the yes that breaks your heart

Today is March 25th. It is nine months from Christmas: the Feast of the Annunciation. The day that celebrates the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will bear the Son of God.

Today is also Good Friday. It is the day that remembers Jesus’ suffering and death.

This year they fall on the same day. This year I cannot help but see the searing truth in their overlap.

When Mary heard the startling news from the angel, when her heart grew troubled, when she said yes to God, it was for this. For Good Friday and Easter and everything that comes after.

And when Jesus suffered and died, it was for this. For good news and Incarnation and everything that came before.

Is one a feast of death and the other a feast of life? No. They are both.

You cannot get the hope without the heartbreak. The Christian story holds both. And through this twisting tension – creation and resurrection – everything we know about life and death is changed.

All week the hard and the holy have circled round my heart. I want sacred to mean soft, comforting, beautiful, and light. Yet suffering seems to be wrapped up and woven into sacred. I continue to find the holy concealed within the hard, despite my deepest desire to the contrary.

Today holds both. The same girl who gave her fiat is standing at the foot of the cross, staring up at the child she bore and birthed. The same woman who weeps at the cruelty of this world is saying yes to God’s plan to redeem it.

Sometimes we want to keep our theological truths separate and siloed, lest they bleed into each other. But today reminds us that it is all the same story. It is love that says yes and brings both birth and death.

I write here in this space about motherhood. Every mother I have met knows something about this life-and-death story: the suffering brought by pregnancy or miscarriage, the agony of childbirth or infertility, the grief of loss. Every parent knows the thousand small deaths that come with raising children: the heartache of watching our dreams in flesh and bone make their way into a world that will hurt them.

We have all said yes to life. Along the way we know it will break our hearts.

But we know there is deeper joy and surprising change and resilient hope, too. Even on our hardest days as parents – even if we have to stare death straight in the face – we may still see a shimmer of light and a promise of good.

So many people have written to tell me this same story. That when their child died, from miscarriage or stillbirth or after birth or years later, they felt this strange and abiding joy, too. An Annunciation in the midst of Good Friday. 

My husband and I have read every one of these stories, and we have looked up at each other again, and we have seen reflected in each other’s eyes that all of this is True. That our story is only part of one mysterious way that God is at work in the world.

A power that we never knew existed until we were in the heart of love.

I am far from Mary. (Believe me, when we saw two heartbeats flickering on that ultrasound screen last October, I flipped out in an extremely unpeaceful manner. For months.) But Mary helps me understand my story.

And today’s twin feasts? They help me love my daughters. 

Because I cannot escape this simple truth. We would not be suffering right now if Maggie and Abby had never existed. If we had never been open to their lives. If we had not said yes to this calling.

But I cannot escape the bigger truth that we would know less of God and love and life if they were not. If their lives had not changed everything. If they had not stretched our hearts so that thousands of strangers could know their story.

And I would say yes all over again today. Even knowing where the road ends. Even knowing the depths of pain that wait ahead.

There will never be another coincidence like today in our lifetimes. Never another Annunciation that lands within Good Friday.

So today is a time to pause and pray into what this might mean. That an angel’s announcement could lead to the cross. That a day of pain could be a day of joy. That what looks like death is deeper life.

And that all who say yes to walk this way of faith together are bound up in the same story. The story that leads Beyond.

18 thoughts on “the yes that breaks your heart

  1. Nodding yes, over and over. I cannot relate to the same level of grief and pain, as my losses were so early…but yes, these words echo with truth on every level. You share the heartbreaking but beautiful truth with such clarity.

    And these twin feasts for your twins–the divine Providence takes my breath away ❤️

  2. What profound thoughts. I’m so glad I read this on this extraordinary day ( which I had not realized before now was both of these special days in one!)

    Thank you so much for writing. There were too many quotes in this that touched me to mention.;)

    1. What a beautiful article. Thank you for sharing!
      Also, just in case it wasn’t clear, Good Friday and Easter week “trump” the Annunciation, so it will be celebrated on Monday, April 4th.
      Yet, the reflection still stands, and the juxtaposition of a yes to life being a yes also to death is so profound. Again, thank you for writing this!

  3. This was absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your heart. I am a new follower so I wanted to say hello, I found you through my sister, Emily Wilson. She speaks so highly of you and the way you share your heart, and I can see why. I look forward to walking this journey with you as I read your story. Know you are in my prayers!

  4. Laura, thanks a lot for writing this. I can relate to your reflection. There are so many deep thoughts which touched my heart… I can repeat with you: “I would say yes all over again today. Even knowing where the road ends. Even knowing the depths of pain that wait ahead. ” Have a blessed Easter!

  5. Actually this has happened before. The last time was 2005 and I was a novice in a convent. It was the last intense moment of my life there before God made things clear that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. Now I’m a mother of four children and I understand sacrifice even more. I remember back then contemplating these things. Now I know I’ve lived them.

    1. Hi Rachel. Yes, this convergence has happened before, but will not happen again until 2157 – so never again in our lifetimes. What a beautiful story you shared of how God has worked in powerful ways in your life.

      1. It’s so weird that it has occurred twice in the past 11 years, and won’t occur again for a couple more generations. Again, I have to thank you for pointing out this “coincidence”. It means a lot, particularly in my situation with my anniversary being on the 27th. For me this Tridium has two “coincidences” that will never occur again, so I am grateful for the awareness that I should cherish them in a special way.

  6. I can’t believe that I was completely unaware of this “coincidence”. My wedding anniversary is on Easter this year. March 27th 2005 was my first wedding anniversary, also coinciding with Easter. Meaning that that year Good Friday also would have coincided with the Annunciation, and I was unaware of it then too. It amazes me how God is using you to minister to us in the midst of your mourning process. Thank you so much for allowing him to do that.

  7. Thankyou Laura. I so admire your resilience. I also appreciate you still sharing your thoughts; taking us on your journey just a little. I don’t have a clue what it’s like to experience such loss. I don’t know what it’s like to try and make sense of it all. But I’m so grateful for your sharing and I do find resonance in your words.
    Grief is a rotter, but it’s also inevitable. Reading your own wrestle with it helps me feel more equipped for my next round. Thanks.

  8. I was lead to your blog from Camp Patton and my heart broke when I read your story. Your faith is a gift and it is an amazing thing to witness. I pray for you and your family and I came upon another mother in a similar situation on Facebook today…. she is in such a bad place it seems. He twins born at 23 weeks, one has died. The grace and strength you have might help her in some way I thought. I know you have enough on your plate, but I really believe in the power of the mystical body of Christ and if she heard your story I’m sure she would find some comfort. I have no idea how to contact her but they have a Facebook page…..Peace to you and you and your family are in my daily prayers.
    https://www.facebook.com/HobsonStrong/

  9. Laura this is so beautifully written. This had actully been shared on a Catholic fb group I am in on good friday. I started to read it, but then got to the part about child loss and couldn’t read any more because I had found out a week earlier that I was pregnant, little did I know that night I would be in surgery for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Today stumbling upon it again it brings me much comfort, so thank you for sharing.

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