Wednesday, November 13, 2013

So, You Had a Baby?

Whenever a celebrity has a baby the media immediately begins the dreaded waiting game before the poor woman has even checked out of the hospital. You know the game. Will she or won’t she lose all that baby wait—and in what length of time? While I wanted to buck the trend, I was just as delusional in the days leading up to the arrival of my twin boys. I wanted to look like I didn’t have twins. I wanted people to look at me and say “you don’t look like you had twins at all!”

How selfish of me!

In God’s kindness, and nature’s reality, that was hardly the case for me. Instead of basking in the praises of people who couldn’t believe I had just given birth to twins, not a day went by during our five week stint at the hospital that someone didn’t ask me when it would be my turn to come deliver my baby. And this lasted long after we brought them home.

I had twins. And I looked like it.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. If eating a Big Mac every Sunday after church kept me from throwing up on the way home, then you better believe Momma was going to eat a Big Mac. The last thing I was thinking about was my ridiculous goal of being the width of a stick post-pregnancy. I just wanted to keep down dinner. And eat what sounded good.

As I’ve worked through the emotions, and come back to reality, about this whole post-baby body thing, I have grown to love what these boys did to me. Right after they were born I dealt with some serious separation issues about the fact that they weren’t with me any longer. Of course, it was made worse by the fact that they physically weren’t with me for five weeks and medically speaking they should have still been inside of me. But now that they are growing, healthy, and amazing little boys the reality of my post-baby body is a story about how they came to be.

Here’s the deal. And it’s taken a while for me to come to this conclusion. I had babies. Why shouldn’t my body bear the marks of such a wonderful feat? We live in a culture that prizes perfection and hates children. We want them, we just don’t want the changes they bring. The fact is the change is part of life.

Our bodies are never going to be perfect this side of Eden. And our endless pursuit of a perfect body, especially post-pregnancy, is very much in vain.

Your stretch marks, extra skin and pudge around the middle, and bags under your eyes are all evidence of something beautiful—the life that grew inside of you. The life that bears the image of our God.

Our society’s obsession with the perfect body and looking like we never had kids is for naught. They are trying to get perfection without the perfect One. It’s not possible. They want to go back to the glory of Eden, but reject the Christ who himself makes us whole. We know another way. We know that this life is not all there is. One day we will have perfect bodies. But it won’t be here. And it won’t be by our own efforts. No amount of running or the 30 Day Shred can remove the fact that this old body of ours is decaying. It’s not the final story.

Until that day, our imperfect bodies are reminding us that another one is coming. But they are also reminding us that with these old, decaying bodies of ours God is bringing new life into the world, life that exists to bring glory to his name. When Adam named his wife Eve, he called her the mother of all living. Out of her life would come. And as women, we get to do the same thing.

So when I try to put on my old jeans and realize that there is a little extra skin that wasn’t there before, I don’t want to begrudge it. And I don’t want to pretend like it’s not a big deal either. Out of a decaying body God has brought forth life. He is making all things new.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Help Your Infertile Friend: Take Her to God

When I thought about the myriad of ways to best help an infertile person one thing kept running through my mind over and over.

Take her to God.

The pain of infertility, like the journey of the Christian life, can be so cyclical. One day you feel amazing and hopeful. The other you want to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry until there are no tears left.

But taking the infertile person to God can often be a tricky thing. What the infertile woman needs, like I have already said, is not more over-generalizations about her circumstances. And reciting theology to her can come across as that way--even though a healthy theology is necessary for dealing with the sorrow of infertility. But good theology must come before the trial, so you have a sure footing when everything else around you is shifting sand. In the midst of the trial it can sound like pithy one-liners to sensitive ears.

In my miscarriage series, I said that one of the best ways to help your friend in her loss is to know her--really know her. This will give you the opportunity to know when to speak and when to listen. This will give you insight into her soul and help you know what she needs in any given moment. Sometimes the infertile person needs to know that God loves them. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But when your womb is empty, the absence of a dearly longed for baby can feel like the very nature of hatred from God. Assure her that it isn't. Maybe she needs to know that God always keeps his promises. The Bible is full of examples of God keeping his promises to his weary saints. Remind her of that wonderful truth. Maybe she needs to know that infertility doesn't have the final word in her life. Yes, her body (or her husband's body) is broken. Yes, it feels like evil is prevailing over her right now. But it won't be that way forever. The cross is the promise that the evil that seems to be winning right now will one day be eradicated and we will be given new bodies in the new heavens and the new earth.

The reality is that none of these things will take the pain away ultimately. And these aren't concrete answers for every situation. They are merely examples of the varying ways a woman needs to know that God is for her, not against her in her infertility. But what I hope you take away from this short series on helping your infertile friend is that what suffering people need more than anything is God. They need to know that you love them and that God loves them. They need to know that you won't leave them and that God will never leave them. They need to know that you are with them for the long-haul. And so is God.

Infertility is full of complexities. And every case is different. As you seek to help your infertile friend in whatever stage of the trial she is in, ask God to give you the grace to love her well. As I already said, God delights in giving good things to his children. And by his grace, may you be that good thing for your suffering friend.