Two and a half years ago, I got married at 43. For the first time. My new husband and I were going to the Friday night football game at the school were his son and daughter attended. I was naturally nervous: I didn’t know anyone; I was new to a tight-knit community of parents who had been attending their children’s sports events together for years. (And this was our first time in the kids’ mom’s arena, where she had long friendships and influence. Though Bob and his ex-wife had been divorced for nearly 10 years, she was not happy about me, nor my presence in her children’s lives and let me know it.) Granted, this was scary.
Bob made a point to hold my hand tight, tell me I looked pretty and introduce me to a few of the parents. We finally found seats in the bleachers and I exhaled. I looked around and saw loads of families eating their Chik-Fil-A and chatting warmly while their kids ran up and down the bleachers, threw mini footballs near the sidelines or mimicked the cheerleaders with playful jumps and splits.
It was a beautiful sight. The cooling night in the fall, where a community of people shared their lives and cheers, just like hundreds of towns across America. But this wasn’t my town. Or my Friday night tradition. Not my children and not my friends. A rush of loss welled up in me and leaked out my eyes. Bob leaned in as if to tell me I was doing great in my new role.
But that wasn’t it. I wholeheartedly embraced Bob and the kids and my new city and home. All of sudden, though, I realized afresh that given the chance, I would have wanted just this. This environment for my family, my young children running up and down the bleachers or pretending to be players or cheerleaders. My friends chatting with chicken. My Friday night tradition.
An old sense of loss surprised me even in my gain. I wasn’t surprised that Bob and I would not have children. I was not surprised that I would need to make new friends, and that this locale might not be it.
But what did surprise me was how often I would face the loss of not being able to do it “my” way—fully putting my fingerprint on the life of a child and creating the kind of environment where that child could thrive. In the shadow of those Friday night lights, I faced again a loss I’d known for 20 years. I would never be a mom.
And I thought of my friend Tracey. Her husband died when their children were very young. She didn’t get to raise their children “her” way with Dave beside her. And Lisa’s missionary call left her thousands of miles away from her family, whom she assumed would be intimately involved in her children’s lives. That wasn’t her way either.
Though I’d gained a husband and family, I still had losses that surfaced at awkward times and were upsetting. Thinking of my friends who all have losses (yes, all), reminds me that it’s not mine to decide. And that I can trust all my “my’s” for safe keeping to the One who taught me to surrender, even the losses. Especially the losses.
With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures. A.W. Tozer