Faith,  Motherhood

Pregnancy, Mystery, and God

From the start of the pregnancy, my husband and I assumed we would find out the gender of our baby. My midwife doesn’t offer ultrasounds, so we started saving up to have one at a local clinic, and I anxiously awaited the weeks when Baby would make him or herself visible. This time just happened to fall during a month-long stay in a tiny French village. I shrugged it off, thinking I could be patient until we got back to the States.

What I didn’t expect is that, by the time we got home, I didn’t want the ultrasound anymore.

Somewhere between baguettes and the millionth person asking “Do you know what you’re having?”  (answer: A baby, I hope!), I started asking myself why I wanted to know. And the answer wasn’t a very good one. From the day I took the pregnancy test, I’d had a strong intuition what the gender was, and even though I’d be equally happy to have a girl or a boy, I really wanted to know if I was right.

Because it’s all about me, after all.

Once I realized the state of my heart, I knew I couldn’t go through with the ultrasound. The mother in me wanted to protect this baby from all the crazy assumptions and expectations people put on an infant—myself included. I didn’t want to hear what terrors I should expect from a little boy. I didn’t want to receive frilly dresses for a little girl. I didn’t want to elevate being “right” above letting my baby be utterly itself and loving that person like crazy.

The easiest way to ensure this is to keep everything about my child a total mystery. Life post-birth will be another story, but for now, Baby remains safely hidden inside me—no pokes, no ultrasounds, and no more assumptions.

As I’ve learned to accept this hiddenness, I’ve been convicted about the way I relate to another mystery: God.

People say a lot of strange things about my baby (Was it planned?  That’s definitely a boy belly!), but these comments don’t even begin to compete with the weird, made-up things we say about God. It’s incredibly popular in our culture to assign all kinds of attributes to God that he never revealed about himself: political views, opinions on current issues, indictments of people we don’t like, and on and on.    

God shows us a lot of his character in the Bible, but we have a hard time reading what he says without bringing our own opinions and cultural assumptions to the table. I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to this, and I have the benefit of having lived outside of my culture for extended periods of time. It is not an easy habit to quit.

It’s tempting to want to pull back the curtain on God, to make him seem more real by giving him extra personality or modern sensibilities. But God is a full personality—the ultimate I AM, in fact. When Jesus returns and establishes a kingdom where God and humans dwell together, we’ll see God as the fully real, fully alive being he is. But that’s not how it is right now.

Right now, we have to live with a little mystery.

I’ve noticed that American Christians in particular are really uncomfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” Somewhere along the way, someone told us that we had to have the right answers, that the Bible had a “clear” response to every modern-day issue. So we make assumptions, and pretty soon those assumptions start sounding like facts, and we start sounding a little (or a lot) arrogant.

It’s a nasty cycle, and it could all be avoided by those three little words: I don’t know.

I’ve been saying them a lot lately. Even when people ask me my due date, I give them a rough estimate, because I don’t know for sure. This baby will come when and how it wants, exactly who it is, and there’s not much I can do about it. There’s an odd joy and freedom in that, at least for me. And I’m beginning to find the same pleasure in God’s mysteriousness.

He is who he is. He somehow lives within me, and yet has his being totally apart from me. When we meet face-to-face, I’ll know him. For now, I can only catch hints, the way I feel my baby change positions inside me.

The relationship between us is no less beautiful for its mystery.

I love the intimacy of keeping my child’s secrets, even from myself, and I believe that same loving protectiveness is possible when it comes to God. It is a gift to let him be who he is, to let him reveal himself in his own time. To say with hands lifted and heart humbled: I don’t know, but you do, and that’s enough.  

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