I’ll be 40 when this August comes around. On that same day our oldest son will turn 16. Just a week later our daughter will turn 7. And a month before our baby is due to arrive, our middle son will turn 11.
It has been years since I changed a diaper, bought a sippy cup or had to plan my day around nap times. It is an understatement to write that I’m relieved those days are over. I never was the girl who was eager for all those things. Pregnancy, nursing, babies, toddlers, preschoolers — it’s all adorable. But, let’s be honest: those years are absolutely all consuming and exhausting. Been there. Done that. Came out alive. Whew.
So, when my husband and I learned that we are expecting a baby, I did what most women probably do at this stage of life: I cried. All the images of the above came back to me like I was being sucked in by a giant time-machine vacuum to the land of “do-over”. My husband stared at the ceiling and let out big sighs. Of course one knows how these things happen, but really, how did this happen? The odds against this had been way too high.
I proceeded to wake up in cold sweats the next several weeks and vomit by day.
Initially, God and I were not on very good speaking terms. The conversations were usually one-way and accusatory.
“You never let me know about this — zero preparation!” “Do you realize we’ll be almost 60 when this child graduates from high school?“, “Did you forget we live in a foreign country now and everything will be so much more complicated? — how much more do you think I can take?” “We don’t have any room in our budget for diapers, wipes, or another round of education!” and “We don’t have the energy for this anymore! Hasn’t my body been through enough?!“and “What will the kids think!”
According to the World Health Organization, every year there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. Research is showing that for the first time older women are having more abortions than under-18’s!
For the very first time, if just for a moment– apart from the heart of God–, I could understand that last, horrific statistic.
We live in an uncontrollable world and as humans, we exert a tremendous amount of energy trying to control it. Like a stun gun to my heart, this unexpected pregnancy stopped me in my path and begged the question: how will I respond when God does the unexpected?
Because he does the unexpected over and over. He doesn’t just allow it; he performs it.
If God were a storyteller (and actually, he’s the greatest), he employs the utterly unexpected — at the very last moment — as his favorite literary vice to bring the plot to unforgettable climax. The breathtaking ramifications shine the spotlight not on the players, but the author. Just think about these examples that no one saw coming:
- God floods the earth as a means of mercy.
- God interjects himself into human history through a child-less man named Abraham and promises to bless him with limitless descendants. He then waits till his wife is 90 and then brings pregnancy.
- God picks a murdering, stuttering shepherd to lead his people out of the 400 years of slavery of Egypt.
- The Jewish people expect God to send a mighty King to rise from among them and set them free from Roman rule. God sends a baby who dies as a criminal with no regard to bringing political and economic deliverance to the Jews but, to the whole world for all time.
The list could go on and cover nearly every recorded incident in the bible. God is always up to the unexpected and the often, unexplained. Those who could flow with this went the way of God and those who could not, were left in his wake because he was not and is not about to stop.
The message is clear: We either are willing to be undone and go the unpredictable way of the flowing Spirit or we stay living small, controlled and boxy lives.
When I came to this realization, the shock of this pregnancy did not dissipate but the miracle of it, the sheer awe, became greater. I long for the way of the Spirit; I don’t ever want to pull back from the flow. So, I began to lay my hands on my belly and speak words of welcome, acceptance and love over this new life. I broke the word curses I had lamented out-loud, for even in the womb the tone is set for a life of blessed acceptance or shameful rejection.
It became clear: there two paths are set before me. One, was the way of death. It is dark, despairing, grumble-ridden and heavy with feelings of being overwhelmed. A bitter, tight, ugly and tired woman will emerge from that path. The other is the way of life. It is full of light. The woman who emerges from this path laughs at the years to come without fear. She walks with a sense of dignity, beauty and grace. I want this path; I want to become this fearless woman.
When we began to let the news leak out, the transparency of those who walk in the Way of the Unexpected God and those who tend to walk in the Way of the Controlled Life become more evident, through the responses.
I have needed the comments of “This is going to be awesome” and “God is so amazing” and “He never places an order and then does not take care of the bill” and “Don’t you love it when God does stuff like this!”. Yes, the empathy for my fragile heart and tired body has also been essential from my dearest friends, but not the looks of pity or the sense that this will take us backwards or simply be too much.
We tell God, we sing to him our songs of surrender. We exclaim His wisdom and power. We teach our children that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Yet, we too often forget that we love and serve with a God who creates a beating heart in a secret place, who brings his Spirit in flames of fire on his followers so they speak in strange tongues, who loves to sit among the harlots, who might put an evil person in a place of authority so he can pull out his glory in the last unexpected moment, who says the last will be first and the first will be last. We have a God who does not make sense, yet at the same time is the father of truth and logic! Can we handle this untamable God?
Forgive me my Papa God, for withdrawing my trust when you do the unexpected. Forgive me for acting as though I am the Sovereign. Forgive me, my Mighty King for living as though you are not my ruling authority. Forgive me, Holy Spirit for not willingly giving my body up again as an intrument of righteousness. Forgive me, my Savior for forgetting that your grace is not too small, your tenderness not too lean and your provisions ever endless. Forgive me, oh Artist and Author of life, for looking at your creation with the small eyes of the world and not the large eyes of eternity. I repent. Increase my strength to be faithful!
Last week we had an in-depth ultrasound performed (due to my age, of course…) to check the health of our baby. On a large screen, we saw human life the size of a peach. The oversized head held the developing brain. The heart beat out with triumph from the tiny chest. The spine curved and supported the body with exactness. The tiny legs and feet kicked and floated through the precisely measured amniotic fluid. The arms, spindly and free, waved about and for a few moments raised their hands and then let just one hand stay up in greeting and in praise. Five tiny fingers flexed to show off their perfection. It was love at first sight.
My husband and I looked at each other, sheepishly. The God of the Unexpected had been silently weaving a new life together which he had imagined before he spoke the world into existence. He had been busy at work, ignoring completely our shock and not slowing his pace in spite of our objections.
I came home, looked intently at this photo of our son and in the aloneness of our room responded in the only way I now could: I bowed down before our Holy, Holy, Holy God.