Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Catholics sing these words during the Lenten season, leading up to Christ’s Resurrection and Easter. I’ve always loved singing this sad melody, ever since I was a little kid in uniform, celebrating mass in Catholic school. While the words reenact a religious historical moment, it never had any significance for me until I felt abandoned by God when I needed him most.
Exactly a year ago, Dean and I went to the hospital to discuss the next steps in our hopes to have a child. We struggled to conceive and planned on trying a few more inseminations before considering other options, like IVF. The reproductive endocrinologist thought it was best to see where I was in my cycle by doing an ultrasound, at which point we were all shocked to find a baby with a flickering heartbeat. It was our tiny miracle baby–conceived naturally despite our fertility issues.
When we returned the following week for a checkup, the doctor quickly shook his head, apologized and left the room. We never understood what happened. Had the baby not grown? Was there no more heartbeat? When I pressed the doctor later for more details, he said that I could try supplementing with progesterone to salvage the pregnancy although he cautioned that the situation was grim. I was optimistic. This meant that all was not lost. Plus I had God on my side.
Twice a day I loaded up on progesterone. I prayed fervently. Our friends and family, our priests and congregations prayed along with us. God would not fail me. How could he turn away from someone like me who had been faithful my whole life? While others dismissed religion, I embraced it because God had always been my ally. He kept me and my family safe. I was grateful for and lived a full, happy life. He would most certainly take care of my baby. God would not grant me a miracle, only to take it away!
My faith did not waver.
I will never understand, but God took my baby from me when I miscarried on Mothers Day last year. I was a sobbing, mother-no-longer who questioned, for the first time, everything about my faith and religion. In times of need, I had always turned to God. But where was he? He’d been AWOL when I called out to him. I had known God to answer prayers, but when I needed him most, he had utterly abandoned me.
I was mad at God for a long time. I stopped going to church. I stopped praying. If he didn’t answer my prayers when I needed him, why would I keep up my end of the relationship?
Eventually I returned to faith and prayer, not because of some enlightenment on my part, but because it was all I knew. God giveth and he taketh away. I don’t know why. There are no answers. I imagine Jesus felt the same way, dying on the crucifix, asking why must it be this way? When we sing, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me,” I want to say, Jesus I feel you! I hurt just like you.
Then I remember that it’s Easter, the defining moment of our faith–that there is life after death. Maybe this is what God is trying to teach me. Instead of simply reciting prayers, to genuinely draw strength from my faith. To truly believe in the spirit of Easter, that there is hope after despair. I had taken religion for granted because I had never truly suffered. It’s easy to draw on one’s faith when others are the ones in pain, but not when your own babies are dying.
I am pregnant and expecting a baby to be delivered safely into my arms in five weeks. Nevertheless, I am still traumatized by the two miscarriages I experienced. But I am comforted that we will meet again. That is the core of my religious beliefs.
This Easter, I ask that we look beyond the colorful baskets and flowers, the chocolate and candy, and remember that Jesus suffered, that people are in pain. I pray for all those who grieve, especially those who have miscarried or lost children way too soon. May we all find peace, whether through inner strength, the embrace of others, faith or God’s love.