Fighting with Faith
I’ve felt weird being in churches lately. Something about the slowness, the room for contemplation, the reflection, the prayer, the incredible faith of people around me while I am secretly questioning everything. This is the underbelly of infertility. Underneath the “worth the wait” onesies and the needle-heart pregnancy announcements is a deep disruption that shatters the concrete in the foundation of faith for many of us less-than-fertiles.
My church was a huge part of my childhood. For most of my life, church meant friendships and acceptance. It felt safe and, even if I was gone for a long time, it always felt like home. Now I find myself choking back tears and fantasizing about running out. What was once a literal and figurative sanctuary, now feels like torture.
It’s not that I don’t want to be faithful. It’s not that I’ve stopped believing in God. It’s that I am exhausted and angry and sad and hurting without an end in sight. I've found no comfort in the platitudes: “God won’t give you more than you can handle”, “God has a plan for you”, “Everything happens for a reason”. So I have been face down in the mud fighting with my faith. Going to church feels like an invitation to get dirty only, this time, I have to do it publicly. So I think about anything else – my dog, my work, my home renovation – to spare the people around me from witnessing the ugly battle.
Cue Easter, 2018. There was no avoiding this church service with my whole family. Not only my whole family, but the rest of the congregation was filled with “kids” I grew up with. They were all in town to celebrate Easter with their families, just like me. But, unlike me, they were ALL PREGNANT.
Cue fantasy of disappearing and going home to the wine waiting for me in my parents’ fridge. But that’s just a fantasy. So I was stuck and ready to settle in for an hour of daydreaming about future vacations and finally finishing that last room in our house. The music started and I felt immediately overwhelmed. I bit my lip and looked at the ceiling to stop tears from streaming down my face. Music does that to me, especially in church when my only goal is to not cry and to not draw attention to myself. Music in church puts a spot light on my pain and the exact emotions I’m tirelessly working to stifle.
After the music, I was frustrated to find that I couldn’t mentally check out for the sermon like I had planned. My distraction strategies didn’t work. Something about the sermon grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. Trust me, I tried, but I was powerless. I was fully in with this Easter sermon.
The pastor described the ways we are dead in our faith. “OH CRAP. He’s talking to me.” He broke it down to 3 ways people die.
1. We become dead in the delay – wanting something on your time instead of Gods.
2. We become dead in the doubt – disbelieving because things aren’t the way you want them to be
3. We become dead in the despair – seeing no way out of the immense pain you are living through
Okay…check, check, and check. Every.single.one. This is the exact faith battle I’ve been fighting during this season of infertility. He was speaking to the whole congregation, but he might as well have been talking directly to me. Now, I really wanted to run.
Instead, I sat, choking back tears, and decided to hear him out. Here is what I heard: There is hope for those of us walking around feeling dead. And that hope is that God can turn the page. If we only read part of the Easter story, and stopped with Jesus buried in the tomb, we would stay dead in the delay, doubt, and despair. We wouldn’t know how the story ends. But God can turn the page if we let him.
If I hang in with him, if I stay interested, if I listen to the story, he will always turn the page. I don’t know how this story will end but I do know that it won’t end with death and doubt and despair. Sitting in that pew, safely breathing between my husband and my dad, I released myself from my faith-fighting. Even though I resisted, he sat me down and made me listen. A page turned for me that Sunday morning and I’m excited to see the pages of our story that are yet to come.