Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday (or training for a triathlon, part one)

Today is Fat Tuesday, eve of the season of repentance that begins with Ash Wednesday. The ashes remind us that from dust we have come, and to dust we return. In repentance we recognize that without God, we are nothing. With the ashes marking our foreheads in the sign of the cross, we say that it is because of Christ we have complete forgiveness and complete freedom. And so with this repentant heart that recognizes Christ as the giver of life, we embrace life with a willingness to change for the better.

When you are trying to get pregnant, it's easy to put things off with the "well, when I get pregnant I won't be able to do that" naiveté. So before Christmas when our friends mentioned participating in the Wildflower triathlon sprint in May 2006, I decided against it because I was planning to be pregnant by then, and mountain biking isn't so good for the pregnant lady. But as those who have struggled with infertility can tell you, better off living your life than putting things on hold. So when the new year rolled around and I still wasn't with child, I decided to ahead and do it, secretly thinking "Sure, once I sign up and pay the registration fee, I'll get pregnant, ha ha ha (insert sneaky laughter here)."

Well, a few months later, I'm ten pounds lighter and in better shape than when I started. You could definitely say there's a benefit to living my life in the present instead of in the future. My endurance and strength have improved, as has my attitude! So on Fat Tuesday I can say my physical health is improving (not to mention a clean bill of health this year--no more colitis!). But what about my spiritual health? Am I cleansing my soul the way I am attempting to cleanse my body? What extra "fat" am I carrying around my spirit?

I can say with honesty that the infertility struggle has been the single most difficult factor in my spiritual walk with God. So the reality is I would rather be fat and pregnant than 10 pounds lighter and not. Sad but true. About a year ago I was writing in my journal about my totally irrational fear that God would withhold from me the one thing I wanted most desperately--to be a mother. And over the next several months I learned things about my body that made this fear a bit more rational.

But I cling to my faith, for this is all I have! I remind myself that it is not God who withholds, for I am sure that every good and perfect gift comes directly from him. Just to have life is a gift, just to know him a gift, to have a loving family, amazing friends, a roof over my head, food to eat, a job...these are all good gifts, undeserved but given anyway. As a friend who is also experiencing difficulty getting pregnant said, "Becky, motherhood is a gift, not a right." Her words stung because they were (and are) true.

And I still struggle. I cringe every month when my fears are confirmed and a new cycle begins. Just last week an acquaintance let me know she was pregnant, and it was really difficult. I was so happy for her, but so sad for me. Later that week, as I was laying in bed wondering about all of this, I found myself asking God (in a very immature, adolescent tone), "what else do you want from me?" And the song that immediately popped into my head..."Devotion" by the Newsboys.

What my Lord wants from me is devotion, pure and simple. He wants my heart to desire after him above all else. This is so easy at times, so difficult at others. I want to want God above all. I want to serve him above all. I don't want to hold out on him because my selfish and stubborn spirit at times thinks he is holding out on me.

Praise be to God that I am changing for the better. I know I am because I have seen growth this year, and just as I have experienced an increased physical endurance with my triathlon training, I am learning to endure spiritually as well. I have witnessed my faith maturing and deepening even in the course of disappointment and unmet wishes. I have felt the faith and encouragment of others when I didn't have the strength to stand on my own. I have learned that nothing I do or say or am is deserving of the gifts I have. It is all God's doing. And that is precisely what lent is all about.

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