By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun
Late last year, I had a miscarriage at eight weeks. Almost exactly six months later, my husband, my three-year-old son, and I temporarily relocated to Kenya for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
These two events — a sorrowful loss and an exhilarating opportunity — are inextricably linked.
Losing our baby and the ensuing infertility we’ve experienced since then have been among the more painful “no”s in my adult life. I have grumbled against God for months, wondering why this purest of desires for another child was not being met. Selfishly, I remembered how easy it was to conceive our little boy the first time around and wondered why God couldn’t snap his divine fingers and just allow it to happen again.
But then a series of events began happening with my husband’s company, such that we began to seriously consider investing more time in their Nairobi office. My husband had been traveling frequently for business in the past year. His recurrent absences had taken a significant toll on our entire family.
The more we looked into moving overseas, the more we realized how my not being pregnant made everything simpler. The many health precautions we needed to take — vaccinations, anti-malarial medications, anti-mosquito repellents — would not have been available to me if I was expecting. We would have had to relocate during my third trimester, historically my most uncomfortable and exhausting term of pregnancy. I would have had to give birth in Nairobi, which, given that I would need a C-section, felt unnecessarily risky.
Christians like to say that when God closes a door, he opens a window. This maxim strikes me as overly simplistic, as if there is only one small thing God allows us to do at a time. And yet, when God closes a door and says “no,” something does happen. We naturally begin to ask questions: Why, God? What else is there for me? What are you doing in this time of disappointment and frustration? We begin searching our own hearts and trying to decipher God’s. We look up and around and seek out alternative paths that he may be calling us to.
Oddly enough, it is in hearing “no” that I find myself practicing patience and perseverance. I want to know what this closed opportunity means for me, what area God might be growing and challenging in me. I ask what I can do differently and better. And I find myself stubbornly searching for evidence of God’s goodness and faithfulness, even when he did not grant me something I thought was good.
I wouldn’t engage in any of these practices if God gave me everything I asked for. There would be no question-asking, no soul-searching, no wrestling with God, no persevering in seeking what it means to be faithful to the Lord and his call in my life. But it is only in these practices, I believe, that my character can change and true transformation can occur.
I still wonder if God will give me another child. I still feel some measure of sorrow with each passing month, as the possibility that God may never grant me this desire becomes more real.
And yet, here I am with my family in Kenya, one of the most remarkable countries I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. My son is being immersed in a new culture, making new friends, and seeing natural beauty and wildlife more wondrous than anything he has ever witnessed. Our little family of three is experiencing this adventure together rather than spending half our time apart, something that will bond us in ways we can’t even imagine.
Perhaps most important of all, we have opened ourselves up to seeing God’s goodness and faithfulness in ways we wouldn’t have if we had stayed at home.
This grand adventure was only possible because God said “no” — a painful “no,” one I still wish hadn’t happened. But that “no” pushed us to wonder what else he might be doing in our lives during this time.
And God, in his typically unpredictable way, took our questioning, persevering hearts to the other side of the world.
Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is a writer and editor who has found healing and hope through words. She is a columnist for Inc.com and regular contributor to Christianity Today and The Well. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, BlogHer, RELEVANT, and more than a dozen other publications. Previously she worked as a nonprofit and social enterprise professional in the U.S. and Asia. She currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya, with her husband and adorable hapa son. Find her online at www.chengtozun.com or on Twitter @dorcas_ct.