The Lens of Forgiveness

I often speak of life as viewing it through a lens. Because, we do. Sometimes, our lenses are clouded up with despair. Other times, they are full of bright light and joy. For me, the lenses to which we view trauma and relationships can get quite complicated. However, life can change when we view it through the lens of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something that I’ve always thought I understood. I’ve never been one to carry grudges.  Truth be told, I never really had to face the hardship of truly forgiving someone until I had to come to terms with the grim reality that my illness, which resulted in my hysterectomy, was caused by infection left in my body accidentally by the doctor who performed an appendectomy on me when I was just 2-years-old.  I had carried the notion for over twenty years that it was a medical mistake, but did not get that confirmation until approximately three to four years ago.

I was told by the doctor who performed my hysterectomy that somehow, during my appendectomy, a pocket of the infection was missed, encapsulated itself, and became something similar to a fluid-filled sac.  The bacterium inside the sac was very opportunistic, anaerobic and in the same family as botulism.  

Even though this type of bacterium is commonly known about today, in 1983, I was the second known case of a person having it in the United States.  It protected itself and thrived for many years in my body until, for whatever reason, the sac ruptured.  Perhaps it ruptured because of the heavy weight of something I had carried a week prior on my right hip after exploring my uncle’s farm.  Perhaps not; guess I will never really know for sure.

The summer before my illness, I was healthy, dancing competitively, and gearing up for my 6th grade year.  I did not know that a time-bomb was ticking away in my body.  The doctor who performed my appendectomy nine years earlier never knew either.  He still may not know.

He may not know about how close I came to dying during that fateful time in September of 1983.  He may not know about the spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical toll it took on my parents.  He may not know that my body was never the same again; and, neither was I.  He will never understand what it is like to be the only girl around who never got her first period.  He may not ever know how confused I was during my teenage years, how tormented I felt about what happened, and how I believed I would never find a man who would love me….just me….without the promise of children.

The doctor who performed my appendectomy may never know how the foot-long scar on my belly stared back at me in the mirror, how I regretted that scar, how I wished it away, and how I didn’t want it to show my vulnerability.  He does not know that I never saw myself as a mother, or that I waited until I was almost thirty to get married.  

He never sat next to me while driving away from baby showers with painful tears.  He never had to explain over and over again to medical professionals why I had a hysterectomy at a young age, or pretend to understand pregnancy during conversations.  He didn’t have to hear all of the unwarranted words of wisdom given to me from others regarding my barrenness.

The doctor may not know about the heavy blanket of sorrow I wrapped around myself while weeping in my bed, alone, and away from the world.  He may never know how close I came to fully turning away from the Heavenly Father I believed in as a young child.  He will never hear the prayers I cried to my God for some answers; for just one chance to be a mother.

No, he will never know these things…but…he will also never know how I don’t blame him for what happened.  I don’t harbor ill feelings.  I don’t wish to go back in time and correct his oversight.  There is no need to lash out. I won’t say his name. There is no desire to grieve over my barrenness that was caused by the work of his hands.  I’ve grieved enough.

I have forgiven him.  I know in my heart that he would have never intentionally left this bacteria in my system and that he did the best he could with a very ill toddler whose appendix had ruptured.  Who I am not to forgive him?  Who am I to look at this and think anything different from how I feel?  It was a mistake; pure and simple.

Truthfully speaking, if the mistake had not happened, I would have grown into adolescence and adulthood, never comprehending the beauty that comes out of struggles. Joy comes when being encountered with the revelation of the Lord’s penmanship in life.  Would I have ever sought to become a foster parent, experienced the humbling path of loving another mother’s child, or discovered faith while declaring my children’s names to the Lord in prayer for their safety and for His will to be done? I’m not sure.

I don’t know if I would have ever grasped the full measure of just how vulnerable I am without the presence of a Living God in my life.  If I had not experienced the darkness of the valley I’ve walked through, I’m not sure that I would be able to completely comprehend that forgiveness doesn’t come from my own ability.  It comes from the grace and forgiveness that was first given to me.  I don’t blame the doctor who left the life-changing infection in my body.  I have no feelings for him that would cause one to question if I am capable of forgiving someone.

