It was déjà vu; the worship, the surrender, the emotions, the fear of the unknown. Tears formed in my eyes as I leaned on my husband’s shoulder. It was a new church, a new town, a new duty station. For the first time in a long time I allowed myself to go back in time and remember my difficult journey to motherhood. The first time I cried over my lost babies in public was during a worship service in Washington D.C. Then I was crying over the past. Now I was crying over my fear of the future. I was four weeks pregnant and Adam was leaving for Afghanistan. He would not be here to take me to my appointments or drive me to the hospital if something went wrong.
The following weeks I attended church without Adam. The series focus was on Jesus, his miracles, humbling the proud and lifting the lowly. The day’s sermon was on Mark 9:1-29. A father brought his demon possessed son to Jesus. He had been this way his entire life. Even the disciples who had been given the authority to cast out demons could not help this man or his son. Why? They did not apply their faith to the situation. I can see Jesus just shaking his head and uttering, “Faithless generation…”
I believe nothing disappoints God more than a lack of faith when it is available. The dad in this story just can’t see a way forward. You can see his lack of faith when he utters to Jesus IF you are able to help. Jesus responds, “If you are able! – All things can be done for the one who believes.” Jesus is trying to pull out a deeper faith in this man. He wants more than just IF. The father then cries out to Jesus, on his knees, begging for the sake of his child, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
The reality of life on earth is that people are constantly coming in and out of incredibly difficult places. We are called to walk by faith and not by sight. But we also know, through the resurrection, that faith is above logic yet it is involved in the reality of our everyday lives. It is a relationship with the divine. As the sermon drew to an end the pastor asked the congregation to say the verse together, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
I couldn’t think of a better prayer than that verse. It became my anthem every morning. It’s all I could say to God. It’s all I could speak. But it was everything. I was 3 weeks away from my first ultrasound and 10 weeks pregnant.
At Womack Medical center on base there is a chapel across the hall from maternal fetal medicine. I was 30 minutes early to my appointment so I decided to sit in a pew. It was quiet. It was peaceful. It was the last time I would be able to tell God I fully trusted him without the input of doctors or nurses.
After I signed in I was immediately attended to. The nurse didn’t beat around the bush. “I reviewed your history… if it’s OK with you I’ll be the only nurse seeing you moving forward. I don’t want you to re-explain your story every time you visit us.” She asked all the right questions, was professional, and quickly said, “Let’s take a look…”
I could tell she had a lot of experience. She knew all I wanted was the assurance there was a heartbeat. There was no point in preparing, no point in talking next steps without it. As soon as the cold metal hit my belly there it was. A huge peanut. It looked big and healthy. “There is the heartbeat! I’m going to check all the measurements to see if we are on track. But things look good…” She handed me a tissue.
The specialist came in a few minutes later and let me know although we have a long way to go we are off to a great start. There is no sign of chromosomal issues and the heartbeat is strong. Specialists are required to share all the risks and the possible outcomes, but the smile on the doctors face spoke deeper than her words. She was hopeful and so was I.
Before I went to the lab I decided to stop in the chapel to call Adam and text our parents. A pastor stuck his head in and asked if I needed help. I kindly shook my head no and smiled. I was so thankful that I could honestly tell him that.
The challenge is trusting God even when we can’t see what he is doing. Even when his disciples can’t help, even when the odds are against you, even when you don’t think you believe. Don’t ask God, “If you can…” Rather exclaim, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Photographs by Emily Connor