Springtime and Sustaining Mercies

It all happened in the span of a few hours. I had been eating strawberries and rice for dinner for several days and was convinced I had a stomach bug. Devynn was convinced of a different theory that I was determined not to entertain . . . at least until I had put Iva to sleep for the night and found myself staring at the ceiling, putting the pieces together in my head. Within another half hour, I had zipped over to Walgreens, come back, and set an alarm for five minutes – the allotted time for the pregnancy test to produce a result one way or the other. Not that I needed the timer, anyway. I counted to 60 over and over in my head and tried to breathe deeply, because that’s what I’ve always heard you’re supposed to do when you feel anxiety creeping up your throat in its typical suffocating fashion.

The alarm went off and I more or less threw the instruction sheet off the top of the test on the counter (having placed it there to keep myself from looking before five minutes had passed). Not only was the second line present; it was unmistakable, a “dye stealer,” pulling pink away from the control line.

Devynn and I stayed up later than usual that night trying to process our response. Iva had been going through one of her very common phases where she had multiple teeth cutting through at once and was exhausting to care for, both physically and emotionally. If things had happened like we planned (which it never does, of course) we wouldn’t have gotten pregnant again until Iva was about six months older. Having a newborn baby with feeding issues during a pandemic – not to mention moving across the country and then again across state lines with said baby – had been a crucible of fire for us, and things hadn’t gotten a whole lot easier in the year since then. The thought of adding another helpless individual to the mix before 2021 ends was in that moment making me feel more nauseated than the hormones themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. We were not disappointed or upset to learn of our pregnancy. But it would be a lie to say that I was actually excited, or that fear was not the predominant emotion I felt for the first several days after taking the test.

Thanks to the faithful prayers of close friends, we have since processed and accepted this manifestation of God’s sovereign control with more joy than we (well, I) had done at first. Devynn is especially thrilled about welcoming and raising a son; and I’m thankful that in light of the challenges we’ve been facing with Iva, I’ve had an exceptionally easy pregnancy so far, only apart from the presence of sciatic pain.

Something that has really helped and convicted me is how, in God’s perfect timing, the first tentative evidences of springtime have shown up over the past month or so. Even as blizzards rage and frost continues to cling to every surface outside, I have watched tiny tulip leaves poke through the soil in our balcony pots and outside our neighborhood library. It reminds me that new life is always something to celebrate and cultivate – especially when you’ve been experiencing a season of bitter cold and lifelessness.

It also reminds me, further, that God is ultimately and supremely the one who controls what grows, what doesn’t, and when this growth or death happens. All we can do is be faithful in the ways He has confirmed, by His grace, and trust both our growth and our fruitfulness will manifest according to His purposes and timing, for His glory and not our own.

How true this is in parenting! I don’t pretend to be a seasoned parent by any stretch of the imagination, but the past fourteen months of trials and tribulations and joys have proven to me that the value of knowing and being known by God Himself really is the ultimate thing. I have experienced prosperity that meant little to me because my relationship with God was not right; and I have experienced suffering that was only made bearable by the knowledge and reality of eternal treasures found in the person of Christ.

Why should I dread the future? What benefit do I ever bring myself when I am fearful and controlling in my circumstances?

What does it say about the priorities and idols of my heart when I cry tears of anxiety over a positive pregnancy test rather than tears of joy? Foolishness. Faithlessness.

And yet, the answer to my folly is not to pull myself up by my bootstraps in a show of worldly stoicism or self-empowerment. This would be especially wrong to do while claiming I am acting in Christian faithfulness; this is a popular but unbiblical and extreme reaction to the world’s obsession with weakness and self pity. Neither extremes demonstrate the kind of faith that Scripture calls us to in these times when dread and despair is so tempting.

This is the perspective I would rather have:

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead . . .”
Philippians 3:7‭-‬13 ESV

This is not just an inspiring promise that makes us feel warm and detached from our problems and pains. And it is not just a command to get over yourself and be happy about your circumstances because obedience to duty is your ultimate Christian obligation.

No . . . rather, it is an exhortation to faithfulness that is first rooted in the unmovable love, call, and strength of God, which then enabes us to “do the next right thing” with the assurance that God will never leave us nor forsake us in our pursuit of eternal glories.

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