One of my favorite stories about my first son, is how he saved a life of a person he’s never really known.
Being lonely and stuck at home and not coping with it very well that first year as a mom, I pushed his stroller all around the hot streets of Houston, desperate for company. I made friends with the dry cleaner, the photo lady, the pharmacist at the more expensive place because this woman at least knew my name, and the receptionist at my apartment complex. The receptionist! Every day around lunch, she’d see me pushing the beautiful blue perambulator, a gift from my in-laws, about the grounds. She’d wave me in and coo at my son, he’d smile back at her with his whole body. One day, I walked by and she didn’t wave me in. She was crying.
I went in to see what was wrong. She explained she’d just broken up with her boyfriend and then discovered she was pregnant. Friends had offered her a ride to the abortion clinic but then she thought of seeing my little baby every day, and just couldn’t do it. She looked at my son and the tears came again. I wasn’t an expert on any of this, I was a first time mom who was fighting tooth and nail the boredom of being home alone, not comfortable with my own self and my new role that seemed so limited and stifling, so not exciting in the world. But I put my arm around her and asked questions that, to this day, I know were Holy Spirit directed. They weren’t what I would have thought to ask.
“Does your boyfriend know?”
I told her he needed to know because this was his child too. Even if you have broken up, he should know, he has a child, he’s the father. She nodded, “Okay.”
“Do you have family who can help you, like your parents? This is their grandbaby.”
She nodded again, “I’ll tell them first.”
I said, “No, tell your boyfriend first, he has a right to know.”
She admitted she worried he would counsel an abortion. I said something like “You know him right?” she nodded. “He’s good right?” She nodded again. “Then tell him.” I hoped to heaven I’d counseled correctly.
Long story short, we talked, I hugged her, fished a bit of chocolate I had with me out of my purse (the very thing that undermined my walks) and I went home and prayed, really prayed for my friend. The next few days I didn’t see her, though I took my walk daily and I became worried.
However, the following Monday she waved me in from my normal routine. “You’ve got to come in!” she beamed, “I told him. I told him and we are trying to work it out, to get back together.” We hugged. She told me she’d moved in with her parents, they were supportive and that they were going to her first OB/GYN appointment next week. Hugs and kisses, joy all around. Shortly thereafter we moved from Texas and I lost track of my friend until we came back for a visit and stopped in to see our old home in Houston.
She ran out to greet me and hugged me. She and the father had married and they now had two children, a boy and a girl. Her hug said so much in the few seconds we had together, of a life transformed by the loneliness of one new mother and a little boy only 4 months old in his pram, who smiled with his whole body every time anyone picked him up. It was a transformation of not just one but many lives — by the Holy Spirit.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is always borne out by its expansiveness, by its ability to pull out of suffering and pain and loneliness something beautiful and luminous and greater than any human heart could imagine, for the human heart cannot imagine the joy available to it, but by housing the Holy Spirit. So the question becomes for each of us: Are we allowing our sufferings to be used by the Holy Spirit, or are we hoarding them for our own ego?
I know I routinely allow myself the mother martyr complex, an unhealthy habit that requires regular confession and a heaping addition of prayer and daily doses of humility to combat. It keeps coming back like an evil dust bunny, but I know we cannot house the Holy Spirit if there is no room in the inn of our hearts owing to all the trophies for our pain and labors we hoard. We have a choice in life, to be defined by our pains, or by our love. It’s been 19 years since that lonely walk in an apartment complex, and there is a real family out there living lives because that one woman chose to define her life not by her pain, but by love, and her husband followed suit. So I keep that story in my heart when the challenges of ordinary misery that come with the monotony of parenting and modern life threaten to blind me to the truth of our faith. If we simply do the ordinary while seeking God’s grace, the extraordinary and supernatural that is the gift of the Holy Spirit will ignite the whole of our lives, especially when we’re not expecting it.
© 2013. Sherry Antonetti. All Rights Reserved.