“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
(Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, Chapter 12, verse 15)
Recently, I was thinking about our friend Taja, and praying for her and Brady, and their struggles with conceiving and bearing a long-hoped-for child, and I was reminded of a 'minor adventure' Molly and I had last fall, while driving home from the Great Midwestern Blogger Get-Together; I alluded to it in passing at the time, and suggested that I might blog about it someday. Well, friends - today is that day. . .
We were driving along, northbound on I-69 (no, really - that’s the freeway that goes from the Gathering Host-City up to Michigan; it’s not a bad erotic pun) (really; I promise; you can look it up on a map), talking about the weekend and the folks we’d met there – FTN’s goiter and third nipple, stuff like that – when Molly’s cell phone rang. It was one of our neighbors from back in OurTown, who was a bit surprised to hear Molly answer her call, as she’d intended to call someone else, but dialed Molly’s number by mistake. Oh, no matter, she said, I can tell you, too.
She went on to tell Molly that a mutual friend (we’ll call her Leah), married to a former member of our community (we’ll call him Todd), who had been trying for several years to conceive a child, and had recently succeeded in getting pregnant for the first time, had miscarried a day or two previously, and to solicit Molly’s prayers for her.
At the same time that Molly’s phone rang (and before I knew what the call was about), we passed a sign announcing that the city of Huntington, Indiana was 25 miles away. “Hmm,” I thought, “that’s where Todd and Leah live. I wonder if we could drop in on them, since we’ll be so close by.” And as I heard the phone call, it started to seem as though that might be just what we ought to do, in ways I had no way of anticipating.
Molly finished her call, and told me what had happened. And I told her how close we were to their home, and my ‘spontaneous’ thought of dropping in on them. Molly thought for a moment, and thought that it might be a good thing, or they might not quite be up to receiving company just yet. Wondering what we should do (and not having Todd and Leah’s phone number saved in her cell phone), Molly hurriedly placed a few calls to folks in OurTown, to get their advice, and maybe Leah’s phone number. No-one had their phone number immediately handy, but one friend suggested that we call Todd and Leah, and ask them if they were up to seeing us.
The exit for Huntington was upon us, so we got off the freeway, and seeing a gas-station/mini-mart with a pay phone, we pulled in, found the phone number, and called our friends. Molly told them the story of the past half-hour, and asked if they’d like us to drop in, or were they maybe not up to receiving company? And they said that they would very much welcome a visit from us. So they gave us directions to their house, and we stopped in to visit.
It would be hard to explain the ‘blessedness’ of our visit. Leah and Molly had gotten to know each other over the past five years or so, mostly by running into each other at a couple retreat weekends each year that they both went to. Somehow, they had forged a close friendship, and Leah had poured out her heart to Molly - all her sorrow and frustration over having been unable to conceive. Which was all the more poignant for Molly, the mother of eight.
So that, when we arrived at their house, it was actually a while before any words were spoken; tears and hugs were the first order of business. Finally, we sat down, and Leah poured out her heart once again – her elation at finally, finally, conceiving a child, and having it grow in her belly for ten weeks. The joyful, hopeful anticipation that the two of them were finally going to be parents together. Then, the first hints that something ‘wasn’t quite right’, and the ghastly process of expelling her baby’s corpse from her womb. The long frustration, turned to joy, turned back again to crushing sorrow.
And even amid all that, a ray of hope. That, even though their hopes had been dashed, even cruelly, still – they had conceived. Up to that point, they hadn’t even done that, and Leah was wondering if she even could. But now, at least, they knew that it was possible – her body was capable of becoming pregnant.
Molly and I had precious little wisdom to offer. Todd and Leah are both strong, mature Christians, and much as they wondered why – what could God’s purpose possibly be in what seemed to be a cruel taunt? – they remained firm in their conviction of His goodness. Which, given the circumstances, was pretty impressive.
“Even though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15)
Or, as St. Peter said to Jesus,
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” (John 6:68)
Which, in times like those, can be a hard realization to come to. . .
It was a heart-breaking visit, but heart-warming at the same time. Looking back, it seems all the clearer, given how the circumstances all came together, that we were given this little adventure from God, to comfort our friends, who were in serious need of some comfort. And it deepened our friendship, in the process. A blessed time, indeed.
This whole adventure came rushing back to me when I saw Todd on a retreat weekend a couple weeks ago, and he told me that Leah was pregnant again. Coming home from the retreat, I told Molly, and she was guardedly excited for Leah, once again. The other day, I asked Molly if she’d heard anything from Leah recently, and she said she had – that Leah had miscarried again, this time at six weeks.
I cannot give easy answers to the question of why some of us suffer so. And why Leah, specifically – who, with Todd, would be wonderful parents – is suffering so acutely, and so cruelly, with infertility, while Molly and I struggle with the challenges of having more children than it sometimes (even often) feels like we can manage.
“How unsearchable are [God’s] judgments, and how inscrutable His ways.” (Romans 11:33)
True that, for sure. . .