When I was a child, I was taught to believe in Jesus. I was taught that God loved me so much that He sent His one and only begotten son to die for my sins that I might be reconciled to Him. I was taught that because I believed in Jesus, when I died I would go to heaven. I can remember vaguely----believing this so strongly that I wondered why anyone would fear death. I can remember not fearing death as a child. Looking back on this time, it's hard for me to say whether I was really a Christian at this time or not........because I don't think I understood fully at this time what Christ had done......or who I really was..... but then----there are times now I wonder whether salvation really is something that happens all at once-----or if it is something that grows gradually over time.... or maybe it is true that salvation is just the beginning----and as one's faith grows---and one's walk with God grows gradually closer---one experiences the salvation that always was---in a new and deeper way. I don't pretend to understand these things....
As I grew older, I started to question things. Verses in the Bible like "I am the potter and you are the clay.....does the clay question the potter as to how it is made..."---disturbed me. I forged friendships with people who were different than me----many people who identified as gay or homosexual----and I loved these friends with my whole heart. Hearing some people (it's important to note that this attitude did not come from the leadership of any particular church, but just from some people who also identified as Christians) within the church laughingly discuss how anyone who was gay/homosexual would end up in hell----hardened my heart towards church....and even towards Christianity. I started to pull back. I remember having a dream where it felt as if I were climbing up a ladder----all night long----climbing strenuously and with much effort---I reached the top and there was God....I asked Him if I could come into heaven----and He said no. I woke up petrified.
Quietly, I walked away from the church during my college years. I still professed Christianity----but I had no relationship with God....I only occasionally prayed or read the Bible or went to church----and then only because I had a deeply rooted fear of hell----I wondered about predestination----and often wondered if I were predestined for hell---because I couldn't uproot the questions from my heart.
I became a music teacher. I fell in love---got married. Stu and I went to church together---a very gentle Lutheran church that had a lot of music and ritual----the rituals were soothing to me. And I began searching for God----I read a lot of books about Christianity---I prayed---asking God to help me come into relationship with Him. I can specifically remember asking God not to give up on me. I journaled about the questions I had......I tried as best I could to deal with them... Time passed. We wanted to have a child......found that we couldn't conceive a biological child. Went to a lot of doctors---had a lot of tests---took different medicines that made me crazy and drained our financial resources. I cried in a lot of closets. And I got angry at God.
At the beginning of one school year---I climbed on top of a chair (which you aren't supposed to do by the way)---to staple music symbols along the strip of cork above my chalkboard. I lost my balance---and fell down. Pain. My friend Karen heard me yell and came to check on me---I remember my ears ringing with the pain....and I felt I couldn't even think over the pain.....I remember Karen driving me around and getting me to the hospital. The first time the Doctor spoke with me, before X-rays and such---I remember him looking at me with a baffled expression on his face (I was crying---because well---pain) "I suppose you aren't familiar with this kind of pain.....never played sports and sprained an ankle or anything?" I didn't answer---felt ashamed. Later, after x rays---I remember the Doctor casually telling me---"Well---it's really bad. You've broken a your tibia and your fibia----and all the tendons around your ankle have been completely torn up too. You're going to need surgery." I could still barely comprehend anything over the pain----I hesitate to say too much about it because I feel certain that there are people who have been through so much worse-----but at the same time, I remember that each minute was an eternity----and that I did not know how to cope with this pain that never lessened. And still in the back of my mind, I was thinking---Great----this'll really help me get pregnant.
They gave me morphine through an IV. I was to spend the night at the hospital and have surgery the next morning. The morphine didn't touch the pain----it was like a raging fire that did not lessen----never diminished---always burned. We questioned the nurse about why the medicine was not helping. She told me coldly, "You're a big girl. All of that weight falling on that little ankle---of course it's going to hurt." Shame. Pain continues. I did not handle it with grace. I screamed and cried---I acted downright ugly. My mom was with me---at one point she wanted to pray for me. At this point, I think I could say that my anger at God had reached its climax----I didn't understand Him----even as I had searched---my questions remained without answers, without relief----I was angry that I couldn't get pregnant like anyone else---I was angry that I was in pain----and I saw this injury as one more hurdle I'd have to jump through in order to have a child---and I was angry about that too. I told my mom---I don't think I can listen to a prayer right now. Maybe before---I had fooled myself into thinking that really---somewhere deep inside myself---I was in good relationship with God----you know---we were working on it------but this time of stress and what could probably be labeled as a moderate amount of adversity if looked at relatively in comparison to what some people go through-----it drew back the curtain----and showed me that I didn't even want to deal with God. The night dragged. I watched the clock----I didn't know time could go so slowly. I constantly seethed with an unruly anger. Wee hours of the morning---mom was sleeping---she never left even though I was foul and must have been just awful to be around. And then without warning---every hair on the back of my neck raised-----there was nothing but the quiet whir of machines...occasional footsteps in the hallway....and the pain that just had a hold of me. And yet suddenly I was just really scared---not of my injury---but of the something *other* that seemed to be in the room. I never heard anything audibly---or saw anything---there was no grand sign or anything like that. But I remember being petrified and knowing that God was there--(I know He's always there, I just think sometimes our awareness is heightened) the conversation that happened after that was no less Real just because it didn't happen out loud----I consider it to be one of the most Real conversations I've ever had. Please keep in mind that I was empty of anything good----filled only with anger for pretty much everyone----including God---who I did believe in---but had been struggling to believe He was Good.....I can't emphasize enough the fact that there was nothing good in me.....nothing. I was incapable of high or noble feelings.......I was empty. And suddenly I'm hearing internally this voice (voice is the wrong word--- but it will suffice) that is both authoritative and compassionate at the same time----telling me---"Stop this. You're going to be ok. You are blessed. Look at your family and how much they love you. I'm here---and I love you. What more could you need?" I can't describe this experience adequately----I can say it was as if someone sat on the bed beside me and held my hand----I can say it was as if someone kindly smoothed my brow....I can say I was both scared to death and simultaneously felt loved completely---from someone who saw me---down to the bottom---all the ugly parts of myself that I try very hard to keep hidden---exposed to this someone----and still...feeling loved beyond measure. I remember crying silent tears---no longer from the pain---which did not stop-----but from this closeness--this intimacy with a Good God----who deigned to draw near to me even as I did nothing but run away from Him. This moment.....this made me realize----of course I'm never going to understand this God----what God draws near to someone who's done nothing but run from Him? What God shows kindness to someone who's done *nothing* to deserve it....His ways are infinitely higher than my own.....and though I believe we are given minds and that we should use them......in the end I don't think every question has to be answered in order to accept the truth that God is Good---and He loves us all the time. Questions are ok----God can handle our questions---that doesn't necessarily mean He will answer them.....and the journey into looking for answers can lead us to places that are far better than the answers themselves....
