If you’re just now reading for the first time, you can catch up in a little more detail on how over two years of trying for a baby has led to the discovery I’m not God, but that’s not a bad thing after all. And then there was the lesson in celebration. That was just before I talked questions and answers. Today is all about three loaded words: grace, grief and guilt…
Grace, grief and guilt. Never, sometimes and always. Respectively.
That tends to be the way we live our lives. Never knowing grace, at times engulfed in grief and always grappling guilt.
I’ve become quite familiar with the three g-words in my struggles with fertility, but I never thought much about them until recently. Grace was just a word thrown around in church or said before a meal. Grief was an emotion outwardly inappropriate except for those asterisked events—a death or a nearly-there diagnosis. And guilt? Well, guilt I just accepted. An underlying and yet constant part of life, I figured.
You might have children. You might not have children. Heck, you may not even want children. Regardless of where you’re at on the offspring spectrum, I bet you can relate to this much of my journey—absentee grace, occasional grief and an ever-present but obscure sense of guilt.
First there’s grace.
A beautiful word, isn’t it? I love the idea, but it turns out I have trouble with the act. I struggle having grace for others. Graceful is hardly how I feel like responding to off-handed and insensitive comments not meant to hurt, but painful just the same. I struggle even more having grace for myself. Some days are harder than others living in a body that lately feels more of a vehicle for disappointment and dysfunction than a temple for a soul.
Ironically enough, even greater than my difficulty in displaying grace for is my accepting grace from. There is a God who’s fashioned my every fiber and forgotten my flaws, yet I’d rather role up my sleeves choose to believe I need to work my own way to perfection.
The truth is, if I can’t receive grace, then I can’t give grace. Like so many other things in life, it starts at the top. If I can’t concede there’s a God who finds me more than acceptable and utterly enough, then I surely won’t see myself that way. And everyone around me? They’ll hardly have a chance. Grace starts by getting before it’s ever able to be given.
And one more thing. You might be wondering why all this grace-talk in a time of desire and discouragement. I can’t really say. I guess in all my prayers for a baby it just sort of found its way to my heart. That seems to be the way it works. For as pure and perfect as grace is, it always gravitates to the ugliest places. And perhaps that’s why this messy season of life has me discovering it anew.
Perhaps grief is easier to discuss in words written more than spoken.
What is it about the word grief that brings with it feelings of uneasiness? Our society seems to prefer it behind closed doors, if at all. But I’ve come to believe that grief, to some degree, is good. And not just in those rare moments of serious loss and heavy heartbreak. I’ve spoken at large on the significance of celebration, but here’s something to consider: Sometimes grief is the first step toward celebration. It’s true! We grieve life’s small losses in order to give them up. For me, it means mourning a story I wanted to write. Grief lets me loosen my grasp on what I thought should have been or could have been in order to make space for what will be. To grieve well is to give. To give up on control. To give up on answers. To give up on selfish desires and short-sited suppositions. And when we do this—this good grieving—we become flexible to a future written by a God who works all things for good. More than good, in fact, for the best.
We could write novels on guilt, couldn’t we?
This may be too bold of a statement, but I think there’s hardly a grown up alive who doesn’t fight guilt on some sort of level. By the time we reach the age of adulthood, we’ve lived enough years to mess up enough times to know the silent destruction of guilt. We’re heavy with guilt from the things we’ve said and the things we failed to say. There’s failed marriages and the failed money management. There’s parents who hold guilt from their past, and those who harbor guilt from the kids they’ve produced. Or, if you’re like me, there’s the guilt of not being a parent at all. I wake up every day next to a man who deeply wants something I can’t provide, and the poisonous propensity in all that? Shame. Shame is guilt in feeling form. It didn’t take too long into infertility for me to come to a frustrating conclusion. For all my husband’s unconditional love and spoken reassurance, the guilt in my gut just wouldn’t go away. I guess something that has its origins from the inside can’t be wiped away by someone from without. Believe it or not, guilt isn’t something with which we’re supposed to live. Its roots were never meant to take hold in our hearts. This all sounds good as head knowledge, but how do we really put it into practice? How do we live lives free of the guilt burden we were never meant to carry?
The answer’s in the inverse.
You see, we go our whole lives void of grace, touching on grief and steeped in guilt.
But the answer to full life is in the inverse.
Grace, grief and guilt. Always, sometimes and never. Respectively.
Only when we first accept abundant grace can we afford it to ourselves and others. Only when we grieve well the past can we hope well for the future. And only if we live an always grace life can we know a never guilt existence.
In my struggles with fertility, I have found this to be the only answer to living a free and full life.
So won’t you join me today in living out the inverse?