No, I don’t blame the doctor, I forgive him.  If I would have clung onto the knowledge of this mistake and allowed it to blur my vision, I don’t know how my story would be written.  My life story that I view through the lens of forgiveness is one of pain, but also of promise.

Forgiveness is cleansing.  It leaps, dances, and embraces.  It grabs a hold of one’s heart, tears out the pain, and flies off with it.  Forgiveness wipes off the lens that life is viewed through, and it retells the story of life without the aftertaste of bitterness left behind in life’s tragedies.

The Lord sees us through the lens of forgiveness. Surely, we can see each other through it as well.

Forgiveness is a mightily freeing thing.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -Ephesians 4:32

Friends, Is there someone you need to forgive?  Are you at a place where you feel stuck in past transgressions?  Go to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to help you forgive.  Unleash what is pulling at you. Let it fly away, and forgive.  May God bless you.

 

 

Never say Never

“Never say Never”

The words above were spoken often from the lips of my mom while growing up.  I specifically remember telling her, “I will never work with children; especially abused and neglected children.”  She responded with, “Never say never.”  I’ve thought about these words for years now.

I know that part of my rejection of the notion to ever work with children stemmed from my fear of getting too close to the raw emotions of infertility.  I thought that if I steered clear of anything to do with children, I would not have to face the jagged reality of never being able to bring a child into the world.  My studies in college were all about aging and the elderly population; in other words, NOT about children…never about children.

It was about twenty years ago when I told my mom that I would never work with children (especially abused and neglected children).  As I was sitting at a visit tonight with a couple considering becoming foster parents, the words “never say never” came up in the conversation.  I thought about these words that my mom stated to me through the years, and how true they are.

Just last weekend, I listened as two teenagers in the foster care system shared their stories with prospective foster parents.  My heart broke for these kids.  I wanted to grab them and say, “You are and never will be a throw-away kid!”  Their stories of rejection by birth parents, drug addiction, homelessness, and basically being completely independent of anyone else meeting their needs are ones that can cause great anger and frustration.  Again though, the words “never say never” crept back into my mind.

One of the teens is being adopted by his foster parents when he turns 18-years-old.  He will be adopted when he becomes a legal adult.  I’m sure somehow through his eight-to-ten year stay in the foster care system it was said that he would never be adopted, and never be part of a family.  The other teenager spoke about celebrating sobriety and accepting the Lord.  I’m sure too that at some point in this child’s life, someone thought he would never get sober, never make it in a family, and never accept the Lord.  I venture to guess that both of the boys have thought these things about themselves as well.

“Never say never” is a saying that tends to provoke us to be mindful of what we say, do, and feel.  I can boldly state that I never imagined working for a Christian ministry focused on meeting needs of children in foster care.  I never visualized ever sharing my story of having a hysterectomy as a child and infertility to anyone outside of my close inner circle of friends and family.  I never thought for one minute that my professional life would be filled with working with families who are struggling with infertility, or who are desiring to care for children desperately in need of love and stability.

I never, ever dreamed of being a parent to any child, let alone three children. While fostering my son, I really wondered if we would be able to adopt him.  I probably told myself “it will never happen”.  I also never thought I would adopt a little girl.  Now, at this age and with the great blessing of children and a full life, I never would have dreamed of bringing in, loving on, and caring for another baby in need of stability.  “Never” seems to be an Earthly reaction to what life can throw at us.

I want you to know that the Lord has spoken this into my life:  “You will work with abused children.  You will work in ministry.  You will share your story of infertility with anyone willing to read or hear it.  You will work with families who have also felt the cutting pain of infertility, and with those who attempt to bind the wounds that the world has left on children.  You will be a parent to a son and a daughter.  You will follow as I lead you down the path of taking in another child.”