I had surgery the next morning----I was still in a lot of pain when they took me to prep me for surgery---and I was still crying. The nurse was confused by my tears----"Are you scared of the surgery?"---she asked kindly. "No," I answered honestly. "I'm just in quite a lot of pain." She seemed surprised---checked my IV. "This has infiltrated" she told me matter-of-factly. She put the IV in the other arm and within moments the pain subsided. They put a plate and some screws in my ankle----and I spent the day in the hospital----went home that night.
Pain was a near constant companion for months after this. I had nerve damage---and while the pain meds helped with other kinds of pain----the nerve pain---a creepy crawling fiery kind of feeling---was unfazed by the meds they gave me. I couldn't sleep. I found that doing something with my hands distracted me from the nerve pain----which was worse at night it seemed. I started latch hooking----as I had done when I was a kid.....found that it helped. Then, my good friend Karen who teaches art at my school--- taught me to knit. I struggled as I learned---but found that while I was quietly cursing over my yarn and needles---I didn't focus so much on the pain in my ankle and foot....and after a while I stopped struggling----and began enjoying the simple pleasures to be found in clicking needles, and the transformation of tiny loops on a stick into something sensible---at times beautiful....
The ankle healed---I went back to school after an extended time away.....continued infertility treatments----continued mourning when they didn't work....continued crying in closets----but the sadness was no longer a lonely silence....God drew exceptionally close to me in a time of weakness. I began to learn that Christianity really offered a relationship with God....something both terrifying and unimaginably beautiful.....Sometimes I'd be driving in the car alone----and yet----it was as if Someone was sitting in the seat beside me----laughing with me over absurdities---grieving with me over losses.....comforting me....encouraging me....convicting me..... These times of intimacy with God were not every day occurrences.....but I held each instance closely to my heart----treasured them....it seemed to be such an impossible thing----a completely unwarranted Gift----a Gift whose worth could never be earned....or even understood in completion. What value can you assign to a relationship with a perfectly loving, just, holy, humble---God??? What value can you assign to a friendship with such a perfect God while you are completely aware that you yourself are completely imperfect??? Add on top of that the fact that you know you spent a large portion of your time running away from that perfect God.....only to have Him come steadfastly after you....pursue you...fold you into His arms with a never giving up love.....the love you've always craved....the love you've always tried to earn---the love you knew deep down that you would never be able to earn......offered freely.....offered sacrificially.
When we began to follow the call God quietly whispered into our lives towards adoption----we made a book for prospective birth mothers to look through. After meeting with C---Miriam's biological mother----one of the things C said that drew her to us as prospective adoptive parents for Miriam---was the fact that I knitted---she liked the idea that I would make things for the baby---and she herself enjoyed crochet---and she liked that we had that bridge of commonality between us.....When we finally brought Miriam home---I spent many nights marveling at the fact that in my weakest moments---in the times I had been questioning God the most----even then He'd been weaving together something beautiful out of all the mess. Connecting the dots into a picture that I couldn't have seen at the time....but a picture of a family---that I am so grateful for now.
As I live in my faith----I realize that this is what God has always done. Come down to us---when we could never climb up to Him.....it can never be me climbing the ladder of salvation up to God----it always had to be God coming down to me..this is the God who left heaven----a place I can only imagine but can understand is infinitely better than this world---a place where there are no tears....no sadness...no cruelty...where love is perfect and unblemished and unwavering....God leaves this heaven to come down to us---and to dwell in our world---that is continually breaking under the strain of sin.....The God who created the universe becomes a baby boy, born in a stable. The God who is in all time and in all things.....becomes small---becomes man.....and sacrifices everything for love of us..... for God and sinners reconciled. God dies for all of us---but death cannot hold Him in the grave because He has no sin......And on Easter we celebrate---He is risen. He is risen indeed. Happy Easter.