Valor, my son, was born under trying circumstances. I have spoken about this in many contexts. I’m certain I’ve alluded to it on this blog. It was traumatic for me, pushing the boulder of anxiety down a mountain that I cannot seem to level off. I cannot describe to you how, when I tell the story of his birth, I can remember the walk to the recovery room from the NICU so vividly, feeling again the heart break, the despair as I figured out how to tell my wife that our son was going to die.
He’s fine. He’s great. The story ends well. But I carried the scars in my body from that walk. I still do, I guess.
When we were able to catch our breath after Valor was born, we said, “We’re done. We can’t do this again.” I wrapped my head around the completion of our family-building. Two girls, one boy. Just like the household I grew up in. This was nice.
I started saving up for a big 10-year-anniversary trip. Life was launching into a new phase.
And then the pregnancy test came back positive.
And I cried.
Like I buried my face in a pillow and I cried a little bit. I then kept my face buried there as I tried to wrap my brain, my heart around this news. I just couldn’t face doing this all over again.
I couldn’t face the fear.
But face it we did. One boring day of pregnancy at a time (which is obviously much easier for me than for my wife).
And then delivery day came. And we went to the hospital. And things started moving quickly, like I tried to tell the nurse would happen. And then she was pushing. And no one rushed in to tell us something was wrong. And then the baby was here. And no one came to see why the baby didn’t look right. And then the little girl was right there with us. And then the doctors kept saying, “Everything is great.”
And then all her scores were great. And her hearing test was great.
I kept waiting for the catch, the trap door of terror to open up. I kept waiting for Valor’s birth to happen all over again.
But before I knew it, we were going home with a new, healthy baby. Another member of our family.
Hope Joyce was the name we had for a girl when Valor was born. Valor was the only baby we didn’t find out the gender. So we had two names ready. Hope was the one that we had picked out. But it wasn’t time for Hope to be born yet. Instead, we needed Valor to be born to teach us… so many things.
Terror. Gratitude. Joy. Insanity.
We needed to be taught valor.
But Hope was born at the right time. When I wasn’t expecting her, when I wasn’t ready for her, when I wasn’t looking for her, Hope was born. And Hope has been the sweetest addition to our family. I cannot imagine us without her. Her smile is the sweetest smile that any of our kids have had. And as gently as she came into the world (well… as gently as that can happen), she has sort of seasoned our life with very gentle grace and beauty.
She is not perfect. She is the worst sleeper we’ve ever had. She’s very stubborn about it. LOUDLY stubborn.
But in general, her personality has been a very gentle, very healing, very beautiful presence in our life.
And this is the way of Hope, isn’t it? A quiet, radiating presence in our lives that comes when we don’t think we have the muscle for it. It’s just this insistent, beautiful thing that worms into our hearts and refuses to be shut out. I cannot imagine my family without Hope. I cannot imagine my life without Hope.
God has been patient with me throughout my life. He has been gentle. I am so, so fearful that my very-good-life is going to fall apart. I have this fear all the time. And much of that is rooted in mistrust of God. I have no reason for that mistrust besides the darkness I see in the world.
God has never directly confronted my mistrust. Never come in the whirlwind and argued his case. Never shouted me down. Never pummeled me, like I feel he should.
He has answered me with Hope. He has answered me with quiet, enormous smiles and gentle eyes. He has cast Hope at me again and again to say, “I am good and I will do good to you.”
“I am good and I will do good to you.”
“I am good and I will do good to you.”
I don’t believe it all the way down to my bones yet. But I have Hope that some day I will.
I have Hope.