It feels like a life-time ago that I stood in my mom’s kitchen declaring what I would never do.  She was right you know,….”Never say never” to what the Lord has planned for your life.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

Dear Infertility (Part # 2)

Dear infertility,

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken. Funny how I carried you around for so many years, and now I don’t think of you on a day-to-day basis like I used to. I swore I would never forget you or even get over you, but look at me now. You do not consume me anymore.

You made me feel as though I was being punished. If children are a reward from the Lord, then I must have done something pretty awful not to be rewarded with children…right? You made me feel this way. You spoke these lies to me. You made me feel as though I was less important to the Creator of my beginning and Script-Writer of my future.

You made me think that I would never experience the same type of happiness that those around me were experiencing. You forced me to wallow in my own despair, and yet, you never consoled me. You never wiped my tears. You never told me anything hopeful. Instead, you shouted at me. You screamed pain to me and never promised a happy ending.

Dear infertility – You made me feel like a victim, and at times, you made me feel as though I deserved what happened to me in my youth. I’m here to tell you, I didn’t deserve it. I was not a victim, and never will be. The Lord was not punishing me. He was not withholding His blessings of children. He did not forget my name. I was never less important to Him, or to the world He created. You hate hearing that, don’t you?

My Creator, my Comforter, my Healer, and my Hope remembers me. He remembers the tears I cried because of you. Not only does He remember them, but He also carries them. He does not leave me feeling like a victim as you did. He did not punish me. What happened to me was an accident, a life-changing mistake that led to a tragic illness that even He mourned over.

He heard the deepest cry from the most secret place of my heart, and He listened. He did not ignore me as you did. He answered me with the opening of doors, the closing of others, and the humbling moments that led me to be a parent. He rewarded me with the gift of children. He charged me with the care of some very special little ones that mean more to Him than I can ever imagine. You, however, would have never promised me this. You never would have told me to continue hoping for the fulfillment of my heart.

I barely remember you, even though I will never forget you. I will never forget the way you made me feel, the isolation brought to my life and the agony of not knowing if my prayers would be answered. I can’t ever forget being told that you would always be with me. That scene is forever sewn into my memory. I was a child myself, and yet, I was forced to learn about you. You stuck to me like glue but I didn’t want you. I didn’t need you, and I certainly didn’t understand you.

Dear infertility – remember me? I am not the same person I used to be. I am no longer the sickly girl, a confused teen, and an anguished woman. I don’t doubt how incredible the Lord is, or even who He is. I no longer feel like I am on the outside looking in on a life that would never be fully lived. I am whole. Complete. Fulfilled. I am living a life fully lived and am certainly not what you want me to be.

You even tried to damage those who loved me. My parents and family members grieved over what you did to me. My grandparents went to their grave never knowing that you would not dictate my future. My parents will not forget what you did, but they too are busy with the joy of grandchildren to think about you anymore.

I suppose you will always be with me, although, I don’t listen to you anymore. The truth is, I will never listen to you again. I am too busy listening to the laughter of my children, and the love of my Lord. I am too busy getting up in the middle of the night changing diapers, fixing school lunches, planning parties, and living a life full of the reward of children.

Dear infertility – I thought of you today while I was holding a little one and praising my Lord. I thought of how you must feel now that I have moved on from you. Can I ask you one thing? Can I ask you to only remind me of you when I start to take my life for granted? It is not that I don’t recall you from time-to-time. When I scan over the memories of life and what all the Mighty Lord has done, you enter my mind.

I remember laying in the hospital bed clinging to life and learning about you. I remember trying to wrap my young mind and heart around you, even though, I had no idea who you were. I recall being a teenager and feeling like I was so different from the other girls. I remember crying into my pillow as I watched others being rewarded with children.

Dear infertility – it’s been a while since we’ve spoken; since your name has crossed my mind. It surely has been a while since the tears flowing from my eyes were filled with you. I may still call on you from time-to-time, but for now, I’m going to tuck you back into my heart again.

Goodbye for now. Goodbye.