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Monday, November 21, 2005

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Wow, you know me well,"Punkin"! I am so blessed with how beautiful and wise you have grown up to be. But then that's what Dad and I prayed for you in our bedtime blessings, isn't it?! Long distance hug,and I'll see you Wednesday!

Arwen,
I haven't walked the road you're walking, but I've had my own experiences of pain (& pain in the midst of trusting God), and one of the amazing, beautiful things that I learned in the midst of it was that pain was an essential part of Jesus' experience on the cross. Saints & martyrs aren't people who somehow don't experience pain because they love (or trust) God so much--they are the ones who are able to simultaneously cry out to God that It Hurts! & stretch out on the cross anyway, embracing His will & being willing to let their pain & themselves be turned into love through their surrender. This is what you & Bryan are doing; thank you so very much for doing it! Your pain & your surrender are your love & your witness...

Arwen, I don't think I know anyone who trusts God more than you do; I mean this in a good way and I hope you understand that. That guy is a boob.


People like that drive me nuts. When my mom was dying, my future sister-in-law sat there and told me that if I trusted God and prayed hard enough, she would not die. Great, thanks, just what I wanted to hear -- that my insufficienct faith killed her. Fabulous. I see a corollary with this guy -- he's basically saying that it's your fault that anything bad happens, for not trusting enough. Idiot. I'm glad you didn't listen to him. Stay soft.

Trust in God, to me, has always meant that I trust that he will use whatever I am dealing wtih to draw me closer to him. Not that fully surrendering myself will eradicate my pain.
The concept of suffering is something that I have always struggled with (and may likely do so for the rest of my life). You sharing your experiences and thoughts are truly a gift. Thank you.

I can understand the concept of suffering intellectually (well, as close as I can get anyway), though that doesn't mean I don't kick and scream as much as anyone when it's my turn. However, I really, really do not get the attitude of the guy you described; I knew someone in college like this, who almost acted as if God were his sleeping business partner. When in comes to IF, it's almost like they're endorsing the concept of predestination, since often people are born with the conditions that make them infertile but it just doesn't become apparent until later on. I mean, what would a guy like this say to someone who was a DES daughter and whose uterus had been malformed while she herself was still unborn, and who because of that couldn't carry to term? Would she be being punished for insufficient faith ahead of time?

Sorry for rambling, but even an ounce of thought would show what an untenable position this is - unless the guy is a Calvinist, of course :).

Arwen, this is the loveliest of many lovely things I've seen on this blog. It's so easy to assert our need for stability onto our picture of God, to imagine that our relationship with Him involves some sort of magical quid pro quo, that true faith will be rewarded only with obvious blessings. Thank you for writing out this truth so beautifully.

Tony, I found your post very interesting but I must admit (and I'm being entirely sincere) that I didn't quite understand what you were driving at - and I was able to read it over several times, as opposed to a conversation which can become confused and hard to unravel very quickly. Are you suggesting that perhaps Arwen is faced with this because right now her talents are needed in another, non-child-raising direction? I'm guessing that that's what using her talents "to the benefit of others" means, but I would say that she is doing that; this blog being Exhibit A. I'm infertile/Catholic myself and it has helped me unbelievably. I'm not saying Arwen is perfect or that she's using every talent she has to the fullest, or that she isn't doing so - how could I know one way or the other when I've never seen her? But she's definitely benefited at least one other.

Talking with someone who is infertile about infertility is, as I'm sure you understand, a very touchy undertaking. We spend a lot of time in a world that most people haven't thought much about. This is no way their fault, but it does lead to situations where huge misunderstandings can arise out of small things like awkward word choices or lack of specificity. It's like trying to speak in a second language - it's possible to say something quite wounding without in the least intending to. Talking about what God wants for us is perhaps the most sensitive area of all; others may look at us and say "I wish I had her skill at XYZ, why can't she see that she has so much besides her infertility?" But that discounts the wound that we've suffered, and the question "If God wants me to use my talents in another direction, why did he also give me such a deep longing for a child at the same time?" When such people try, very sincerely, to tell us this, it's hard not to put it such a way that we feel our pain is somehow being dismissed or that you're saying that we ourselves have caused it, by trying to go against God's will. And as in any speaking in a second language situation, I don't think you can blame your listener entirely for the fact that she didn't understand what you were really trying to say. (If you had mentioned the parable of the talents at the time, perhaps it would have come across more clearly - my apologies if you did and it wasn't mentioned).

