It isn’t ever like we imagine.
The picture we create in our heads–the expectations we tend to have–they never truly manifest the same way we imagine them up to be. Sometimes we go years wishing for something. Sometimes we’re given something we really have trouble handling, not even knowing it’s the very thing someone else is praying for.
It’s tricky. It’s messy. It’s complicated. Hence the reason my blog is even called what it is, These Mountains We Climb. The mountains are many, and sometimes the paved paths are few.
I say this while realizing there’s a dirty diaper right by my leg and I have a smear of Desitin on my forearm. I say this while so completely sleep deprived that I wonder, sometimes with a tear of hopelessness, if I’ll ever sleep long enough to have a dream again. I say this now–that life is unpredictable, messy, tiring, and unlike what we pray for most of the time–while I look over and see this–everything I have prayed for.
And now I’m thankful, more so than anything else, for everything that God refused me for so long.
I prayed for Jeff for a long time. He still blushes when I tell him I loved him from the first moment I saw him in a Bellevue classroom. But it’s true.
And I prayed for River for even longer.
I prayed for a strong marriage where I’d be loved the way my favorite characters were loved in my favorite books. I prayed for a best friend that would help me raise my kids. I prayed for this diapered, busy, chaotic, sleep deprived life. I remember that even now, at two in the morning with heavy eyelids, nursing my baby and feeling my heart melt as his big blue eyes focus on my face and he slowly drifts back to sleep. For so long, I was refused all those desires of my heart. As a matter of fact, I was given the opposite of what I wanted over and over it seemed. I wandered, looking. I moved to Idaho in search of it even, leaving it all behind.
And who knew that I’d be here now, thankful that it was all held back until now.
We humans are so impatient. We try so hard to force the pieces and get angry when it doesn’t work out. We marry too young or too fast, we jump into careers we don’t like, we settle for less because we assume more isn’t coming. We give up praying when we don’t see what we want delivered by the day we want it, and we distrust the God who holds the strings that literally hang the stars.
It sounds ridiculous when it’s put like that, I know. But it’s who we are. Clock watchers. Goal makers. Time gatherers.
I shudder to think of all the moments I forget that all the things I was impatient for were refused to me for a specific purpose. Failed adoptions in my past and wasted money on fertility treatments that did nothing led me to a beautiful baby boy. A failed marriage, a failed life in a new town, a failed career path that led me to a totally random job led me to my future husband. And those failed prayers that swirled like smoke into the night–they were simply clasped into the hands of a creator that knew better.
We’re always ok with God saying “wait” or “Yes”. We have a problem when he says no.
But “no” has become my favorite response to prayer.
“No” is what led me here. To this couch, with diaper cream on my arm and bags under my eyes and the sleepiest two boys on the couch, my world right there wrapped up in a blanket.
I think of all the struggle that so many deal with. The bad relationships, the illnesses, the losses, the complicated messes that we find ourselves in, even after so much time spent sewing good into our lives, doing good for those around us, praying for better, and coming up empty. I have friends and family I see who wonder when their time is coming. I’ve sat beside those who deal with chronic pain, and have winced at my own. I’ve often wondered why some really amazing people are dealt such a bad hand.
But I know, in time, they too will look beside them and in some way see everything they’ve been refused for so long right there, perfectly manifested.
The answers tend to come little by little. The answers on why there is a “no” sometimes to our pleadings.
River held out for 41 weeks and some change. It began to feel like I’d be eternally pregnant.
I was in labor for over 24 hours and toward the end I was exhausted, teary, and moaning in pain. In perfect style I waited for him for years and now that I carried him he decided to make me wait longer. “Just let me have this baby, God!” I said, hunched in the hospital bath tub, contractions fierce and my energy totally depleted. But even then, in those moments with oxygen strapped to my face and pushing through the most mind-numbing pain I’ve ever felt, I saw Jeff beside me–coaching me and breathing with me and tearing up with me when River first cried. And on more than one occasion it took my breath away that it was really him–THAT guy I’d loved for so long–beside me. Even through the pain.
It was my answer to the “no”. And as River was placed on my chest–hot and wet and screaming–and I kissed his hair and told him who I was, I knew yet again another reason to the “no’s” I had received over the years and that it wasn’t rejection. It was simply redirection.
There it was. Here it is.
Since having my baby I’ve been told a million time, “The nights are long, but the weeks and years are short” and it’s true. The nights can feel long with a newborn–but not quite as long as the nights I spent wishing for him.
Those nights were eternal. I know you know what I mean. You’ve been there too.
But boy, do those lonely, eternal nights ever serve a beautiful purpose.
Life never works out the way you imagine. It doesn’t look the same in reality how it did in your head or in your dreams. It’ll never be exactly how you’ve prayed.
It’ll be better.