I know that you are used to hearing from Anna, but this time she is encouraging me write which seems appropriate on Father’s Day. “Good for her” I can hear some of you saying. It is really outside my comfort zone to be this “out there” to friends and strangers alike. You see, I am the more internal one of my family. Jonah and Anna are friends to anyone who will respond to their warm and winning personalities. They are two peas in a pod. Then there is me. I spend more time inside my heart than sharing it with others. So good for you, Anna, for encouraging me to share my experience with others. I apologize in advance, as my style of writing will be different than the breath of fresh air – cool glass of water – style that is my wife’s. I am definitely the more stoic and serious one in this family.
I have been trying to figure out what to say to all of you. Something I do often… I spend more time thinking about what I should say than actually saying it, and then spend a lot of time analyzing whether what I said was the right thing or not. I do this with strangers and close friends alike. It really is silly most of the time. So here I am doing the same, even questioning if what I have already said is what should be said.
One thing I do want to make clear is that, although it may be different, men experience just as much heartache and loss with miscarriages and with infertility as women do. Men do feel deep hurt in these circumstances, but I think the reason why it doesn’t seem that way to others is because men often go internal with this pain. I have to be in a completely safe place to be vulnerable, which is what is making writing today so hard. Anna and I have always experienced the circumstances of the past four years as a team – fully engaged, but also from very different vantage points and with different manifestations of pain.
I think it is important to share a bit about the place I am in currently, so please allow me to do so. First of all, I feel as though pieces of me have died over the years. Looking back now, most of these things should have died as this is what it means to become a new creation. But when part of you dies, it is incredibly painful even if that is what is supposed to happen. Secondly, my heart is big enough to love four children when I only have one. This means Jonah gets the amount of love for four kids. Fortunately, he has the grace to receive all this love even when it is inconvenient to him. Finally, I really do think I’m a good dad. I would really like to be a dad to more kids but can’t. It is hard to not feel responsible for this fact since I’m the one whose body isn’t working properly. Actually, I would really love to be a father to a little girl. I would have been a great dad to a little girl… This is why the Caroline Project is so great, but also painful. Father’s Day is especially painful for me as I am sure it is for others who have shared this road in one way, shape, or form.
Now if I may, let me share just a few other things.
I recently went on a backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota. You see, God’s Creation is one of my passions. It is also one of the places I need to go to in order to find healing and peace. There were a couple of nuggets of truth I found while struggling through 40 miles of backpacking in three and a half days with a pack that was way too heavy.
One nugget is the idea of forward momentum. One thing that was hard about the past four years is that I/we have felt stuck. Here we were in the very depths of the valley stuck in the mire and the muck. We desperately wanted closure to our circumstances. We desperately wanted to move forward. However, one problem was that I wanted closure to look a certain way; I wanted to move forward in a certain way. I thought there would be amazing victory with a beautiful child as we were rescued from the valley and set on top of the mountain. There was an answer to our deep questions/longings: the closure we desperately wanted, the ability to move forward. However, it ended up looking a lot different than we thought it would or wanted it to look. The closure was an end to our ideas of having another baby, and instead, the forward movement took the form of a blog, a The Caroline Project, and raising chickens of all things. There were times in that 40 mile trek that I was moving very slow; times that I am sure I looked terrible. But I was making progress. I had forward momentum; I kept putting one foot in front of the other no matter how painful. Through forward momentum, no matter how messy and/or ugly it is, we make our way to our destination. I could have sat down and quit, but I would still be sitting there stuck on the trail. By making any kind of forward momentum, I eventually made it to the campsite where I could rest, but also where I could look back and see how far I had come. Often the destination looks much different than what we thought it would look like, but in the end is exactly where we need to be.
I have one more nugget of truth discovered on this foray through the woods. As I was hiking, the idea of the narrow path came to mind. In Matthew 7:13-14, it says that “broad is the road to destruction and narrow is the road that leads to life and few will find it.” The Superior Hiking Trail is definitely Minnesota’s “narrow road”, especially the section we did. The section included walking through the muck and the mire, climbing up straight verticals, descending rocky, ankle breaking valleys, and tiptoeing over narrow bridges over rushing rivers. Few people experience the North Shore of Lake Superior this way. They drive along highway 61 or maybe they hike the wide and flat state park trails, but few throw a pack over their shoulders and risk life and limb only to drag their butt into a campsite to sleep on the ground. I’ll be honest, it IS a little insane and I even enjoy it. But here is the thing: it is totally worth it. I got to see things that few get to see. There were overlooks (that I paid dearly for) that were 100 times better than the views from highway 61. There were rivers that I got to cross that few in Minnesota have experienced or drank of their cool waters. One night we had a pack of wolves in our camp which was both terrifying as well as exhilarating. Danger can do that to a person; it can cause us to absolutely fear for our lives but at the same time it can make us feel the most alive that we have in awhile. You don’t experience that kind of pure, awesome danger sitting behind the windows of a car.
The qualities above define the Christian life, don’t they? The path is difficult and painful. It takes a lot out of a person and, if I am being really honest, can be really unpleasant on occasion. It is dangerous and risky; at times things can seem lost and you can feel completely spent. On top of all of that, it doesn’t always look like what you pictured it would. But here is the thing: it is totally worth it. You get to see and experience things that few do. Your character will never be the same. You become a completely different person and truly become who you were supposed to be. Life has meaning and a purpose. You walk the path of life, abundant life. In the end, this is exactly where we were all meant to be. Let me leave you with a line from a song we sang today in church. “I’m on a narrow road. It’s paved with grace and hope. It’s going to lead me home. I’m going free, I’m going free.”