I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about God. I grew up singing Sunday School songs. I’ve had a Bible on my bookshelf since before I could read. When I was in 2nd grade, at Christian overnight camp, I confessed my sins and asked Jesus to be my savior. I did everything I thought would help me to know God. I followed the step-by-step plan, not knowing it was the unplanned that would save me.
In 2013, my delightfully well planned parenting stopped going my way. After having three perfectly spaced pregnancies with my loving husband and high school sweetheart, I found myself expecting the unexpected. My was pregnant with my fourth, when my third had just turned one. I was bitter that despite my diligence, I had a baby on the way that I hadn’t planned. I spent a week mourning my great plan for the coming year, and slowly accepting the change. And it was right about that week that the pregnancy started to become difficult.
I went from angry that my plans had been changed, to guilty that I had somehow caused these complications by my ill-will towards this new person on the way. Week after week went by with worsening and worsening problems. I was bleeding so much that I spent a solid part of every day fearing I had lost this child, to whom I had now grown attached. First trimester turned to second and the bleeding turned to hemorrhaging. Doctors were at a loss as to what was wrong or what to do. Every test led to more speculation. Every speculation led to more tests. I never did get an answer. But on April 24th, our tiny 1 pound daughter arrived 4 months too early. “She took a breath” I heard a nurse say as she was being delivered. A few minutes later I was holding her when she took her last breath. To me she was the tiny version of a perfectly formed baby. This life that I did not plan. This death that I could not fathom. This pain that I could not describe. Not in my plans.
I sunk to a place I had never been before. A place where my thoughts betrayed me. Where my head confused me. Where my dreams crushed me. I vividly remember, a week after her death, when I woke up from this horrible dream – sobbing and panting and in out-of-control grief! I had dreamed that my daughter had died in my arms! What a wretched nightmare…and the moment where I felt my empty womb and remembered that the nightmare was my reality.
I stayed there in that dark place for longer than most people around me knew. I carried on with living despite the death I felt. But it was God and I who had to come to terms with each other. It was God that had allowed this tiny life, and God that allowed this crushing death. The God I knew was a God of love, but this felt nothing like love. Was this the God I knew?
At some point I came to accept that this was God’s plan. Yes, that is easier to say than to believe. But I don’t mean it as some type of pithy Christian pat on the shoulder. I mean it in the “God of all creation, has dominion over all things” sort of way. Once I saw and accepted that God allowed for my daughter to die, I could wrap my thinking over the idea that all things at all times are in God’s dominion. Every good, every bad, every blessing and every tragedy were sanctioned by the all-knowing God. Why was that pivotal information for me? Because I finally realized that nothing was in my control. God was in control.
The life I had planned, the family I had dreamed into existence, the future I had pictured…I wasn’t the one who held control. Not now, and not ever. I could finally let go and let God show me how my life should be. All this fighting for my own plan had prevented me from being a part of HIS plan. This God I was getting to know had a plan for me, and a plan for beauty from these ashes, if only I would let Him lead.
With new knowledge that I had never given God my life, I re-committed myself to Him. Or really, I committed to Him for the first time. See when I had thought I knew Him before, I was doing what I thought were the right steps. But I never allowed God to actually lead my life.
Now everything changed. God changed me. He opened my eyes to the goodness of His will. I saw sin and brokenness in a whole new light. I strived to do as He led, not as I planned. I saw beliefs that I had held that were against His Word. I saw poverty that I had the power to help. I saw hurting people that I could love. I saw orphans that I could mother. I saw love that I could share. I still wish He could have changed my life by using a less painful method. I still wonder what my life would have looked like if my sweet Josephine had lived. But in my heart I know that the sacred marriage I treasure would not be as strong. The next four children that joined our family would not have been. The daily life of loving and enjoying my family around me would be pushed to a breaking point while I pursued my personal agenda. The people we have reached might have gone unreached. The community that held us together may not have formed. Beauty in the ashes. The pregnancy that I never desired to have became my saving grace.
My salvation came from the unplanned.