Also, I think you're being a little unfair about post deletion - check out the NFP posts if you want evidence of that :).

All my best,

Sonetka

(who really should be going to bed now, but found this too interesting to resist)

Arwen,
It seems I've missed several wonderful posts here lately! (wonder what's up with my RSS reader?)
I just wanted to let you know that I'm very thankful that I found your blog before we started TTC. It's already been a much longer wait that I expected it to be and I'm glad to have someone out there, even if in cyberspace, who is a few steps ahead of me.
Keep up the great work!!

Well, I was just beginning to wonder what man might be so clumsy as to consider lecturing a woman struggling with infertility about trusting God. Looks like I've got my answer, as it appears that Arwen was unusually generous in her choice of adjectives.

Mr. Garczynski, I'm sure Arwen appreciates your charitable wishes that she grow through patience and trust - I certainly do. However, such wishes are normally accompanied by assistance of some sort, if only in the form of courtesy or (at least) tact. The snide phrases which lace your reply (e.g. "...you don't get it now.", "I expect that you will delete this post...") fall short of both, and betray a woeful misunderstanding of Arwen's character, both as displayed in this web log and by her personally. If that is the depth you perceive in Arwen, then it is small wonder you are not communicating.

Granted, I was not present at the conversation which forms the springboard for Arwen's post. It seems clear that you and she have widely diverse perceptions of what was said and what was intended. Your reply indicates that you think yourself misunderstood, and that may be. I don't know you personally, and you may be the most perceptive and eloquent man breathing. But knowing what I know about Arwen, if I had to bet on who was misunderstanding who more, I would not be betting against Arwen.

But you're clearly not considering another possibility - that Arwen understood you just fine; possibly at a level that you were unaware you had. Again, I do not question for a moment your good intentions, and I (and I'm sure Arwen) appreciate them. But sometimes when we act we betray some inner predisposition or presupposition that belies our perceived intent. In my experience, this is particularly true when dealing with someone else's suffering. I cannot count the times that I have been struggling with some burden and some well-intentioned brother or sister has come up and begun spouting Scripture quotes and platitudes at me. At such times it takes every ounce of charity I have to take their efforts as intended and not as they are coming across, i.e. as cheap and easy toss-offs that will assuage their conscience without requiring them to suffer beside (literal translation of "have compassion for") me. I am worse than most at this, and after several decades of receiving such treatment, I'm learning to keep my mouth shut (the wisest thing that Job's friends did; notice that things started going downhill once they stopped.)

I'm hoping that you don't interpret this reply as an attack, though the tenor of your reply indicates that you thought Arwen's original post to be one. I'm also hoping that you re-read what she wrote, and then humbly ask yourself what there might be in her insights that you might apply to yourself. Perhaps your intent was not as noble as you thought it was. Perhaps your delivery was clumsier than you wished. Perhaps there is something in her struggle that frightens you. I don't pretend to know. But what I am learning is that when I get all bristly and defensive at someone else's response to my actions, perhaps the wisest first response is not to assume that they misunderstood, but to examine my own part of the exchange. Perhaps there are valuable things to learn about myself.

We are doing a talk on unanswered prayers early next year for our life teen program. I definately feel I have a lot to share on that issue. I know what it's like to pray so hard, then have to let go and God do his will. I understand what you're saying. I trust Him, but I don't understand why He's doing things this way. I let myself get angry and upset, but I try not to direct it at anyone.

Wow. I read Tony's post. I just wanted to say this -

Is it really our job to judge other people's relationship with God? I mean, don't we have enough on our own plates, working on ourselves to become better people? Sure - God probably wants us to use our talents to help others, but I doubt that criticizing others' relationship with Him is up there on the list of what is helpful.

