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Without Complaint

I wrote this post back in 2012 when I was five months pregnant with my first child. Little did I know at the time I had another four months of extreme pregnancy sickness comin' at me, followed by two more pregnancies full of their own super-fun issues. God taught me so much through my indignant shock that He'd allow me to suffer like that, and I failed in my resolve repeatedly. I'm pretty tough, until I'm not. And then... Well, you'll see. ↓ (I've add a little commentary throughout from the perspective of 10 years later in italics.)

A friend from high school recently posted something on Facebook that stopped me cold in my tracks. We're the same age and both pregnant for the first time, both wanting so much to be mothers, both concerned we waited too long to be able to carry a child in our wombs. She commented that even though she was experiencing some difficulties in the process, she was trying to do all things without complaint (Phil 2:14). Um. Uh. Really????

Shoot. Before I got pregnant, that was my solemn vow. I was going to be the most cheerful pregnant woman you ever met, looking up from the barf bucket with a smile on my face, just so happy to be carrying a child in my womb. I was going to make a joyful noise to the Lord every day, no matter what the day brought, so thankful to finally be a mother.

Then, the terrible, awful sickness began; and with the sickness, my resolve to be cheerful and grateful disappeared.

(My friend, if you've never experienced relentless, soul-sucking sickness every single day for months on end, you've missed out on some real character-building experiences. I almost feel sorry for you. LOL)

I became someone entirely other than myself – a whiny, complaining, screaming, lethargic, puddle of tears. (Seriously. I wasn't exaggerating here.) I didn’t want to see anyone, talk on the phone, read my Bible, or pray anything other than – “Help! Please heal me, God.” When God didn’t answer that prayer, I didn’t want to talk to Him any more either. And the worst of it is, according to C.S. Lewis, I wasn’t actually turning into someone other than myself. Who I was during that time was the truest me that exists – the one who cannot hide behind good manners and social graces, but who has been reduced to the rawest form of herself. That was ME, even if it was me on serious pregnancy hormones. Everything else is just a better presentation of ME to the world. Ugh. I can’t say I’m a big fan of ME.

When I read my friend’s words, I was immediately convicted. No, I don’t think she’s been through what I've been through in my pregnancy, but the Bible doesn’t offer a side-bar to excuse those of us who experience extra suffering. It just says to do ALL things without grumbling or complaining. That particular Scripture is taken out of context for this point, but the whole of Scripture and the life of Christ point to this example of godliness.

We are to look to the cross, remember the pain our Lord suffered for us, and walk as examples of Him in this world. We are to take up our cross and follow Him. Just because I’ve committed my life to Christ, gone to seminary, become an ordained pastor, or made sacrifices to be obedient doesn’t exempt me from the troubles of this world. Genetics are genetics (thanks, Mom). And obviously God has something to teach me through this experience or else He would've healed me.

I have faith and believe with Him all things are possible. I believe He could utter a single word and I'd have no more illness or suffering. I wish He would. But that is not the path He is giving me to walk right now and I have a choice to make. Will I continue to grumble and complain or will I do all things without grumbling or complaining?

I believe there’s a fine line there. God doesn’t ask us to lie and say everything’s fine when it isn’t. When I was a nanny, I had a rule that I didn’t hear the children when they spoke to me in a whiny tone of voice. They would whine and whine and receive none of my attention. But when they stated the problem in a normal, matter-of-fact tone of voice, I immediately stopped what I was doing and helped them. I didn’t ask the children to ignore a problem, but to approach it without whining. In the same way, I believe God allows us the freedom to state our difficulties matter-of-factly. In that way, others can pray for us, help us along if needed, and understand why we aren’t full of energy or strength.

To do so without grumbling or complaining is the key.

For the last two days I’ve gone over and over what that means for me. I talked to my husband about it. I shared it with my Sunday school class. And now I’m sharing it with you. I want to spend the next eleven weeks or so, depending on when the baby comes, doing my best to refrain from grumbling or complaining. I will answer cheerfully, find the humor in the situation, and thank God every day for the opportunity I’ve been given to be a mother.

And when the baby comes and I’m physically sore and sleep deprived, unsure of myself, afraid that we’ll do something wrong, and emotional, I will focus on the joy of that precious little face. I will sing praise to God for the gift of a child. I will cling to Him, ask for His strength and wisdom, and beg for His grace to smile through it all.

It's funny to me that I recognized early on how difficult it would be to feel unsure of myself as a mother. It was especially hard in the early days when every. single. thing. was new and my body was a wreck. However, that feeling of being unsure of myself as a mother hasn't really left. It just changes. Now, how do I handle a 10-year-old daughter who looks 13 and desperately wants to be a grown up? Nothing has driven me to my knees more than parenthood.

Those are my plans. If I fail, and I probably will, I'll repent and start over. I've been blessed beyond measure and when I keep my eyes on Jesus and ignore the wind and waves, He reaches out His hand to steady me every time. Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You.

A good friend of mine is a licensed marriage and family therapist. When she read this post back in 2012, she disagreed heartily with C.S. Lewis. She said who we are in times of extreme stress is only one version of ourselves, and it isn't right to judge ourselves harshly based on how we react in the moment. We need to look at the overall picture with some perspective. Rather than judge ourselves based on the microscopic moments, judge ourselves based on the way we came through that season. That really helped me have grace for myself, so I want to extend that grace to you today, too.

without coplaint


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