Tuesday, December 4, 2007


James ran over someone once. It wasn't his fault. He was in college, driving across campus, and though he had the legal right of way, someone on a bike wheeled right out on front of him. James ran him over. Not the "ba-bump, ba-bump" kind of running over, but a mangled bike sort of running over, from what I understand. This guy's day was already ruined from the having been run over and from the loss of his bike, but to to make it worse, he got the ticket for the accident. The run-over guy got the ticket, not James. Still, James ran over someone, and I don't let him forget it.

I, on the other hand, have never run over anyone. Despite that testament to my clean driving record, James complains about my driving all the time. He makes faces and frightening noises and grabs onto that little bar on the ceiling at the inside of the car door. (I think it's called a suicide bar, but I'm not sure -- maybe that's just what James calls it when he's riding with me.) Anyway, he complains that I drive too fast and relates my methods to aggression. I, on the other hand, believe that I get us where we need to go in a timely and efficient manner. It's about perspective. I then remind him that there's only one of us who has ever run anyone over, and that person is not me. That fact trumps any complaint -- fault or not.

But I almost ran someone over yesterday, and that made me think a little more about perspective. It wouldn't have been my fault, but whatever. Here's the story: I was bringing lunch to my friend Leslie's house. We hadn't had a chance to hang out in a while, we had some coordinatable free time, and she's having a baby in 14 days, so lunch it was. I'd gone to Sonic for burgers and Diet Dr. Peppers with easy ice and a squeeze of fresh lime (Side note: I LOVE Sonic. I get to participate in such unabashed pretention). After my order was delivered, I looked behind me and began backing out. So I'm moving in a rearward direction with the white reverse notification lights informing the world that I'm BACKING UP, when all of a sudden I hear the "Skiiirk" of a car hop doing a hockey stop.

I was looking over my right shoulder as I reversed (you know, that right-arm-slung-around-the-passenger-seat obligatory rear glance), and didn't see her as she zoomed up to my left -- though I already looked that way before the backing ever began. (Seriously, James. I looked.) The "Skiiirk" sound caused me to look left again, and there was the carhop, wobbly on her skates, top heavy from her parka, trying to right her Route 44's. I observed her looking SO MISERABLE. She was a skating waitress, she was freezing cold, and she had just nearly been run over probably for the millionth time (I'm sure I'm not the only one who nearly runs over carhops, James -- the keyword here being nearly. As in not running her over, like you might have done.) Looking at her, I thought, "Ugh, now that's a job I don't want," and I was immediately aware of how my perspective has changed.

You see, when I was 14 years old, I begged my mom to let me work at Sonic. We lived in this little town in northern Oklahoma that had two drive-in restaurants. Both would employ you at fourteen, but Sonic was the coolest and most sought-after job, and it required a note from a parent approving child labor. (The other didn't -- child labor was okay by them.) Everybody who was anybody at West Junior High worked at Sonic, and I wanted to too. "You get paid like a dollar an hour, plus you get about twenty bucks a day in tips," was my argument to my mom, but she said "No," and went on about preserving childhood and made various other comments that seemed like complete nonsense at the time. Bah. I was mad. Really mad. And I stayed mad for a good six months or so until it was summer and I lived in a waterpark and came to realize how right she had been. And that's what I thought about after nearly running over the carhop -- how my perspective has vastly shifted from her job being the most amazing thing I could ever do with my life to it now being one of the most miserable things I can currently imagine.

As the day progressed and I continued thinking about perspective, I thought some about Zachary dying, and about our other miscarriages, and about the hard struggle that has accompanied our family's desire for growth. I was thinking about how I'm still so prone to shift and sway because of the influence of my emotional response. And here I will interject (can I do that in my own train of thought?):

I do not think it is wrong to mourn my children or to be frustrated by my struggle. I do not think being sad when by baby died was an incorrect emotion, nor is being sad for a long time afterward. I do not think being active about working towards understanding and personal change as a result of this catalyst in my life is inappropriate. And I think anyone else going through this deserves space and grace and time to do all that needs to be done in the way of growth and maturation. ("Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:4)

I've been honest about being wrong in some of my responses, and about my struggle to be thoroughly happy for my friends, but what I've noticed in myself is that I seem to be on my big, fat, spiritual laurels, taking a rest here on the victim bench. Even yesterday it was clear. I'm lunching with my friend who commented about her sciatic nerve and about how her baby is moving way too much for her to sit as she is, when another friend comes in to announce that she's also pregnant and is just worn out. I smile and nod in a understanding way, but inside I'm pulling out the dead baby trump card.

I know that my response is probably natural and probably still expected at this stage in the game, but I live there way too often. People complaining to me about the minor struggles of pregnancy can be equated to complaining to a homeless person about the struggles of home-ownership, and evokes very little sympathy in me. "You know how it is, homeless person: the weather gets cold, so you have to turn the heat on, and just when it gets comfortable and toasty, it heats up again outside, so you have to turn the heat back off. Living in a house is such a pain." (Discussing major struggles of pregnancy I'm okay with, as long as we're dealing with the scientific aspect of the pregnancy and not the fact that you'll be bringing home a sweet-smelling snuggly little bundle of joy. I'm never hesitant to share what's worked and not worked in the Petri dish that is my pregnant body. I can even draw you a chart, but I digress.)

I've become comfortable feeling sorry for myself. I've been wondering if God cares. I've been living in the past.

Perhaps far more revealing and helpful than the questions, "Does God know what's happening to me?" or "Does God care about the pain I'm feeling?" are these questions we each need to ask ourselves:

**Do I know what is happening to me?
**Do I care about what God desires to do in my life?

God knows what he is about in your life, but do you know what God is about in your life? Do you have an awareness of what God is doing?

Sometimes that awareness comes later, with a little clearer perspective on the past. When I look back in my life, I can see clearly how God has changed me. I've been broken, shattered, beaten, smashed, pruned, and chiseled on, and I didn't like the feeling of brokenness any more than you do. But I can tell you this -- I thank God for what he's done. Every chisel blow, every hammer blow, every cut of the knife, every slice into my innermost being, every tear, every pain, every hurt, every disappointment, every disillusionment, every moment of despair has been worth it all just to know in my heart that God has my all...Put your brokenness into the perspective of God's greater work in you.

-- Charles Stanley
The Blessings of Brokenness

So, that's what I'm doing: shifting perspective. In doing that, I feel like the wrestling match is over, and I'm not even sure who won. I feel like God and I are in a laughing heap on the ground, and we've forgotten why we were fighting in the first place. I feel like a weight has been lifted and I can stand up and stretch.

Will I tailspin again? Maybe. I am, after all, a human. I know a spiritual thing or two, but that doesn't necessarily mean I do it. I'm fallible and frustrating and completely not alone. The fact is, though, that Zachary died and no amount of complaining or reminding will bring him back again. If I really think about it, do I even want him back? Do I want to snatch him away from eternal bliss of being the neverending presence of my Lord and Savior just for another moment with fallible and frustrating me? Uh, no.

Don't misunderstand, I miss him. I miss what I think should have been in him. But more than that, I am blessed by what has been done by him -- even if it's only been done in me. And as for that dead baby trump card, I no longer plan to carry the deck.

"My child, listen to what I say,
and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom! [and perspective, in my opinion]
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. [Oh, Thank God!]
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just
and protects those who are faithful to him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will fill you with joy."

Proverbs 2:1-10 TLB

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight."

Proverbs 3:5-6


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