Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Baby That Came

“[Agape love] is a profound concern for the welfare of another without any desire to control that other, be thanked by that other, or enjoy the process.” — Edward Nason West

Two months ago my man and I heard Anne Lamott speak. Every word transfixed me, but one story in particular adhered to my brain. An Alaskan couple, friends of Anne’s, desperately wanted children. By the time they reached their tenth wedding anniversary, they’d tried fertility drugs, IVF, old wives’ tales, and mountains of prayer, all to no avail. Finally, they started the adoption process. With the pressure gone, as sometimes happens, the couple conceived. Joyfully they trekked to the city for numerous appointments due to the wife’s advanced maternal age. Unfortunately, the doctor soon had painful news: the baby was a hermaphrodite. Anne’s friends had three choices: 1) surgically remove the female organs, 2) surgically remove the male organs, or 3) raise the baby as a hermaphrodite. They spent the rest of the nine months in prayer and serious discussion with counselors, medical professionals, pastors, and each other. After the birth, the mother wrote on her blog, “We decided to love the baby that came.”

What a liberating decision. The baby that came to my mother 28 years ago is in turn compassionate and prideful, intelligent and ignorant, wise and foolish, devout and sinful, creative and dull. She has too-large thighs and crooked ring fingers. She’s an avid reader but a terrible athlete. She burns the rolls and still forgets to turn off the oven. But my parents love the baby that came. So do my man, my sister, my friends, my Savior. It’s downright incomprehensible when I think about it—being loved in this way—because I certainly don’t deserve it.

Not that anyone ever does. Last week in French III, I asked my students an unfair and impossible question: Define “love”. A beautiful discussion resulted, but my favorite answer was this one: “Love grows when the space between people is filled with acceptance.” How beautiful. In my experience, we’re all messy, and, screw-ups that we are, we don’t deserve anything, least of all acceptance. But we’re trying our best, however successful or faulty our attempts may be. We’re trying to find community, to breathe in peace, to be a little less lonely. We’re all hoping that someone will accept the—by all accounts, problematic—baby that came. So we accept each other as perfect and imperfect as we paradoxically are, stumbling toward something like love.

I’ll take it.

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Stories

Everyone knows not to pray for patience. Let me tell you what else not to pray for: a story. One icy Colorado afternoon a few Decembers ago, my former sister-in-law, who is a reading teacher, and I were talking about stories as we drove to the city. She and her husband have the most beautiful love story, and I asked her why she thought she’d been blessed with it. She shrugged and said, “I guess because I asked.” Later that night, I prayed a prayer that might have changed the course of everything, if you believe in that sort of thing. I asked God for a story. I asked him for adventure, to be involved in something bigger than I am. I asked him to show his glory through my life. I asked for indisputable miracles.

As all the best writers have proven, if you’re going to set up a miraculous event, you need a seemingly insurmountable conflict. You need something way too big for humans to fix in order to validate a deus ex machina. Well, if you’ve read my sex blog, you know a source of deep pain in my erstwhile marriage. I’ve written about other losses and sadnesses, too; others I’ve kept private. And now I feel like I’m in that part that all the best stories have where you think, “How in the world will this turn out?” But light is pushing through the cracks, just waiting for the moment God turns it loose and crumbles the pain with a season of joy. For instance, my man’s spectacular daughter let me take care of her on Saturday while she was ill, and his son gave me a precious nickname. Light. Last week God sent me the same message from four people who don’t know each other—two of whom don’t even know me well—in a way I couldn’t question. Light. A student gave me a huge and by all accounts undeserved compliment today. Light. More light is coming. God is teaching me joy.

I’ve learned that the best thing about asking God for a story is that when he gives it to you, you never really have the luxury of heading back in your own direction. You can fling open the door and storm off in a huff, but then he chases you with this crazy, powerful love unlike anything you’ve ever dared to imagine, this grace-full love that is exactly the stuff you were hurting for…and you fall into his arms again. You can’t doubt the veracity of the miracle when you are the miracle, when your whole story is the miracle. The joy and freedom are too real.

I don’t have anything in my story, miraculous or otherwise, figured out except that there is Jesus. Because when I am weak, then I am strong. Someone has to be behind that. Someone has to be writing that, and doing a better job than I could. Someone has to be authoring these struggles, conflicts, and “imperfections” to bring a level of artistry and depth to my character that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Every time I reach a moment of pain or conflict in my story, whether I caused it or it waylaid me, I see more of him and more of me. He develops the character of Amie by adding layer after layer of healing. I wouldn’t give that back for anything.

One of my favorite quotes is something I read on a coffee mug—that I totally should have bought—in Barnes and Noble once: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” I find that biblical: the endgame of my brokenhearted moments will be beauty for ashes. He’s promised me, and all of us, that. And that’s all the resolution my story needs.

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Filed under Broken Beauty, Jesus Loves Me