I had always thought Christians were horrendous, narrow-minded hypocritical people and I am sad to say that I was right.  Many are.  But I had also known a few over the years who were kind and caring, and who had lives that looked happier and better-adjusted that the turmoil I always seemed to be living in.  So when I became a Christian at age 35, it was a shock to my secular family and friends.

It came out of left field for sure.  God had always been vaguely there, but I was surprised to find that a transaction with Jesus could relieve some of the garbage and guilt I’d carried for so long.  So I joined a church and a community and everything was great for a while.

I believed at that point that God loved me more because I was now “his,” and that in return for my signing on the dotted line that He would give me an “abundant life” as Scripture promises.  I figured that meant that I would have an easier life.  After all, I expected God would answer my prayers, and so when I prayed for a husband and one finally came, I felt like things were falling into place.

I was surrounded by people who believed that God would give them “the desires of your heart,” as Scripture promises, and so I believed that getting pregnant at the age of 40 and a few months was another goodie that God would give me.  I saw Him giving this goodie to other women I knew, women who like me had postponed sex until marriage – which isn’t easy – and in so doing postponed our opportunities to try for a baby when our time was already getting short.

Well, obviously God did not come through with the spontaneous over-40 pregnancy.  Since I believed that God either had promised me this, or owed it to me, it was hard.  Christians love to say that “God can do anything,” and I believe that He can.  But “can do” isn’t the same as “will do.”  At the time I started trying to conceive, many of my friends insisted that God would always answer prayer, always give us a promise, always “come through.”  I had a friend who would always say “Do you really think God is going to screw you over?”

At the time the question shamed me.  How could I think that?  Now I believe differently.

After a 37-year old friend was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer, a woman who was a shining example of Christian goodness as far as I could see, I realized that my little infertility problem was only the tip of the iceberg.  God wasn’t doing all kinds of things to make Christians’ lives better.

At first I went to the known fallback position, which was that I must be bad in some way.  God must be punishing me for something to withhold the gift of fertility.  This is a hard switch to make, because as we came to Christ, the big deal was that our sins were forgiven.  “Jesus doesn’t care what you’ve done before,” we sang, and that was what made the whole thing so wonderful.  Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross are supposed to be big enough for any sin, so we were supposed to be redeemed.

Hm, I thought.  Did it not take?  Was I not forgiven, since I’m not now getting what I need?

As my friend’s breast cancer progressed and another friend was diagnosed, I thought wow, What did THEY do?  And how did they hide it so well?

It didn’t add up.  Meanwhile we wondered if maybe God wasn’t punishing us.  Our Christian friends who did IVF and ended up with beautiful babies weren’t being punished, apparently.  So we decided we’d do IVF, all the while thinking we’d probably be successful right away.  Because God loves us, and he rewards those He loves, right?  Scripture promises this.

But we weren’t rewarded.  My friends with cancer died.  My IVFs failed.  The sure-thing protocol failed.  My first strong pregnancy was ectopic.

But somehow my faith got stronger.  I realized for every friend trumpeting God’s blessing with her over-40 pregnancy, (some subtly taking credit for it), there were four or five others with no pregnancies, or miscarriages.  I saw God not healing deserving people at all stages of life, and I saw the occasional miracle occur too.  There was never any obvious reason for who drew the short straws and who was rewarded.

I scaled back to the basics.  I know that God loves me but I see that God doesn’t seem to break the laws of nature to help or heal very often, even those who “belong to Him.”  We get sick, we have miscarriages, we die, no matter how good (or bad) we are.

I walked away from the people who insisted that I just had to ask God for “my promise.”  I walked away from the church that insisted that all the answers are available.  I found a new faith that is about choice in the midst of mystery.  Is God giving me everything?  Hardly.  Am I still blessed?  Absolutely.  Do I understand why God is, why God does, why her and not me?  No.  Am I still in?

Yes.  More than ever.

My heart rebounded as I realized that taking credit for good things in my life means I must take the blame for the bad, and I deserve neither credit nor blame.  Now when I hear people saying that a bad thing that has happened to someone – such as infertility – is “God’s judgment,” (almost always misspelled, to boot), I recognize the infantile faith that I used to have.  The idea that “God loves me more than you, because I’m good and you’re bad,” is sad and hateful.  And doomed.

Because bad things DO happen.  They always do.  The entire book of Job can be boiled down to “Bad things happen to good people, trust God and suck it up.”  And when “the day of evil comes,” if we think that bad things are only supposed to happen to bad people, we will suffer ten times more.

I know.  I believed that and I suffered.

I am sorry for anyone who believes in this cardboard, transactional, conditional God, and I’m sorry for the pain that these beliefs cause.  Many of us suffered yesterday just from the briefest encounter with such deep hate and ignorance.  But bad things come to all of us, good or bad, and when they do, hate burns the hater and the cardboard God fails.

The real one will be waiting.

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