Once upon a time, I was 25 and crying in the car. Weeping, actually, over my just-pregnant belly. There was nothing wrong with the baby, thank God. The tears came because there was something wrong with me.
Moments before, I’d lain on my back on a cold, hard gurney. I remember noticing what a contrast the dark and sterile room made to the bubbly excitement my husband and I felt over the gift of our first baby. Then the moment of truth came, and the building up of pressure with it. The pain in my chest started with the ultrasound tech’s words, “It’s a girl.”
By the time I reached the safety of the car, I could no longer hold back the sobs.
It’s not that I had wanted a boy, exactly. It’s just that I thought God knew how badly I would mess up a girl. It was in my genes, in my DNA. Don’t You know that, God? I cried. Maybe I’d misunderstood Him. Maybe He wanted me to fail.
When we got home that night, my neighbor hugged me and looked right in my eyes. “You don’t understand it now, but this little girl is for you,” she said. She knew my story. She knew my fears. But I just nodded, numbly, not really able to believe her yet.
Yet—one of God’s favorite words.
I think He likes to surprise us while we’re waiting—in the unthinkable, in the impossible, in the I can’t believe this is happening. Such a small word, “yet,” and usually whispered so quietly at the end of a sentence. But if we whisper it with hope, who knows how God can swoop in and surprise us?
Seven short months later, she was in my arms. Tiny and pink and perfect. “I will not mess this up,” I whispered naively into the quiet hospital room. Endorphins circulated through my body and made me feel invincible. “We will be different. We will beat the odds.”
My promise to her.
And we are different. By daily walking with Jesus (and falling down, and getting back up again), we’ve forged a new path for our family. I went to counseling and learned how to forgive. My painful memories are farther away now. When they come, they’re just . . . there. They don’t hold me captive. And I’m not afraid anymore. I’ve found that just because things were always one way, doesn’t mean they have to stay that way.
One daughter became two, and the two became tweens. Today, we did schoolwork and ran errands and read together. They are my friends, in the truest sense of the word. Friends, because we talk to each other, we enjoy being around each other, we plan fun things together. The truest sense because we’ve overcome some odds to get there. But hasn’t everyone, these days especially? Doesn’t every family on your block know what it means to fear failure?
Maybe you’re like me, and you also know what it is to taste failure. That naïve promise I whispered in the dark of a hospital room? It hasn’t been easy to keep. I have messed up. I have said words I never meant to say. I have yelled when I should’ve knelt, have nagged when I should’ve listened.
But the promises I haven’t been able to keep perfectly have reminded me of the one and only perfect promise keeper.
They’ve reminded me to come to Him when I fail. And reminded me to share the simple, honest gift of His love, instead of the pretend perfect version I’d once intended on. Coming to my girls and looking them in the eyes and saying, “Mommy needs God too,” has maybe meant more than the preachiest sermon. Whispering, “I’m sorry,” has turned out to be just as healing as the first words I whispered to my daughter. Maybe more so.
God surprised me with my daughters—what a gift they’ve turned out to be. But the biggest surprise of all was that He isn’t surprised when I fail. He isn’t shocked or dismayed that I can’t perform perfectly. He knows I will stumble as I forge a new path of parenting. But He also knows He will be there to pick me up when I do.