We were having coffee on the waterfront, the remnants of a tiger brownie and apple torte between us. We cupped hot java as we watched the lights of the pier dance on the water. The sun was setting and the dark water glistened with flecks of gold and crimson.
“Sometimes I feel too selfish,” she said softly, “and then I feel guilty.”
I nodded. I knew this feeling. Having picked my way along this rocky road – the one that took me from pursuing parenthood to finding sweet joy in being a complete, permanent family of two – her words plucked a familiar chord in my heart’s memory.
She was wrestling with familiar, difficult questions. How do you picture a life without children? What does such a life even hold? Is it less? More? Could this really be what God wants for our family?
And somewhere over all the questions hums a new grief: can I let this go? Will this always hurt? Am I giving up? Am I simply too tired to carry this pain anymore?
“I mean, we could adopt. We don’t feel called to adopt, but we could. Not adopting feels selfish,” she continued, picking up her fork and tracing lines of hot fudge across the floral print of the plate.
“I know,” I replied, squaring a fold in my napkin. “God builds families in so many different ways. If it’s His will for your family to be complete as two, how is that selfish? How is living in His will a selfish choice?”
Even as the words slipped off my tongue, I realized how easy it sounded… how effortless a conclusion it seemed to be. Oh, how those few words betrayed the long nights of weeping and praying, the deep grief of wrapping our hearts and minds around the choice of a life without children. How well those words hid the occasional guilt I still felt over living what seemed to be the “easy” way out.
“Do you ever feel guilty?” she asked, her eyes searching mine.
I nodded, returning her gaze. “Yes, sometimes. Not as much as before.”
She bit her lip, looked away. The weight of the next question hung heavy in the cool evening air.
“Does it still hurt? This much? Will it always hurt this much?”
I smiled. I knew tears would come and I would fumble my response. I knew this answer, but words could barely do justice to the reality. These tears sang of joy uncontained, mysterious and heart-piercing, of peace that passes understanding. Of relief. Of healing.
“No, it doesn’t always hurt this much. It’s… it’s so hard to describe, really. Maybe impossible to describe, but this is our miracle. This joy, this hope, this peace… this is our miracle. I know it’s not everyone’s miracle, but it’s ours and it’s beautiful.”
She had her own tears then… tears of a heart unwilling to believe that such a life could be a miracle; tears longing for peace and joy and hope; the overflow of a heart that has felt too much sorrow in too short a time.
I knew there was nothing more I could say in that moment. In the quiet pause my heart whispered a silent prayer of thanks… for my beautiful life, for words shared, for some kind of miracle.
Some kind of miracle, indeed…
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
~ Psalm 30:11-12 (NLT)
(A repost from the archives. Originally posted here.)