April 27, 2011

In These Shoes

I was no stranger to infertility or loss when I married my best friend.

My oldest sister has three precious babies she will not get to hold on this side of grace, and my second oldest sister struggled two years to have her first son… another four to have her second.

I was young when my three sisters were having their babies, or trying to. I finished high schools as nieces and nephews joined our extended family, and then I moved on to finish college. By then I had watched my sister walk a dark and lonely road in her desire for children. I didn’t understand it then… her grief, her longing, the isolation she drew about her as her sisters and friends announced pregnancy after pregnancy.

I remember the way our family used to talk about her struggle… how we decided that if she just relaxed, or spent less time desiring the children that they would simply come. We scratched our heads for a time and then assumed she was simply refusing to ‘get over it’.

I was no stranger to infertility or loss when my husband and I dreamed of growing our family. I was no stranger and yet I still made broad, na├»ve proclamations about how infertility wouldn’t affect me like that… how I would shrug it off, how it wouldn’t matter.

I didn’t understand then what I know now.
I understand the grief, the ever-aching loss of hopes and dreams, and the desperation in needing to know I had not been forgotten by God.

There is one thing I still don’t understand… how she managed to survive. How my brave, resilient, beautiful sister managed to survive this thing called infertility without the support that I eventually had. I walked this road surrounded by the love and fellowship of women at Hannah’s Prayer… women who understood.

And she walked this road alone.
So alone…
Without the understanding of family…
Surrounded by friends and sisters having baby after baby…
Working selflessly as a teacher to others’ once-babies…
Facing month after month of crushing disappointment…

And yet I do know how she managed to survive: pure grace… the one thing that carries us all.

You know, my sister and I were never very close growing up; quite the opposite, in fact! I know I uttered my fair share of naive ‘just relax’ and ‘just get over it’ statements in the midst of her pain. I spit out silly platitudes instead of offering silent comfort. I didn’t understand a fraction of her pain until I walked this lonely mile in her shoes.

And God, being the awesome, relational God that He is, used the shared pain of infertility to grow our relationship into a strong, joyful thing. He took the grief of infertility – a grief that can strain and stretch any relationship past its breaking point – and He brought beauty from ashes.

Infertility taught me that compassion doesn’t require understanding. We all know that life in this busted world carries with it heartache and sorrow and pain.

The God who loves us with an everlasting love, the One who walked in our shoes, calls us to love one another. And sometimes that means we just need to sit down, wrap our arms around grieving soul and hold them while they weep.

No words.
No fumbling for understanding.
Just sweet, silent love.

It will matter. I promise.

Thelma is wife, writer, and relentless joy-seeker: a Canadian girl learning to love God, her best friend and the joys and sorrows of their life as two. When she's not writing or putting her feet up, she likes to pretend she knows a thing or two about photography and dreams of running a marathon some day.

Author Website: Life as Two