(I’m honored to share this beautiful guest post from my dear friend, Mandi Richards. -Haley)
I thought I woke up every morning willing to do God’s will. I made choices that others questioned (like marrying young and starting our family early – both without much money in the bank, giving up grad school for life as a stay-at-home mom) but I did so willingly and with great joy because I believed they were God’s will for my life.
But not really. You see, they were also my will for my life. My plans. My desires. They just so happened to line up with God’s will for me. I completely ignored (or perhaps, more aptly, was blind to) the fact that these things were easy for me to do because I wanted them as well. Sure, they didn’t line up with society’s expectations so I did get some flak for them, but they lined up with my expectations. I always wanted to be a wife and mother, a stay-at-home mom in specific, so even though these choices were questioned by some, they were the fulfillment of my childhood dreams. They made me happy.
But what happens when God’s will doesn’t match my own? What happens when the path God lays before me brings sorrow and suffering instead of happiness? Am I still willing to follow Him then?
There is a distinct difference between following God when it leads somewhere I want to go, and following God when it leads somewhere I don’t.
I’m not saying that my plans and desires for my life are sinful. They may be very good and holy plans. But even so, they may not be what God asks me to do. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why He doesn’t want something for me, or why He allows suffering to happen. Just as a child doesn’t understand why a parent will not allow her to do something or requires her to do something she wishes not to do. Reflecting on my childhood, I now see the reasons behind my parents’ decisions, decisions that often seemed cruel at the time but which were in fact born out of love. So too is it with God. Sometimes I understand in hindsight, I get a glimpse of His glorious plan. Just as often, I will have to wait until this life is over to understand why. This life is like childhood; it is best that I listen and follow my Heavenly Father because my own abilities are limited.
When I miscarried, I suddenly was confronted with these truths: that no matter how good my desires are, even if they seem perfectly in line with the teachings of the faith, sometimes they just don’t come to fruition. Men and women suffering infertility or single people longing for a spouse know this even better than I. I don’t believe that God caused my miscarriage. We are bound by the laws of nature, and miscarriage is common – an all too common natural occurrence. God is not bound by nature (He set it in motion, but certainly can triumph over it; these triumphs we call miracles); He could have stopped my miscarriage. But He didn’t. It’s common to ask why after a miscarriage (or so say the resources I’ve read). It’s also common to be angry with God. I neither questioned nor felt anger. But my whole understanding of my faith and my life and my will and His completely shifted.
And for that, I am thankful. There, I said it: it’s the single most sorrowful event of my life and yet I am thankful. Do I still wish with all my soul that it would have never happened? Absolutely. I would be 15 weeks tomorrow. I think about it every day. If I were still pregnant, I would rely on those emails that compare babies to fruit in order to know how far along I was, but now, I don’t need any reminders of how old my child would be, how long it has been since I lost him/her. Not only do I remember, I can’t forget. Come May, I’ll be wishing with all my heart and soul that I had my baby in my arms. I know my child is in heaven, and for that, I am truly thankful and overjoyed. And sad, too, but I’m starting to learn that a conflict of emotions is normal and sustainable. While we rejoice in the life after death, death itself is still something to be mourned. It’s not the way it was meant to be. Death is the result of the fall of man and sin and not part of the design of God for our lives. Even Christ wept at the news of death, though He understood, with the complete understanding that only He Who is God has, that what follows death is greater than life.
God asks us to be open to life, to be willing to accept the children who come into our lives. I wrongly assumed that this was a stamp of approval on the large family we had planned. That large family may be in our future still, but I no longer make assumptions. Because for the first time, I’ve stopped thinking that I know what God has planned for me. And I’ve stopped making plans for myself. And for the first time, I feel much more receptive to God’s will; when I stop telling Him of my plans, I leave room to be able to hear His.
When people ask me how many children we plan to have, I say, “However many God blesses us with.”
And now, I actually mean it.
Mandi is wife to David, mother of Lucia (and a sweet one in heaven), and a blogger. She loves her Catholic faith, a cheap bottle of red wine, a good book, and jalapeños on her popcorn. She has a newfound passion for talking about pregnancy loss so that no women feel alone after losing a baby.