Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hunger & Surprise

There's an old saying--be careful what you wish for, because it might just come true. So far in life this has not held any relevance for me. Nothing I've ever wished for has ever come back to bite me. (Although, as a child enamored with WWII fiction I romanticized the idea of a country at war. For a little while I thought the "War on Terror" might have been my fault. Don't judge me, I was 13.) 

In any case, I have seldom feared wishing or hoping for something simply because I feared receiving that thing might be bad. I have, however, feared hoping or wishing for something because the prolonged absence of my desire would be altogether too painful. When you hunger for something so deeply it consumes all your thoughts, being denied can bring only destruction. 

This is one of the truest sorrows in life. We dare not to hope, for fear our hopes will be crushed. We stuff our hope in pockets and hide it in closets and bury it in the backyard where it can't be found. Or worse, we hold our hope in shaking palms and then we crush it ourselves, just so someone else won't do it first. 

And yet, that thing we hope for, that thing we hunger for, cannot always be neglected.

And all of this was on my mind 2 weeks ago when I went to see my obgyn. 

It was  a routine supposed to be a routine visit. It had been rescheduled once already, like most of my visits to the obgyn. When I arrived I was informed I would need to get into a paper gown and wait, but the doctor wasn't sure what procedure she was doing yet. I brushed off my confusion and got into the paper gown, only for the nurse to come back and tell me they needed to do another test first and so I got out of the paper gown and back into my clothes. 

When I returned, the nurse had moved my belongings to a different exam room and said cheerfully, "The doctor wants to redo the EMB so I have some paperwork for you to sign. Then you can get back into the gown."

I was halfway through my signature when I realized EMB meant endometrial biopsy. 

Let me be honest: I had been hoping I was pregnant, and that I just didn't know it yet. I want motherhood so desperately that I am willing to suffer through a surprise at the doctor's office. I hate surprises, I am terrible at surprises, but I would welcome such a wonderful surprise if it meant my heart's desire would be satisfied. 

But they had already done that test. I was not pregnant. I could not be pregnant if they were doing a biopsy--a biopsy I had not prepared for. Usually I would take some painkillers beforehand and plan something relaxing afterwards to distract me from the pain. None of that happened.

The doctor came in, discussed the risks involved, completed the procedure, and all the while I lay there feeling completely enraged as my hope slowly died. 

Still, while I had hungered and hoped for a surprise pregnancy, there was another part of me, a logical part of me, that wanted to know if the abnormal cells would return. It had been almost a year since my last biopsy and as I continue to not be pregnant I can't help but wonder if there's a recurring problem with me.

There isn't, at least not a definitive one. The results were all negative--a blessing, for sure!--but they give me no answers about my unexplained infertility. 

So I have been pondering deeply, as introverted nerds like myself often do, about my hope and my expectations and how the element of surprise is so conflicting for me. 

I have never reacted badly to a surprise. Yes, I was full of anger in the doctor's office, but I didn't show it. I could have said I wouldn't do it, I could have thrown a fit and ripped apart that stupid paper gown, but I didn't. I simply signed my name and put on the gown and tossed the paper towel blanket over my knees. I cooperated. I said I was fine. I didn't ask any questions. 

I believe my fear of surprise is not in the surprise itself, but that I will have to be dishonest in response to the surprise. Kind of like when someone gives you a terrible gift. "Oh, thank you, I love sweaters with embroidered geese!" What I really hate is not the surprise, but the politeness required of me afterwards. 

In light of this realization, I have been thinking about other situations in which I claimed to be afraid of surprises, afraid of not being prepared or not getting what I hope for, when in reality I am simply afraid of who I will be in the middle of that surprise. The best and most recent example I have is my women's huddle.

My church calls Bible studies/small groups "Huddles." I think it's an endearing and intimate title. It brings to mind images of friends huddling together around a fire, or huddling together for protection, or huddling in order to share a secret and then giggle quietly about it. It covers all the different aspects that I often found so absent in other Bible studies--it gives space for vulnerability and intimacy and true connection with others. 

However, I loved the name first and the experience second. I completely avoided the first huddle that was available to me. It was nearby, and people offered me rides, and I was even part of the group-text sent out each week, but I didn't go even once. I have a combination of good reasons for why I never went, but mostly it just didn't feel right. 

And then a few months ago a women's huddle was going through a transition period, and I was asked to join their group. 

This was a transformative moment for me, for several reasons. To begin, I have sought and hoped and hungered so long for a church like mine that the mere existence of Christian Neighbors Church is truly an answer to prayer. Second, I was keenly reminded that I had beloved friends in this church, and they wanted me.

But I was still my introverted self. I was still afraid of being surprised. I was still uncertain about who I would be in that setting, that intimate and huddled environment that emotionally seemed warm and inviting but caused me mental anxiety. As the first meeting approached my enthusiasm waned and fear had its way with me. What if I came across too strong? What if I said too much? What if I said too little? What if it was boring? What if the thing I hope for is denied and I am crushed by disappointment?

The day we finally met I had been fighting the urge to cancel completely. My personal experiences were that tainted, and therefore my fear of the surprise--or who I would be in the wake of the surprise--was that much stronger. 

And then I didn't cancel. And then we met. And then we spent an evening devouring each other's words and stories. There was no awkwardness. There was no fear. I was not anxious, and I was not polite, and I didn't say with insincerity, "Oooh, I had a great time!" 

The last several months of our meetings have been such a rich blessing in my life. As we grow closer to God and to each other through our conversations, I am continually in awe. I believed I was hoping for a non-awkward Bible study group, but what I was truly hoping and hunger for what a deep connection with other women.

In the same way that I believed I was only hoping for a surprise pregnancy, but the surprise I received was also something I needed.

I am reminded that sometimes what we hope for is a surprise. And sometimes the surprise is what satisfies our hunger.