Life surprises you sometimes. Yesterday morning, for instance, I woke up and there was a newborn calf standing beside her mother. A heifer, even. My net worth went up about a hundred dollars just like that. My happiness meter went ding, ding, ding. She made pregnancy and childbirth look so easy that I had a good mind to slap her.
I love new babies on the farm. This thing about having human babies, though, was a different kind of surprise for me. None of my pregnancies went like the kind in the magazines with “Five foods to eat for a smart baby” on the cover. I didn’t glow; I didn’t nest; and I didn’t smile. Smiling was for happy people and toothpaste models, neither of which were me at the time.
Those years of pregnancy were hard. I vomited so long and so hard that I’m sure my leg muscles came out with the Phenergan. And if I had nerve to stop the laugh track and put on the creepy music, I would tell you that there were times I wanted to die so that the misery would end. Like a runner in the middle of a marathon, pain can make you feel like you’ve hit a wall and you’re not going to make it. If you keep going though, sometimes there is a second wind surprising you right around the second turn. And sometimes, you just drop.
Like I said in my last post, I got a surprise last year. One day I didn’t have a sister and the next day, I did –just like that. The shared childhoods folded into each other, and we didn’t have to try to think of something interesting to say to keep the conversation going. There she was– a friend who liked me because I’m loyal and fun and not because I made all the same lifestyle choices that she did. Pure awesomeness.
And just like that, one day it was over. The baby was born and the nausea was gone. My sister was here, and then she was gone. SURPRISE!… ugh, surprise.
Sometimes I wonder about the thing inside of us that keeps us going when misery is the easier choice.
There are surprises around the corner, and I wonder if it is hope that makes us look for the good stuff, even when we don’t always know we’re looking. Is it hope that helps us pay attention, that keeps us looking forward?
Last month, I read Unbroken. It’s a story about a U.S. soldier in a Japanese torture camp. The details are horrible. Since I spend my days vacillating between being a weenie and the incredible hulk, I figured that the latter would win and I would curl up in a ball and die if I were put in that situation.
But my husband likes to remind me (when he is not busy convincing me it’s improbable I’ll die in a murder mystery and that I don’t have to roll down the windows whenever we drive over a bridge) that God sends comfort to the afflicted, not the ones playing party games on a Friday night.
After bad things happen, I think it’s hope for present and future grace that causes us to get up one day and make a pizza with feta on it, not because that makes anything better but because it means we’ve not given up. In Hebrews 11, the faithful are commended for their desire for something permanent and lasting: “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.” (v. 16) And sometimes I think that it’s the prayers of the saints that delivers this comfort to us when we can’t reach out and grab it on our own.
Something bigger than duty causes us to fold a dishtowel in perfect thirds and give it a pat pat for good measure. We keep going. We do the next thing. And then all of a sudden, things are back to the new normal. Ordinary days creep back into your life in a slow way, as if to remind us that taking just one more step forward is the right thing to do.