I know that it's only March, but allow me to say that 2016 has been a really hard year.
We said goodbye to our Baby S, and seeing him still brings pain as we reel through the changes in him and the heartbreak of his confusion and sadness every time we say goodbye again.
We are celebrating our expectation of another biological baby in August. And that's been so much harder than I expected. I have been so sick. I'm just past halfway through this pregnancy, and the magical numbers when morning sickness should disappear have come and gone. Sometimes it gets worse instead of better. Bonding with a baby while saying goodbye to my Baby S and experiencing physical sickness and weakness - what feels like a confusing betrayal by a body that used to be able to serve my family well - it's confusing, to say the least.
We started a house hunt. And oh, boy, adding one more thing to this plate... Wow.
This morning, on Good Friday, I'm thinking of a conversation I had with Big Brother A as we waited for preschool on Monday.
Me: You don't have school on Friday, you know.
A: Why not?
Me: It's Good Friday. Do you know what that means?
A: It's the day Jesus died. But why is it good?
Why is it good? I've processed that before, but never explained it at the spur of a moment. And if I'm honest, it's a question my heart still asks.
Why is all of Jesus' pain and suffering good? Why is an account that still leaves me confused and angry at the injustice and the indignity GOOD? Why is a group of friends running away and abandoning the one they loved, then watching him die as they stand stunned, confused, and out of hope, GOOD?
Why is Baby S leaving good? Why is being so sick that sometimes I can't even serve my family good? Why is being so busy that I'm back to throwing up most days good?
And for that matter, why was Baby S coming ever good? His coming was out of brokenness and pain and a family ripped apart. Why was getting married and then learning to be content in rented apartments, doing foster care in a small space and watching family after family moving forward into houses while we stayed and felt the limitations of where we were in the context of what we wanted to do, ever good? Why is one more very hard thing - being so sick in a time that is already so draining and emotionally difficult- why is that ever good?
Why is it good?
The complete measure of the goodness of what Jesus did for me can only come from the pain and the bad and the hurting of what happened to him. What happened to Jesus was brutal. It was wrong. People sinned when they mocked him, chose to hold illegal trials, found false witnesses to condemn him, and put him to death in a humiliating display between two people who deserved to be where Jesus was. I sinned when I chose, when I still choose, to follow my own way over and over and over again. I sinned and put up an ugly, irreversible wall between myself and God, between myself and Heaven. I made my own future, and it was ugly, brutal, condemning. It was all that Jesus took on himself.
It was bad.
And the goodness of what Jesus did shines from that badness. Every additional day that I live with me, I realize how deep my need for Jesus is. I'm a rule follower at heart, but that does not mean that I am good. It has meant that I want people to see me as good. It has even meant that I thought I was good, that I thought I could win some sort of imaginary prize for doing what's right. And the more I get to know my own heart, the more desperate my situation looks. That pride doesn't want to die. That stubbornness and insistence that I can do it myself, thank you is part of the big, bad, ugly wall that should have kept me away from God.
And Jesus broke that wall in the ugliest moment in history.
The ugliest, most beautiful, most Good moment in history.
This year has been a journey of grasping at hope when the emotional bad is so heavy that I can physically feel it. I've asked God to help, and although the very hardest bad things haven't gone away or gotten better, he's faithfully grown my joy, my purpose, and my hope inside of me in a way I can't explain outside of him. It's been a long, slow process. A lot of days of the process were me learning to just believe that there was hope, that there could be days of light and happiness again - not just the deep joy that doesn't go away; I love and value that, and I long for Heaven. But actual happiness. And as I woke up this morning, I realized that the answer I gave Big Brother A was the one I needed, too.
There has been a lot of hard and bad and sad this year. Jesus doesn't change that part of my life. Jesus told his friends it was going to be hard; he said it would get harder, even, if they followed him. Jesus didn't come to take away the hard.
Jesus came to make the hard mean something. He came to bring hope. He came so that all of my best efforts that fall so short and leave me so spent could somehow, in a way I absolutely don't deserve, bring about God's good and best. He came so that I could rest in him in the very hardest days, trusting that he knows what he's doing even when I don't understand it.
He came so that the months when my loudest cry is How is this Good could have the same answer as Big Brother's question. He came so that the badness and brokenness that still exists could make the Good richer and fuller and more mysterious and beautiful and filling than I could ever ask for or imagine.
The hope in my darkest days isn't in being delivered from the hard. It's from the beauty that glows forth from that hard and makes me long for Heaven as God faithfully uses me to play some small part in pointing others there, too.
The hope is a house - our first house! - found after some long weeks of searching and eight years of apartment living; of tough visits with Baby S and moments when his pain at our goodbye breaks my heart but also reminds me that I'm blessed to still be an influence in his life; of a whole new wave of change and painful transition at our church that's going to be hard, but I'm convinced will lead us in new and exciting places as we make sure our hope for growth has always been in Jesus and not a leader. The hope is more people loving Jesus in Rochester and becoming better followers of Jesus. The hope is finding our perfect house, on the street I drive down sometimes just because I love it so much, and knowing that God will be faithful to bless our move even when sometimes I'm too physically weak to do the laundry and I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to pull off the packing and cleaning involved. The hope is an ultrasound of a healthy baby, and my husband feeling the baby kick for the first time, both giving me moments of intense bonding and being able to finally start to look forward to this little person and see an end to this physical pain even if I am only just halfway through with a hard pregnancy.
The hope is ultimately knowing that these places we are in will still hurt. Some days I'll cry out for hope because I won't feel it. But I will know that God is faithful to refill me when it's time.
I'll know that there is Good in the very darkest, very worst day. That each day, like Good Friday, the Good will shine even brighter because it is happening in the dark places. That God's plan is still what is best, even as Jesus reminds me that the very best and most beautiful plan can also be the most painful.