Anyway. Arwen obviously didn't delete your post, even if it wasn't "polite appplause." And even if she did delete it, this is still a free country, and this is still her blog.

Hi everybody! I wanted to chime in really quickly, just to clear the air a little after the fracas. Thankfully, it was a civil if not necessarily charitable comment that spawned the debate, so I've left it up for all of you to read and enjoy(?).

I just wanted to let you know, though - if you had a comment in your head after you read the post and before you read the comments, and now you're wary of posting it because you feel like you should respond to the comments, please do not worry! I consider that the fracas is over, the tactless one has received sufficient response. If you really want to chime in on that, feel free. But otherwise, continue the discussion as you would have under happier circumstances. My blog is a peaceful place, and I'd really like to keep it that way!

I think, with all due respect to Tony, that he is missing the point of this blog, and the side of Arwen that it demonstrates. This and other infertility-focused blogs are a decidedly feminine venue, a place for women to let down their hair and talk about how they FEEL about the situation. I'm not a total fan of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and other books of that ilk, but there is a truth there -- men want to "solve" the problem (infertility, lack of trust in God, or whatever). Women want to "process" the problem, figure out how it makes them feel -- and then feel those feelings -- and only then are they ready to move on to solutions.

This does not mean that they don't want help with the solution. But the feelings have to come first for it to work. I have been married for more than 24 years, and only in the last few of them have my husband and I learned to deal constructively with this difference. When he comes to me and says, for example "This new contract I'm taking on (he's self employed) will require me to be out of town three nights a week for the next three months," my first response will be tears, because I don't like it when he's gone. For many years he would get upset, because he "had" to take this job if we were going to survive financially, and he'd try to persuade me that was true. It would usually end up in a fight. Now he knows that if he just lets me work through my upset (read: cry) for a little while, I'll acknowledge that this is necessary and start to make plans about how to handle it.

I happen to believe that Arwen's vocation (in the "calling", not the "job" sense) involves writing and motherhood in some combination, and I suspect this blog is a step in that direction. She may not always make the perfect investment of her talents, but I certainly don't see them being buried in the ground!

Hi,

I just wanted you to know that your post was wonderful! I have struggled with infertility my entire 15 year marriage. We have since adopted 3 beautiful children and are happy and fullfilled. The pain of infertility never fully goes away. It will be with me forever. I do know and have closure on the fact that God had a different plan for me. Keep waiting....he will answer!-Gwen

My personal reaction to reading Arwen's post is that there are a lot of folk out there who have adopted some variation of the 'health and wealth gospel'. It is the idea that if only we have enough faith, God will do our will. And if things aren't going well for us, we don't have enough faith. It is a variation of some ancient partial-truths ranging from Gnosticism to Manicheanism and more recent ones like Christian Science of some aspects of Seventh-Day Adventism.
I see this played out in my field, in a group that call themselves Zion birthers. These well meaning folk believe, based on their interpretation of the Bible, that all complications in childbirth are due to insufficient faith or inadequate prayer or oppressive spiritual influences. They believe that seeking medical help or even having a medically trained birth attendant (as opposed to a prayer warrior 'midwife') is a sign of lack of faith and thus predisposes one to catastrophic events.
But somewhere in the Bible, it does say that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.
The problem of pain and suffering is one of the biggest mysteries of our fallen world. I don't think that we do anyone any favors by 'blaming the victim'. We can, and should, challenge each other to greater faith - but we cannot presume to know or manipulate the will of God.

God calls us to embrace our crosses; he never said that it wouldn't hurt. In fact, wasn't it St. Theres who talked about how she sometimes was envious of those who were allowed to suffer, because it meant God was drawing them closer to Him? There may be no other purpose in your suffering (and your husband's) other than for you to be drawn closer to Jesus. And really, isn't that the greatest purpose of all? Isn't that what we should be striving for- closeness to God? If embracing this struggle and grieving and suffering is drawing you closer to God, how can anyone say that it isn't beneficial or fruitful? How can anyone say you should be doing something else? And I totally agree with a previous commenter that your blog is definitely a fruit of your cross and a light for others going through the same struggle.

