I had a bit of an "ah-ha" moment the other night while I was doing my bible study (and even if you don't consider yourself a Christian, please bear with me, because I think that this can still be applicable). I've been reading Romans lately, and I know that I've read these verses before, but they really seemed to resonate with me this time:
"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:3-5)
As I read through the verses, I couldn't help but think of the chain of events in my own experience that led from suffering, to perseverance, to character, and finally, to hope. I know that I read these verse after our first loss--more than a year ago now--but I finally saw the truth behind the concept just the other night. Bear with me as I dissect my experience through these phases.
Suffering: Check. Three losses provided me ample suffering. The first loss alone was enough to totally shake my foundation. I remember that my even my heart physically hurt. I know that it is common to refer to a "broken heart" for all sorts of disappointments, but I literally felt pain in my heart as I physically and emotionally suffered each loss. I was at my absolutely lowest--not once, not twice, but three times. Yes, I most definitely experienced suffering.
Perseverance: Like I said, I experienced suffering--time and time again. But that's the thing--it happened time and time again. And yet, I kept showing up--time and time again. I remember telling my husband after the first loss that I couldn't do it again--and I meant it 100% at the time. I really did. I did not think that I could ever handle even the possibility of losing another baby. And yet, we persevered in our attempts to start a family...thus resulting in more loss. And yet I kept showing up, loss after loss after loss. I persevered and tried for a fourth pregnancy. That just doesn't make a lot of human sense. Humans are supposed to be able to learn from pain. Sure, maybe it's understandable to try again after one loss. But after two, any "normal" person would call it quits. After three losses, some may even consider me a glutton for pain. So what would cause me to try again, to persevere? I'm not a glutton for pain. I really don't like pain. But I want so dearly to be a mother, and I believe that my perseverance can only come from God. And so, I persevered in our journey.
Character: I'd like to think that I'm a pretty good person. For the most part, I feel that my husband, my family, my friends, and my students "like" me. A few speeding tickets aside, I've never been in trouble with the law. I try to smile at people when our paths cross. Overall, I think I'm doing pretty well. But up until our losses, I don't think that God was doing anything "significant" in my life (or perhaps I was resisting what He was trying to do). I think that I had been "learning" all along, but hadn't actually been "growing" until only recently. But in this last year or so, I've seen God do so much in my life. As I persevered through the suffering, I really believe that He truly changed my character--and for the better. I'm noticing a new sense of patience, understanding, and compassion in everything that I do--namely in my relationships with my husband, my family, my friends, and my students. Yes, all of those people who I had previously assumed "liked" me--I now have this whole new appreciation for them. I know that this character development came from God, and I now understand that He could only make these character adjustments when I was persevering--day by day.
Hope: I've reflected on the concept of hope at various points through my journey. First, I discussed how I felt "faith-ful" but "hope-less". Well now I get it! I hadn't worked through the suffering, perseverance, or character pieces yet at that time--no wonder I was struggling with hope! But more recently, I shared that I felt a new sense of hope. Perhaps that's because I was finally coming to that end result after this ongoing chain of events. But it was only possible for me to get to a feeling of hope after the character changes...which only happened after persevering...which only happened after suffering. Of the four, I can't help but like the hope the best.
It's taken me a long time to get here--and just as long to recognize this process. But I do feel like I'm finally getting somewhere. No, I may not always feel 100% comfortable, but I feel like it's a start to understand this journey on a different level.
Today's blessing is a spring rain. It smells so good outside, and I hope that this means that the desert will stay green and blooming for a little bit longer.