It was only a photograph.
Our church had long ago decided to create a pictorial directory, updated every five years, to keep track of the growing families in our community.
And it was only a photograph.
At least, that’s what I kept telling myself as we sat in the narrow hallway awaiting our turn.
Five years before I had cried over the picture that showed my face with a pasted on grin covering my quiet fight against the heartache of infertility. The me that had been taking chemically-made hormones and was miserable and depressed.
But I had moved on. I had faced my infertility with the most grace that I could muster, written down my story in a book, traveled to half a dozen churches to share my story in person, and testified boldly about God’s presence in the midst of my pain.
I walked into the hallway, five years later, with confidence. After all, it was only a photograph.
But somewhere between the hallway and the moment when our pictures came on the screen, it stopped being just a photograph. It became a witness to my years of suffering and the deep emotional scars that marked my life.
It had never occurred to me that I would still be childless when this next directory came out. It never occurred to me that I would still be fighting the PCOS and thyroid issues that had so sharply marked my body. It never occurred to me that I would still be staring at a photograph of just my husband and I and would still be feeling that sense of utter helplessness.
And the realization left me breathless with sorrow.
We left the church and my husband received a phone call. I quietly told him that I would start walking, would he please pick me up when he was finished? He nodded and I quickly made my way across the parking lot, onto the street.
The sobs hit me just as I turned on the side road. I shook and walked and ran and the tears made my cheeks sting.
My husband pulled up beside me, opened the door and said, “Are you okay?” And I nodded.
And it was the truth.
Because I’m not just like I was five years ago. I’ve grown and changed and God has reached in and touched me and held me tight in my sorrow.
But I do still cry. Harsh blinding tears.
And sometimes tears are the best healers.
There is no way to predict when hard days will come. There is no way to avoid the mourning of loss. So I’ve learned to cry. Hard. Sometimes with hands shaking and groans of pain.
And I’ve learned to stand up afterward. To allow my husband and my church family to surround me and hold me tight.
I’ve learned that God doesn’t protect me from pain, but He walks right by my side as I struggle through it. And I’m amazed at His grace.
What about you? Have you been able to give yourself grace when the sorrow of infertility feels fresh? Have you ever been surprised by what triggers your tears?