Life just won’t stop moving forward, no matter how much I wish it would. Just a pause, just a breath, just a moment of silence in my mind is all I’m asking for. But the sun won’t heed my requests for it to stop rising. And the clocks keep ticking. People keep having babies. And the baby shower invitations continue to pile up in my mailbox. And the sorrow in my heart grows no less painful. People say time heals all wounds. I guess enough time hasn’t passed for me to believe them.
I never thought I'd be the type of person who would wish harm upon another, but it turns out, I am. Pain has uncovered a silent maliciousness in me. I say silent because I am malicious in my mind. My thoughts are deadly. How do you live with yourself when you have wished that other mothers would lose their children? How do you make peace with the fact that you hoped someone else's baby would die? Or convinced yourself that some one else doesn't deserve a child as much as you do? How do you deal with the “I wish it had been you, instead of me,” reaction when you see a pregnant woman?
I will tell you. You bury those thoughts. You never speak those terrible words. You never admit them. And then you clean your house and do your laundry. You make a grilled cheese sandwich for your son. You pick up your mail and you make dinner for your family. You go to the baby shower and you hang out with your pregnant friends. And your terrible thoughts that you are ashamed of, slowly turn into bitterness.
At some point in our lives, I believe we have all wished someone else pain. Maybe you wished the car accident had happened moments earlier, or the cancer diagnosis had been for someone else's father. Or maybe you wished the police officer would have pulled over the guy in front of you, or the man at the desk next to yours had lost his job, not you. Every human, at some point in their life, has uttered the words, “I wish this had happened to someone else.” I’m not saying this makes it okay; I’m saying you aren’t the only horrible person out there. I’m horrible too. I am bitter also.
And although part of me would like to let that sleeping dog lie, I can’t. Because this bitterness keeps me from truly being happy for my cousins who are pregnant. It makes me bail from hanging out with my pregnant friend when she calls. It refuses to like the 23 week pregnant Facebook photo. It binds my heart in loneliness. And I already feel so alone.
Bitterness is tricky. It can disguise itself as boundaries in processing grief. You can tell yourself you need to protect your heart from unnecessary pain by purposefully avoiding situations and specific people to save yourself a little extra hurt. But that’s a lie. Because I have found that hanging out with my friends actually makes me feel better. So if I can’t pretend my bitterness is just a shield, where does that leave me? I believe bitterness is an equation:
Sadness + What I Deserve = Bitterness.
Bitterness is sneaky and convincing. It says, “I deserve to have what I want.” And it believes, “I know what is best for me.” Bitterness, therefore, is a form of self righteousness. Sadness itself does not produce bitterness; It has to be married to what we believe we deserve. Unfortunately for us, what we believe we deserve is our own fabrication of our worth. We have drawn lines in the sand about who we are and what we want, and when we see our lives failing to reach them, while simultaneously watching others blow by us, we condemn ourselves and covet another’s gains.
It is difficult for me to see moms with multiple kids at the park. I want that life. One that has a Chevy Tahoe full of car seats. I want animal cracker crumbs all over my house and laundry baskets overflowing with kids clothes. So you see, I am sad that my life isn’t shaping up as I had hoped and I am bitter because of it.
I gave birth to my son Jasper at one in the morning, so we were not discharged from the hospital until later that afternoon. After we held our baby and then let the nurse take him to the morgue, I laid in the hospital bed and the song “It Is Well” by Bethel came to my mind. I began to sing it.
The chorus goes:
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on you.
Through it all, through it all
It is well with me.
The bridge says:
So let it go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
As I sang the words, I found myself spiraling out of control. What happened was not well with me, it would never be well with me.
My bitterness had me so frustrated. I felt as if I deserved to be a mother to multiple children; I wanted my son. What I felt like I deserved was a good thing. It’s not like a wanted to rob a bank. I wanted to be a mother to two boys. I was caught between knowing what I wanted was a wonderful thing and believing I couldn’t have it.
So how am I supposed to reconcile it all?
I must begin by relinquishing my idea of what I deserve and the life I have planned for myself to Jesus. The longer I live the “new me”, the more I am realizing everyone is walking wounded, not just myself. Since I have been in pain, my friends and family have shared their own painful stories. I know that when they envisioned their own lives, pain wasn't part of the deal. So as I listen to other heartaches, instead of asking, “why me?” I begin to wonder, “why not me?” Why would I be exempt from pain? If my friends are capable of carrying their sorrow, than surely I am capable of carrying mine. We live in a sinful world. Did I actually think I could make it through without encountering some tragedy?
Believe me, It’s hard not to play the victim, because I am. And so are you. We all are victims to sorrow. But when I think “why not me?” I slide out of the saddle on my high horse and relinquish the power of bitterness over me. I am choosing to look around me instead of only at myself.
I am so thankful that people can’t hear my thoughts. Because although I think them, I don’t actually want them to come true. You have to understand, that although my pain wants others to know pain, my heart prays, no, it begs, no mother would ever know my sorrow. Part of me hopes that I "took one for the team" and no other mother would know the heartache of a stillborn child. Maybe I was the statistic for other women in my life. Thinking this way is good for my soul, but it doesn't erase my bitter thoughts. Even though I can hide my mind from the world, I can’t disguise my thoughts from Jesus. God knows my heart and my mind. He has heard each one of my terrible thoughts and they don’t shock or intimidate him.
The bible says, Jesus is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) Boy, does that sound like me? Brokenhearted and spirit crushed. But the bible promises that Jesus is near to me. Nearer than when my thoughts are happy. Maybe He knows I need him more when my mind goes dark. Because it's true, I do. If I let it, bitterness will destroy me and my relationships. Thankfully, Jesus won't let that happen. He is near to my pain because he doesn't want it to destroy friendships in my life.
I used to think that God was a melancholy being. When I envisioned him in my mind, he had a contemplative look on his face as he stared down at the world. But now I think that God is crying most of the time. Since my own tragedy, and hearing more and more of my friends own stories of sorrow, I think, how could God ever be happy? All his children are suffering, all the time, at the same time. If I think I am overwhelmed by my pain, I can’t imagine how God feels as all of his kids cry out in desperation. Maybe Jesus draws near to me when I am brokenhearted because his heart is broken too. God doesn’t just rule over my sorrow, he understands it. He feels it always. I think I am beginning to understand a new side of my God, the sad one. The side that cries. The side that holds me when I cry. When Jesus comes for the second time, every tear will be wiped away, and I believe this includes His own. I don’t get a break from my sorrow. But it brings me some peace knowing that God doesn’t get a break from his either. That’s how much he cares.
I will probably spend a lifetime trying to navigate my bitterness. But I do believe that if God’s sorrow is greater than my own, his grace must be enough for me. He has enough love to rid me of my deserved attitude. He has enough grace to cover my terrible thoughts. And He has enough peace to dispel my bitterness. So I will continue to sing “It Is Well” on the days I believe it, and the days that I don’t. I don’t think God expects me not to be bitter. But I do thinks he wants me to be honest about it. I think He is okay with me being sad along side him. I sing, it is well, not because it actually is well with me, but because God is currently walking me through a journey of wellness. I am singing a promise over myself; something to hope in. That one day, it will be well with me.
So let it go, my soul. Try to trust in Him. And through it all, all that has passed, all that is, and all that is to come, let it be well with me because of Him.