I am now three days away from my induction. Assuming it’s true that second labors are faster than first ones, I am a mere four days away from meeting the little dude who has been camped out under my ribcage lo these many months. But, as excited as I am to finally meet this little guy, I am also quite terrified. There is no question that, no matter how uncomfortable I have been, Jellybean is much easier to take care of inside than he will be once he arrives. I am terrified that I won’t get to hold my baby or have any pictures with him before he is whisked away to the NICU and attached to tubes and wires of various sorts. Terrified that the official diagnosis after he’s born will be worse than we know. Terrified of the upcoming surgeries and all that they will entail. Terrified that he may not survive. But I’m also terrified of leaving my daughter behind. Terrified of how all of this will impact her. Terrified that I am not up to the task of taking care of two special needs children.
And worse, there’s nothing I can do about any of this. I have done my part. I have read and prepared emotionally as much as I can for whatever is ahead. Everything that’s left is all outside of my control, which only makes a control-freak like me even more terrified. People have been telling me how well I am handling things, and maybe I am. I don’t really know. But I haven’t spoken much about the terror before now because it usually elicits a well-intentioned response to which I do not subscribe. Namely, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
In my experience, God often gives people more than they can handle. There are children in protective services because their parents got more than they could handle. Addicts get high because reality is too much for them to handle. People maim and kill themselves in an effort to escape life because they feel unequipped to handle a situation or circumstance in which they find themselves. As my sister recently wrote so eloquently on Facebook:
Whence this crazy belief that God doesn't give us more than we can handle? Cain got more jealousy and anger than he could handle. Noah got more stress than he (and his son) could handle without abusing alcohol. Moses got more power than he could handle and for on the "ineligible" list for the promised land. David got more temptation than he could handle. Absalom got more power over his sister and more consequences from his father than he could handle. St. Peter got more temptation to violence and denial than he could handle. Judas got more temptation for betrayal than he could handle. The list goes on... and on... and on... Every last one of us is given more than we can handle. If we're lucky, we have communities who extend the mercy, support, and love necessary to get us through, and we pay that favor forward by supporting rather than judging others when they fail to handle everything in their own lives. If nobody got more than they could handle, there's be no need for grace. Fortunately, in addition to too much of everything else, God gives more grace than any of us can possibly use up.
If my sister’s right, and I think she is, then grace and community are what will get me through. And, lucky for me, I find myself in the midst of an amazing community made up of friends, family, congregants, neighbors, and even people I have never met. We have been the beneficiaries of some amazingly generous and unexpected acts of kindness over the last few months. We are being constantly prayed for, cared for, and provided for. Thus, even though God has given me more than I can handle, He didn’t give me more than my community can handle. But, when I’m in the middle of the fire, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and alone. So, my plan is to take some tangible reminders of the love and prayers of my community—a prayer shawl, pictures, notes, etc.. That way, when things get hard, I need only look at them to know that that I am not alone in this; that there are all kinds of people who have my back and will help make it possible for me to get through whatever is coming. And when I remember that, I remember the truth—that even with all that is to come, I am so very blessed. And for that, I am so very grateful.
T-minus 3 days and counting...