Shortly after Turkey-Man’s arrival I had a man tell me how lucky I was to be able to have a child and not have to go through any labor. The response I shot back was “I went through a lengthy labor for this child, just not the kind you are thinking of!”
Then, I bit my tongue. I had said too much. I had violated one of the truths I had learned on this journey. Most of the hurtful comments were not intentionally harmful. Just when I needed to extend this man mercy, knowing that he had no malicious intent, I responded out of anger.
By nature I tend to speak before I think. I have been on the receiving end of many jokes about my “filter problem” as in I do not have one between my brain and my mouth. This combined with my general propensity to wear my emotions on my sleeve leads me into saying things that I often later regret.
When we began to struggle with infertility I began racking up regretful moments as I did not usually respond kindly to unsolicited advice. Time spent reading my bible only contributed to my remorse. I knew I was not reacting in a Godly manner.
I needed a new strategy. My tactic of replying before thinking clearly was not working. I had to figure out what made me respond in that manner. I often felt misunderstood. There was an angry part of me that wanted everyone to spend some time in the shoes of an infertile woman so they could grasp what I was dealing with.
But, that is not how God deals with us. I am full of ignorant comments, but God does not wish for me to spend time in Christ’s shoes just to understand what it really means to be a Christian. Actually, he sent Christ in place of the response I deserved. He watched his son die on a cross instead of placing my punishment squarely on me. He has extended me an incredible amount of mercy and grace.
Paul details God’s grace in 1 Timothy 1:12-16
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
How I was responding to ignorance was nowhere close to how God had responded to Paul’s ignorance. Paul was helping murder Christians and yet God extended him grace. These people were only making comments about infertility and I was struggling. I needed to revamp my response.
As I started to examine the advice I was receiving a theme developed. Most of the comments were born out of a desire to make the situation easier. They were attempting to do a good thing even though it was difficult to be on the receiving end of ignorant help. I was going to have to learn to accept this.
I began to pause before responding and look at the advice through their eyes as they were saying it to me. How would I feel if I were in their shoes? They only want to help. I became thankful that people cared enough to try and help us. That gratitude helped in learning to be merciful.
As our infertility journey transformed into an adoption journey the degree of ignorant comments expanded. Many people had only a rough idea of how adoption worked so I fielded a lot of questions. When we went from a semi-open adoption to an open one the confusion only increased. My lesson in mercy was ongoing as I struggled at times to want to respond in frustration at the lack of understanding.
Today it is still a struggle. I have gotten markedly better and usually express gratitude and smile if I have nothing beneficial to add. When I can gracefully educate, I do. Some people will never comprehend what this road is like and the reality is that I would not want anyone else to struggle through what we have endured just so I could have another person who truly understood.
I attempt to connect with the Bible on a daily basis and examine my behavior against the example of perfection we have. As I do this another reality unfolds. I am in just as much need of grace and mercy. I am no better. I fail just as often, if not more than others. Who am I to respond in anger when God responds to me with such kindness?