all of those things! Every day, I look at my precious little boy and think, "Thank you, God, for blessing me with this child."  I am constantly overwhelmed by the fact that God has entrusted me with the heart of one of His own, and know that I depend wholly on His grace and guidance to get the job done at all!  But all of that still doesn't stop me from feeling those other, darker emotions, too.

So.  Where does that leave me?  I don't exactly know.  But I do take comfort in the fact that I am not, after all, alone in feeling that way.  Plenty of Biblical heroes struggled with trusting God too, so at least I am in good company.  For now, I've decided to just be honest- to share those feelings with God (and others) rather than trying to hide them in an effort to make them go away.  And this blog is the first step.