The deeper I have gone into this journey of loving someone else’s child, the more I realize how much I idolize my own expectations. As many of you may remember, it’s now been eleven months since we took in a tiny baby girl. Noticeably, I’ve been rather absent here in the space where I usually come to share things God has been teaching me. I think my absence has been due, in part, to the shock that I’ve experienced in the past year–a shock that I haven’t been sure how to express. A shock that I honestly wasn’t sure could even be talked about in a God-honoring way. Maybe this is because it has taken a full year for all of the things that God has been patiently teaching me to begin to sink in just a little bit. I don’t believe there will be any feasible way for my family (me especially) to walk through the things that have happened so far and whatever is coming next without being changed in deeply spiritual ways. And isn’t this how God works? He orchestrates situations in our lives that challenge us because He loves us. He knows better than we do what He needs to drop into our lives to make us more like Jesus, and He knows exactly how to sanctify us through each challenge. I pray that is what He’s doing with me, slow as I am.
I believe women are especially good at forming expectations in our minds. We imagine how things will go, whether we’re thinking about an upcoming casual conversation or a life-altering encounter. We tend to visualize what we believe will happen, and we cling to that vision as an ideal. It’s one reason that marriage books are always urging women to express their expectations–because we are so easily crushed when we had a vision for how something would happen, and then it goes in a completely different direction. Maybe that’s one reason that I have struggled so with this unexpected yield sign that God placed in my life. The more I’ve contemplated this forced shift in expectations for the future, the more I’ve begun to realize that at times my heart may long for something even more than it longs for Christ: the outcomes that I had envisioned. My super happy endings. My ease. My comfort. My plans.
In times when I’ve been tempted to feel sorrow at the loss of the ideals I had imagined, I think of my friend Shala whose yield sign was a brain tumor. I think of my friend Barbara whose yield sign was her daughter’s car accident. I think of my friend Courtney who just finished her last round of chemo. I think of my friend Carrie who is still waiting for a baby. I think of my friend Glenna who is living with chronic pain. All of these people demonstrate faith in the goodness of God, despite great pain and sorrow, despite the grief that comes when your expectations are shattered.
I can’t speak for them, but I am learning, slowly, slowly, that our God works in inexplicable ways when you are living in the shock of your busted ideals. When you are confronted (in ways that you can’t sidestep) with the brokenness of this world and the idols in your own heart. These are the low places where God tenderly begins to show you the truths that you need to see about who He is and about how much you don’t yet understand, like the ways He works and how very much He loves you. When He turns the world upside down so that He can make Himself known in ways that we wouldn’t be able to see in the ideal world we had imagined, that’s where the real blessings are, in time.
I think this is one of the things He’s teaching me. I hope that I’m learning well. He is holding my hand, assuring me through His word, encouraging me through His people, challenging me through this phase of life. And He’s showing me where my expectations conflict with His good purposes. I would hate to try to cling to an inferior vision of the future when God is trying to hand me something so much greater. Not easier, not simpler. But more merciful. Because He refuses to allow me to continue building idols out of my expectations. The God of the Universe is tearing down my idols because He loves me enough to show me a better way, and it’s only by His power that He is opening my eyes to see it. I’m a slow learner, but He walks slowly with the slow. I’m thankful for that, and for the fact that He loves me even when I’m sitting at His feet with my idols held tight in my arms. I’m beginning to see it now, and I’m grateful.