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Archive for August, 2012

Codecil

It is almost viciously ironic that several hours after writing about happiness and faith I lost my baby.  The baby  that I believed was God’s blessing, the baby I believed He had promised to give me.  He was God’s blessing, each child is, whether they are in our arms, or God’s, but I thought this blessing would be in my arms, and he never made it there.

There is an physical sensation of emptiness that you feel in your arms when you lose a child.  It is not a state of mind; it is an acute recognition of the weightlessness of your arms.  There is nothing there, and you don’t know where to channel all of the energy and love that was building up for this child- it can’t go anywhere, so it boomerangs back at you, and you feel like you will either burst or choke on it.  Eventually, it goes away somewhere in your subconscious and hovers like emotional indigestion.

And nothing will ever change this.  There is no emotional TUMS to make frustrated mother love fizzle out.  You can’t just transfer it to another child, your own, or adopted, or borrowed.  I now have the statistical facts to support what I instinctively felt every time another insensitive person told me “You’re young, you’ll have more children”- being pregnant again made me miss our daughter Liza more, not less.  I cried more, not less, than I had before pregnancy.  And I grieved more over not being able to share this part of our life with her, and over my hope that this time things would be better- because I thought that this time we might be able to give our child what we hadn’t been able to give Liza, life.

So there is another hole in my life, something like a wisdom tooth that will never grow back in again.  But I want to say this: notwithstanding some admitted bitterness, and a lack of understanding, I stand by what I already wrote.  We don’t have to be rainbows-hearts-flowers “happy”; that’s not the point of life.  Even when things look more clouds-thunder-lightening-frogs God is still God.  He still holds the pieces, all those broken bits of my life.  They hurt, all those jagged edges and splintered corners, but I don’t have to be afraid because God knows what to do with them.  And no, that doesn’t actually make me happy.  But it does give me peace.  “I know Who holds the future, and I know He holds my hand,” and no matter what terrible things may happen, He’s still holding the future and He’s still holding my hand.

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Happily Ever After

The catachism says that God created us to be holy and happy.  I believe this must be another one of those things that is buried deep inside us- because most of us have an attitude about being happy.

We believe we have a right to be happy; and if we are not happy, then not all is right with our world.  I don’t know how much of this attitude may be the times or culture, but considering that most sin is committed to please ourselves, I suspect an insistence on happiness is age-old and borderless. 

At the same time, I do think the modern tendencies toward instant gratification, being true to yourself, and fighting for your rights have exasperated the situation.  Especially in the United States, where life is admittedly easier than in many other countries, benefits more numerous, disadvantages fewer: the only thing to do when you have it all is look for more.

It is not a sin to want to be happy.  In fact, wanting what we were created for is not only the right attitude to have but pretty much inescapable.  The problem begins when we confuse what being “happy” really means.

A child assumes that an entire chocolate bar will make him happy- and when there’s a chocolate bar right there, and other people are eating chocolate, it seems an unjust exercise of adult authority for his parents to refuse him.  There is nothing wrong with chocolate, and it would certainly provide a period of pleasure.  But it would be pointless, harmful, and lead to insignificance if his parents permitted him to spend his life eating chocolate bars- or even promised him periodic chocolate retreats for good behavior.

And yet that seems to be what most of us not only want but expect.  We expect to be happy.  And the more fools we, to be honest.  Yes, God loves us; yes, God gives us hope; yes, God has promised us eternal life through His son in eternity with Him.  But we are not in Paradise yet, we are so far from Paradise that we really can claim a parallel universe.  We live in a world that has been dominated by evil for close to 8000 years.  We are sinners, living in a sinful world.  Yes, we have, thank God, been redeemed.  But we have not yet been perfected, we are not in our glorified bodies.  And even if we were- there are millions, even billions of our neighbors who are not only not perfected, but not even redeemed (yet- there is always hope).

Makes it seem kind of foolish when we want to live in Lemony Snicket’s story of the Happy Elf, doesn’t it?  We look at other people’s lives, and it does seem as though some people’s lives are remarkably free of turmoil and trial- but, even ignoring the fact that God may have different plans for different lives, I am certain that there is not a person alive who has never known despair and fear at 3 am.  What we see is not always what is there.  And trivializing another person’s life can be just another way to judge him.  We never know another person’s heart; only God does.

And when we return to contemplation of our own lives, and reflect that we’ve “paid our dues” and it’s time for a vacation- we’re forgetting the very nature of life; man IS born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.  We live in a fallen world; and while God does occasionally perform a miracle when it is right and needed, if He constantly interfered in entropy we would no longer be creatures of free will- and we would have no need for faith.

Because God has given us so many blessings, we see our way clear to demand more, to imagine something of the life promised us in Heaven.  But this is not Heaven.  We are here, now.  And we are here, now, for a purpose. 

I certainly do my fair share of complaining.  Bewailing. Pitying myself and wondering why it always has to be me.  And yet at the same time, I do see God working in my life.  It’s certainly not the most rewarding work He’s ever done, most of His lessons take much longer to reach my heart than my brain, but I can see Him changing my thinking.  I am beginning to see the trappings of our “happiness” for the shadows that they are, and realizing that the truth is much rawer and deeper.  That the real point of life is not being “faithful” (read “marking off the checklist”) and therefore having obedient children, a loving husband, and a glowing testimony at church; the real point is being full of faith- in each and every catastrophe, major or minor, and the dull times in between, and those elusive”happy” moments when you think you’ve got it made- praying, and leaving it up to God.  The real point is not whether I have good children (my WORKS as a good mother) or a good marriage (my WORKS as a good wife) or a line of people thanking me for my witness (my WORKS as a good Christian) but whether I am in communion with God, praying in each and every circumstance or without them, not taking events into my own hands to micromanage a happy ending but just abiding in God (His GRACE as God).

And this is where the catechism really comes in- because it says God created us to be HOLY and happy- not the same thing as  being happy.   Being happy might look like a day at the beach, a picnic with hotdogs, hamburgers, friends and family; but being HOLY and happy means knowing that God’s will will be done, and that far from picking up the pieces, He holds them in His hands.

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