The date had been on the calendar for months. My oldest nephew and his soon-to-be-bride were celebrating with an engagement party at my sister’s house. The date was highlighted in bright yellow, blocking anything else from my calendar. But, even before opening my eyes that morning, I knew the day might go differently than I expected. I swallowed what felt like razors down my throat and my head throbbed. I pulled the covers tightly over my chilled and achy body. “Not today, Lord, please. Not today,” I pleaded.
When the next couple hours of fitful dozing seemed futile, I dragged my sick self to the local clinic where a little red line on a small, white strip confirmed the doctor’s suspicion of strep throat. Her prescription: antibiotics and, more importantly, stay away from others since it’s highly contagious.
With the party out of question, I spent the next day and a half sleeping and nursing my way to an upright position on the couch. I thought about the yellow highlighter on my calendar and pictured my oldest nephew surrounded by supportive family and friends. The undeniable truth hit me that God allowed me to miss this day, and disappointment became a rollercoaster of fixation. Other people have been far more disappointed in life, I reasoned. People I know in my church wrestle with the devastation of losing a child or the crippling news of cancer.
I minimized. I rationalized. And, yet, felt prompted, for perhaps the first time, to put other people aside for the moment.
It’s as if God said to me, “Too often you settle. Too often you push mystery aside and squelch the wrestling match I’m inviting in you.”
So, as if to square off with an opponent taunting me, I grabbed my journal and pen and entered the ring. It was not pretty, but it was colorful. I told God how I felt and cried about what this day and the party meant to me. It represented a crumb – a small piece of an unfulfilled longing of a family of my own. I had spent a great deal of time with Patrick as he grew from infant to toddler to teenager and longed to be there to celebrate with him. This engagement party was just one day, Lord. And you robbed me of it. The intimacy of naming this truth undid me and I pictured my Heavenly Father pull me out of the ring and into His close embrace. Waves of peace slowly washed over me with each breath.
When mystery and disappointment collide, too often we do not enter into the tough questions. Like our tendency with other relationships, we avoid conflict – conflict with the One who we know allowed disappointment. The odd peace that washed over me was completely beyond my understanding. “I am still good,” is what he seemed to whisper.
Having experienced quite a bit of loss in my lifetime, I had to admit, my faith didn’t always contain the truth of God’s goodness. I had, at times, felt like God completely abandoned me. Yet, as a dearly loved worship leader recently said to our church, “Life is constantly full of pain, and life is constantly full of promise.” While this might sound overly simplistic or trite, he said it, tears in his eyes, on the heels of a tragic car accident that killed his father. What struck me as he said this is the fact that more than likely, he had made hundreds of choices to wrestle over seemingly “little” disappointments with God prior to the news of his father– things like getting sick on a day he had counted on being present in the joy of family.
The choice I made to enter the wrestling match that day was significant. It mattered, not only for the intimacy of my relationship with my Savior but to build my faith muscle for disappointments to come. May we always have the courage to enter the wrestling match, knowing that God is good.
Natalie Sum thrives when someone she knows has an “Ah-hah” moment, whether in a classroom, through an online class she’s created or just talking with a friend. She feels most alive cruising on her bike and relishing in God’s creation. She lives in Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago.