As I drove away from yet another doctor’s appointment with no answers, no solutions, no progress made on our journey toward having another baby, with tears in my eyes (and by tears I mean I was ugly crying, almost to the point of needing to pull over) I was overwhelmed by the feeling of numbers. Numbers have feelings attached to them.
In Math class, or even History class, the feeling attached to numbers was often frustration for me because they never seemed to line up right. They didn’t make sense to the way my brain works. My mind jumbles numbers. It’s why I often don’t have my students memorize exact dates, but more the general time frame. I might see 1784 but out of my mouth comes 1847. I have to check and double-check that I have the correct order of numbers before I type them, say them, post them because my mind does not like to leave them in the order they were supposed to be in and so, numbers can often be frustrating to me.
Significant dates can hold such a wide range of emotions and feelings. Anniversaries, birthdays, March 13th – the start of March Madness (now THAT brings quite a bit of joy for me! I love creating brackets with my classes during March Madness and watching as the underdog teams defeat all odds to beat teams ranked higher than them!). Significant life events are often marked in dates and so we have feelings attached to them. Sorrow on the anniversary of the loss of a loved one. Joy celebrating another year well lived. Despair as months pass by with still no answers, being no closer to having and holding a little baby of our own. Anxiety, anticipation, warmth, love, happy, energetic, the list could go on and on. Dates are attached to events which are connected to emotions and so we think and feel when it comes to dates.
Appointments are filled to the brim with feeling numbers. Let’s take doctors appointments, since this has become the most prominent type of appointment in my life lately, although it could apply to other appointments as well. Specifically the appointment that had me driving away, feeling strongly in numbers. I sat there waiting, watching the minutes on the clock tick by excruciatingly slowly (numbers holding the feelings of dread and anticipation and a bit of hope that maybe this time there will be some answer, a move forward in the process of getting pregnant again. After all, this specialist was the one who helped us get pregnant with Verity). I felt like a number in a long list of numbers as I waited, not a name or a face or a person, just a number.
Finally it is my turn, my name is called. I step into that room and am asked my medical history, and I re-live, yet again, the life and death of my daughter and the infertility journey we have traveled. I am asked for dates, times, numbers and each one feels like a wound opening up again. As I sit there, I think to myself, “Why? Why do they need to know all this again? It’s all in my files and in the portal messages we have been sending back and forth. I have no new information for them so why dredge it all up?” Then, the specialist finally comes in and simply points me back in the direction of my primary care provider, because it will be more cost efficient in the long-run. Wait, what? And suddenly, in just a few short minutes, I am made to feel like a monetary number. I am made to feel like the number of dollars I can bring in and be charged for an appointment that held no new information and gave no new answers. I feel the cost of the half-day I took off of work to go to the in-person appointment the specialist had recommended, and the stress of creating lesson plans for a substitute. I felt the cost of parking in downtown Portland and the anxiety I get anytime I have to drive there. And I felt the cost of being charged to simply be told, “I can’t do anything for you” in person, instead of through messages. As I drove away I felt that hope start to slip slowly through my fingers as despair took over and I felt like a number, not a person and it hit me like a brick, numbers have feelings.
Time, ultimately, is a collection of numbers and so the passing of time holds a multitude of emotions and “feelings”. For anyone who has walked the path of infertility, you know that each month that goes by brings with it a roller coaster of emotions. Recently I have been reading a book titled Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams are Delayed by Betsy Childs Howard. This book was given to me almost a year ago for my birthday by a dear friend but, at the time, I thought my season of waiting was over. I was finally moving forward in my dream of having a family and so relieved to be done with the waiting and so I didn’t read it. And then, suddenly, life changed and I found myself back in the throws of waiting again. At least once a week my friend would gently encourage me to pick up the book, take a look, maybe see if there was encouragement to be found in among the pages. After months of waiting again for another miracle baby, rapidly approaching another year of waiting, I finally picked up the book. Now, let me just say that I am still working on reading it but I did make it through the first few chapters. I have read through the chapter on waiting for a bridegroom, waiting for a child, and waiting for healing and though there are more chapters yet to come, I have found renewed hope and encouragement in among those numbered pages. In the beginning of the book the author points out that God isn’t wanting us to learn our lesson about waiting so that we don’t have to wait anymore, but instead He wants us to learn how to wait well, even if that waiting continues on for the rest of this life (pg. 14). God is working in our waiting (pg. 15). The Bible is FULL of waiting! The Jews were constantly waiting; Elizabeth waited, Hannah waited, Job waited, the Disciples waited. I am slowly, excruciatingly slowly, learning that beautiful growth can happen in the waiting.
Originally, I had thought that my problem was in not being patient enough, that I haven’t learned my lesson about waiting patiently yet and so God is keeping me in this wasteland of waiting. But that is not how God operates. When it came to dealing with the overwhelming emotions attached to numbers and waiting my first reaction was to detach. Stop feeling numbers. Don’t allow numbers to dictate how I feel. But then, I’m not sure that is truly realistic for me. Round 2 then, how can I keep my many “feeling numbers” in perspective so that I can still feel them without letting them consume me? How can I learn to wait well?
I can start by believing in the truths found in Scripture.
I can continue to hold onto the hope found in Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
I can strive for the truths found in Philippians 4, to rejoice in the Lord always; to not be anxious about anything, instead bringing it all before the God who created everything and knows my thoughts and feelings better than even I do; to be content in every circumstance and to rely on Him for my strength.
I can keep things in perspective through remembering what Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 has to say about there being a season for everything and never forgetting that for God time is different (2 Peter 3:8).
I can gain wisdom in living knowing that my days are numbered (Psalm 90:12) and that God has established each and every one of my steps, no matter how I try to plan (Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 29:11).
I can remember to make the best use of my time because I do not know what tomorrow may bring (Ephesians 5:16; James 4:13-15) and I can be encouraged by those who lived before me.
And so today, my prayer for you is that you would be encouraged in your waiting. Whatever that waiting may be. Know that you are not alone in the waiting and that there can be great beauty in the waiting. That doesn’t mean that the waiting won’t hurt at times; that numbers won’t continue to pass you by, full of all kinds of feelings, but growth can happen in the waiting. Wisdom can be gained. And life can still be full of hope.