I think of patients being treated by a doctor. They may very well trust the doctor's decisions and methods, and may have complete faith in his abilities. Does it mean the treatments are then painless or comfortable? No, of course not. We can certainly be trusting our Heavenly Physician and still experience pain.

By the way, I think it absurd that someone tell YOU to delete YOUR post off of YOUR blog because it may make him look bad in some way. Asking that of you takes some...well, nevermind. This is your home, your space. Thanks for sharing with us.

Arwen, I'm delurking to say, Thanks for your brutal honesty. That is a beautiful thing. I appreciate all you share about yourself, I do think your ability to articulate all you endure is a gift!

Not that I disagree with Arwen or the rest of the choir, BUT to play devil's advocate...

Alicia - if you use the argument "rain falling on the just and the unjust alike" and say "hey, it's in the Bible," why can't I come back with my favorite passages about "having faith the size of a mustard seed" allowing you to move mulberry trees and mountains? It's in the Bible. Jesus himself said it.

Or what about the part where Jesus says to keep asking, looking, knocking? Or the verses where He says something about not getting a snake if you ask for a fish? Again, all in the Bible. I could probably come up with a few more. Hmm, how about the parable of the widow who keeps knocking on the judge's door over and over?

I actually think it's possible to believe both sides of the coin in the sense that I completely trust that everything happens for a reason, whether I ever learn the the reason or whether it remains closely held in the silent and loving memory of God.

I don't think you can manipulate the will of God (although I know some of you will claim I did by choosing to do IVF), but I get the sense he definitely wants you to be specific, bold and persistent in your prayers and have faith that he will answer them. Or not answer them. Sometimes a non-answer is an answer, which brings me to a Great American Philosopher who said,

"Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."

Yeah, Garth Brooks. And for the record, I don't even like country music! ;-) But he's right. I won't bore you with all the times I prayed for one thing and received another that, upon reflection, turned out to be exactly what I needed or wanted.

Arwen, maybe this is the spot where my post about the old Christmas special with the mice who sang "even a miracle needs a hand" belongs...

At any rate, I think there's a healthy spiritual balance to be found somewhere in all this.

Interesting discussion here today!

Arwen, I just wanted to quickly share that whenever I read your blog I'm reminded of a beautiful family that I know. They have shared their story with our parish many times and it is always a blessing...they were married young and eager to start a family,a nd God had them wait eight years before he blessed them with five children. They readily admit that those were tough, tough years. But the fruit borne in their lives (ad the lives of those around them) by waiting is immeasurable.

Now, I pray that you don't have to wait for eight years...but from what I know of you, this time spent waiting will bear great fruit and ultimately bring glory to God -- because that's the desire of your heart.

Peace be with you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Arwen,

I find myself stopping by "your place" in times where I am searching for something in myself and suprisingly enough, I often am reminded that my heart knows best after I read a few of your beautiful posts.

I married a wonderful Catholic and while I am not, would truly love to be and to have some peace in my life, despite currently being pregnant after much heartache and difficulty. We find our lives hurried and busy, at times, and have not made it a point to regularly attend the church around the corner, but we both acknowledge how important it is and how we *plan* on going.

I have read your comments, too, on this amazing post, and sometimes I get a sense of clarity on religion when I look at it from your viewpoint. I do believe God has a plan for each of us, even if we don't know what it is or agree with it, but that is the beauty in what you called your *trust* in him. It is very obvious that you do trust him and I pray that in time, the pieces will fall into place for you and your husband. (Well, I know they will, but in the meantime, add me to the list of people that are thinking and praying for you.)

Happy Thanksgiving -

Arwen,

I can't imagine the pain that you go through as you walk your via Dolorsa. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your beautiful witness to Christ.

God bless you and your husband!
Meg

Even though I'm reading this a month later, my thoughts and prayers are with you. You described this man well when you said "foolish." How arrogant and also how childish he is. While I'm sorry he said these things to you, I see clearly that you have only used them to strengthen your conviction that a soft heart is best. Your kindness to others is evident, and I wish you every blessing.

OH, Arwen. Wonderful. Beautiful. what a gift to the world. You said it better than I ever could have.

Grief and hope.

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