by Carrie McCarty-Gibson (guest Sweet Sister)
I sat in church that January my heart aching from five years of infertility which had just ended in a second miscarriage. A visiting, itinerant priest, a friend of our pastor’s from seminary, announced he was there to talk personally with anyone who needed to discuss her relationship with God.
Well that wasn’t me!
I went to church every Sunday, prayed with my husband, and even taught the 8th grade class right there at church, but I didn’t talk to anyone about my relationship with God. As Father Fred stood at the back of church shaking hands with people as they left, I was making a wide arc to avoid him when I felt compelled instead to go speak with him. Before I knew it, I found myself saying, “I think I ‘m supposed to talk to you about my relationship with God.”
I went to meet with him and poured out my heart and ended with,
“I don’t understand what I’ve done that has made God angry with me. I don’t understand why he is punishing me like this.”
Father Fred smiled a big warm smile and chuckled a bit. He went on to explain that ever since the first day he had been ordained a priest God had been sending him infertile couples and he had known when I saw him in the church why I was coming to see him. For decades, he had kept a list of infertile couples and he would pray that they could find their lost fertility. He told me in all the years of his list, he had never had one couple who couldn’t conceive. He asked me if I’d like to be placed on his list. I was so excited. This was all I needed. I could be right with God if I could just be on the list of this holy priest to whom God had given this special ministry. Father Fred prayed over me and I got up to leave. He motioned for me to remain sitting and said, “Now, let’s talk about your relationship with God.”
I was confused. Being on the list was what I needed. Exactly what I needed. But God wasn’t leaving me in the misconceptions of my immature faith so Father Fred couldn’t either.
Father asked if I could picture the most painful memory of all I had experienced. I said, “Yes. I see the doctor’s face, hear the monitor beeping, feel my husband’s hand. I see it all, Father.” He gently responded, “No. You don’t.”
“You don’t see where Jesus was in that moment and I promise you that he was there with you.”
He told me to ask Jesus where he was. “Lord where were you?” I cried in a half-sob. I closed my eyes and pictured the scene again and this time I could see Jesus standing by me and when the doctor spoke those cruel words, I could see him bend over me, shielding me.
Then I saw so many of the other scenes from this painful journey and I could see Jesus with me through it all. Father Fred asked, “What is Jesus doing?”
I answered, “He’s crying.”
“And why is he crying?” Father asked.
“Because I’m hurting and he’s hurting.”
“Why is he hurting?” prodded Father.
“Because he loves me,” I sobbed.
“That’s right! “Father joyously exclaimed. “Jesus loves you! He’s not punishing you because of something you did wrong. He’s hurting for you because he loves you.”
Father Fred went on to tell me that bad things happen in the world because sin exists and bad things that happen were not even necessarily the result of our own sin. Sin and the sad that resulted from it were never what God wanted, but that he could bring good from it if I would let him.
I felt so much better and thanked him and got up to leave. Father motioned for me to sit and said, “Now, I’ll hear your confession.” I wasn’t ready for that. I liked to prepare. Father said, “Relieve yourself of these sins you feel are so great that you believe God is angry with you and punishing you.”
In Isaiah 40:1-2, God says:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
God forgave me and I needed to believe it. I have spent years learning that lesson – God has forgiven me of anything I had done. The negative feelings I now felt weren’t an issue with God; I needed to learn to forgive myself.
Father listened to my sins and told me God forgave me.
Then he paused and said, “I’m getting a very strong feeling from the Holy Spirit that you are going to be pregnant by Easter. Yes. Easter. Let’s pray you can carry this baby to term.” We prayed. I thanked Father and left.
I went happily through the season of Lent. The peace my faith had brought me during our infertility and miscarriage trials had inspired my husband to seek Jesus and he was preparing to be baptized at Easter, April 16. It was a joyous, hope-filled time. We made a peaceful spiritual retreat to lovely Savannah, Ga and grew in faith and love of God. Two weeks before Easter, we discovered Father had been wrong. I was not pregnant, but I talked to God about that and told him we had so much growth that it was okay that Father had been wrong and had misinterpreted the message God had sent.
My husband was baptized at Easter. It was a beautiful time and it made it ok that Father Fred had been wrong.
Except, he hadn’t been.
Two weeks after Easter, I discovered I was pregnant and looking back on all those records folks struggling with infertility keep, I was a day or two pregnant at Easter when my husband had been baptized.
I did go on to carry our little girl, not only to term but two weeks past. Savannah was born in January – exactly a year after I had met with Father Fred. Easter Sunday that year was on my birthday and Father Fred just happened to be passing through visiting our pastor for Easter. He gave me the best birthday gift I’ve ever received when he baptized Savannah on that Easter birthday of mine.
In so many ways then and since then God has shown me the truth of Jeremiah 29:11-13 –
11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,plans to give you hope and a future.12 You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
With my heart broken, I sought a relationship with God, and in finding that relationship, God healed that broken heart.
In the years that followed, I learned: God has good plans for us and they are so much bigger than our own plans. I learned to forgive myself if for no other reason because God forgave me and his is a perfect example to follow. Most of all, I learned to look for Jesus in my times of hurt because he is there.