When Beginnings Have a Different Ending Than We Hoped
I spotted it nestled among the bills and fall catalogues, boasting the season’s new threads – a robin’s egg blue envelope with my dear friend’s name scripted in the top left corner. In between the flurry of events surrounding my sister’s wedding the week before, I was grateful to share a few precious moments with her and just seeing her name made me smile. My birthday had been just a few days prior and I figured it was a birthday card, turning this day into what some people refer to as a “good mail day.”
I absentmindedly stared out the window as I tore the envelope open. It was indeed a card but another piece of textured white paper fell onto the table as I pulled the card out of the envelope. I gasped, tears pooling in the rims of my eyes, so moved by what I saw.
My friend’s work had developed and matured since our childhood, but I recognized the strokes of this small black and white painting to be her own handiwork. Sure enough, the card explained that she had adapted this painting from the work of a 19th century oil painter. She came across it in her search of an image that would capture some of what I might be feeling in this season.
Pictured in the painting was an angel tenderly holding an infant in a rowboat just off shore. And kneeling at the water’s edge was a woman I recognized to be a mother like me – a mother whose hopes had brought her to her knees in both grief and prayer.
I knew what that woman in the painting had brought to the shore. She carried her questions. She held her sadness over the life that had been lost and the dreams that went with it. She clung to the longing she still held for the future. She carried feelings of confusion, betrayal, failure, inadequacy and fear of being disappointed by her own longings. The painting had captured my experience perfectly.
Six weeks ago, I lost my fifth baby to miscarriage. The ending looked nothing like the one I pictured in the beginning. Even after four miscarriages, I still clung to hope that this time would be different. And then it wasn’t.
Here, it is easy to question if hope is even a good idea. What if it’s merely a set-up that ends in disappointment? What if we have nothing to gain and everything to lose by continuing to hope?
One of my favorite passages in the Bible gives us an answer that I cling to with faith in the midst of my feelings of doubt.
“It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.” – Lamentations 3:26 MSG
In an unsafe world, God is a safe investment for our hope. He is safe not because of what He can do for us, but because of who He is.
Still, I can’t ignore the fact that the woman in the painting is empty-handed. She has just lost an irreplaceable gift. She’s left with her nose pressed up against the glass of a dream she wishes was reality. She has had to say, “good-bye” before she has even had a chance to say, “hello.”
Here, I remember the promise of Jesus we find in the very beginning of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:4 MSG).
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
This doesn’t mean that the loss isn’t devastatingly painful. It is for me. But Jesus’ words offer a promise that our deep pain ushers us into a deeper love.
I used to think that the blessing is found on the far side of problem solved, a goal achieved, or a dream fulfilled. But I’m beginning to understand that the real gift is walking every moment of this life with Jesus.
We are blessed even when our loss has left us empty handed. Because it is here, that we have open hands to receive more of Christ.