When I was six months pregnant, I spent an afternoon in the ER. Not because of any sort of complications from the pregnancy, but because I’d called up my physician’s office that morning in tears saying I hadn’t slept in two days and was having thoughts of harming myself. Since they wanted to keep me on the phone, they were trying to call my husband to get him to take me there, and he wasn’t answering, so they eventually called a very nice police officer to drive me there in the back of his car (ironically the only time I’ve actually been in a police car). While I was there, they would not let me have my cell phone, and it was unclear if or when I’d be allowed to leave. Meanwhile, no one was answering their phones when I tried to call from the hospital phone, I didn’t know AJ’s work number or my doctor’s number off the top of my head, and they just left me in the waiting room for hours as ERs are wont to do. I’d never felt so alone, un-cared for, and unloved.
But thinking back now, it’s so clear to me that this whole situation could have been avoided. This was the climax of the story I’d been writing my entire life: the story where I’m constantly the one battling and defeating myself. What brought me to this point was anxiety, fear of the future, of this baby growing inside me that I had not come to accept, bond with, or much less, love. And do you know what that fear was? Baseless. As soon as I saw Declan and held him to my breast, all I knew was the purest form of love. Being a mother is not something I needed to fear, and in fact the worst part of it has been the anxiety that has plagued me at every step about the future. What if I can’t breastfeed? What if he never sleeps without being held? What if his father lets him cry when I would have picked him up sooner? What if he hates his new daycare? What if? What if?
What if I realized that all of the things I worried about have turned out fine? When we reached each bridge, by golly, we crossed it! In each moment, things may not have gone as we’d planned, but we did what we had to do to get by. Most importantly, though there were moments of failure, sadness, and anger, we haven’t lost who we are in the duties of parenthood. We still have time for fun, and we’ve discovered a whole new world of joy in watching our child become his own individual.
As I look back on my life to this point, I realize that the darkest, most painful memories are not the things I feared would happen, but what happened when I gave in to fear. In fact, the only lasting damage that my soul has sustained has been self-inflicted. Circumstances may cause momentary pain, but what we fail to realize is that what we’ll remember on the other side is the sense of accomplishment at getting through them. Conversely, when we let anxiety paralyze us, this is when we descend into the depths of despair, and at least for me, these are the dark places in my life that have stuck with me.
Jesus asks a poignant question in Matthew 6:27: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” I say, no, of course not! Quite the opposite: worrying wastes your life and even shortens it. Some people are so afraid that life will be terrible that they even take their own lives. I know: I’ve been there; I’ve had those thoughts.
Later on in that chapter in verse 34, Jesus concludes, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Why couldn’t I have seen it before? Again and again, by the grace of God, I’ve made it through the struggles and mistakes of life. Why would I expect the next time to be different?