Thank God for surprises, part II
This is a Part II to this post.
So there I was a few weeks ago, moping around the house, nauseated and exhausted, thinking: How could it possibly be a good thing to have a baby right now? Is it not a bit of a stretch to say that “it must be God’s plan” when the circumstances are so very far from ideal?
I had so many plans for this upcoming year, none of which involved another high risk pregnancy and having a newborn in March. In my grudging, grumbling prayers, I asked for some peace about it. I didn’t receive anything that seemed like a direct answer — no voice of God or chorus of angels giving me explicit directions — but I kept feeling drawn to think about the following two stories:
Just before graduation my senior year in high school there was a rumor that one of the popular couples was unexpectedly pregnant. Jason and Michele were part of the “artsy” crowd, always going to hip parties and listening to cutting-edge bands that the rest of us had never heard of. Perhaps because they were so cool and seemed destined for a life of travel to exotic places and rubbing elbows with musicians and artists, it was just assumed that they’d have it “taken care of.”
We were all shocked when they announced that they would get married and have the baby. What a mistake! They were throwing their lives away! Just think of these poor schmuks sitting home, a baby spitting up on them while the rest of us were out living the post-graduation high life by…uhh…hanging out with friends and, umm, occasionally going to some parties where they had some wine coolers. (Well, that made it sound lame, but surely our forthcoming lives of freedom would actually be very exciting and cool.)
Anyway, a few years later I ran into a friend of Jason’s who showed me a wallet photo of their family. They’d had another kid by now, and I had to admit that their children were just adorable. The friend reported that Jason was a great father who adored his kids. I still thought it was a shame, though. Yes, the kids were great; it was just the timing that was sad. If they had just waited a decade or so, had their twenties to live a life of freedom, then they could have had their kids and it would all be perfect. I had it all figured out.
A couple weeks ago, as I was lamenting the poor timing of my own latest pregnancy, a friend called to say that she had news about Jason. I was pretty sure it was that he’d gotten famous, that she was going to tell me to turn on MTV to see his new band or tell me that some art exhibit featuring his work was about to open.
Instead, she told me that he died. He was killed in a freak accident a few years ago, when he was 28.
The second story is about another couple I know. When they got married they decided not to have children. Ten years into their marriage, they were finally living the live they’d dreamed of: the husband had recently graduated from college (late because of his time in Special Forces in the army) and had a good job as an engineer. The wife had graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in math and had a promising career that started as a mathematician for the Naval Weapons Research Laboratory. They’d recently moved to Florida, bought a little plane, and would frequently take spontaneous trips to nearby islands with friends, sleeping on the runway by the plane when they’d used all their money for gas.
Just as all of these freewheeling, child-free good times were getting started, they found out they were pregnant. It was unbelievable. It wasn’t even their “fault” — they’d been using a reliable form of contraception. Nothing could have been more unexpected.
Though they were not theoretically opposed to abortion, they didn’t hesitate to keep the child. Unsure of what this new future would mean for them, what it would be like to embark on a radically different life that wasn’t of their choosing, they changed their lives 180 degrees to be parents. The wife left her career to stay home, and the husband threw himself into being a dad. They never had any more children, but ended up being wonderful parents who delighted in raising their one child.
This story is about my parents. The unexpected baby who derailed all their life plans was me.
When I have tried to pray about my stress about this extremely surprising pregnancy, I keep feeling drawn to think about these two stories.
The news of Jason’s death was a shocking reminder that none of us have a crystal ball. It startled me into realizing that my view of the situation was ridiculously limited: If Jason and Michele had carefully planned their children on the schedule that seemed best to me and everyone else, Jason would have never known the joys of fatherhood, his two beautiful children would have never existed. And just as I was sure that their pregnancy was “obviously” “bad timing,” I had decided that my own new pregnancy was “obviously” “bad timing.” The problem, then as now, is that I do not have psychic powers; God has not chosen to share with me what is going to happen tomorrow, let alone next month or next year or 100 years from now. I can guess what the future might hold, but it would be just that: a guess. Hearing the news of Jason’s death was a wakeup call that I need to never forget that all my big plans for the future are ultimately founded on guesses.
And the story of my own unexpected existence was a reminder that God has a plan for every person’s life, even those who arrive in less than ideal circumstances. I hate to admit this, but under the physical and metal duress of a surprise pregnancy it’s been easy for me to think of this new little life as “the problem,” a set of financial and medical challenges to deal with. Yet when I think of my own story, it’s easy to see that, as with every other human being, God loves me, he has a plan for my life, and he’s glad I’m here — and I too was once “the problem.” God already has a plan for this little boy or girl’s life, even if it wasn’t originally in my plan.
As I ponder these two stories, being drawn to them again and again as I pray, all I can say is: “Thank God for surprises.”