It was a bitter cold Sunday in December when my heart wore the weather. At the time, we were attending a church teeming with prolific twentysomethings. Most all the women my age (or younger) were pregnant, nursing, or carrying their six-month-olds strapped to their chests in a tight wrap.
They came on Sundays, in droves, it felt, to be reminded of a faithful God, but I entered those doors each week with the stinging sense that my request of that same faithful God hadn’t yet received a response.
They were my reminders.
This particular Sunday, Nate was out of town. I was doing announcements for church, so I couldn’t pull the covers up over my head and forfeit my weekly encounter with envy.
This, however, was the day that produced a forever change in perspective. As we sang the worship songs, I couldn’t keep the question mark over my life from manifesting itself as pain. Tears slipped out from underneath the eyelids I’d clamped shut. I didn’t want to let anyone into this place. Being among those blessed only made me feel even more cursed.
Our adoption process had recently hit a paperwork roadblock, one of several over the past months and years. The end seemed farther away than when we’d first started. It all felt like playing house to me — these discussions and preparations for our adoption. You’re just a little girl with a big imagination, the enemy in my thoughts teased me. The road to family seemed impassable at every junction, and the words of these worship songs felt void next to my reality.
Like most pain that we withhold from God’s touch, my paper pregnancy (apparently now also barren) had fostered a fermentation within my heart. My hurt was expanding beyond “just” the issues of childbearing and was touching the broader vision for my life. I was looking at life through the lens of being overlooked by God.
I kept my eyes closed to keep the others around me from view — those whom, I naively assumed, could more easily proclaim the truths of God in song because they had what I wanted.
Then I saw a vision on the back of my eyelids: the word family scribbled across a piece of paper. The paper had a nail through its center, affixing it to a cross. The Lord whispered inside my spirit as I saw it:
If you never have a family, will you still love Me?
I walked out of church that day, hardened. Had it really come to this? The very idea that what I most feared — becoming stamped with the word barren — was now not only a possibility but a suggestion . . . and from God?
I had no answer to God’s question. I, the one who had once youthfully boasted of my willingness to be martyred for the sake of Jesus, couldn’t say yes to God when He asked me for allegiance in the face of His no.
The crazy thing about all of this is that I never really wanted to be a mom.
I wasn’t the little girl who played house and dreamed about changing diapers and dressed myself up as mommy. In my late teens and early twenties, I didn’t even want to get married. Marriage and children were far from desirable to my driven heart. I saw them as obstacles to a devoted life, not as ways to get there.
When God broke in and gave me the desire to have children, I assumed that His initiative would also mean a speedy follow-through. He pricked our hearts for adoption that night at Chinquapin, and then shortly thereafter He nudged me toward the desire for biological children that I knew was other, of Him. This was well before I even deemed myself ready. He initiated the desire.
So in my mind, God’s question during that encounter in church had less to do with the content — having a family — and more to do with His nature. Why would He put this desire deep within my core only to ask me to relinquish it? Why invite me to travel a road with a dead end?
It took me three days to respond. I knew the right answer, but I couldn’t speak it.
Instead, I spent hours picturing a life like the one God was asking me to consider, void of family but full of Him. Could I love a God who might take away the very desire He put in me? Could I trust the leadership of a Man when the mystery He offered wasn’t wondrous but perplexing? Could I further engage with the very One on whose watch I was wounded?
Somehow, out of this darkness, which seemed so bleak, came a response that I didn’t expect. It was so unlike me that I knew I was being overshadowed. The Holy Spirit erected a resolve in my soul that my flesh could not have produced. Yes! I was made for this yes, and the God whose Spirit meshed with mine inside of me produced it.
The question and His answer, from within me, changed everything.
Yes, I could love Him. Yes, I could trust His leadership. Yes, I could even find delight and joy and contentment living from the underside of mystery — perplexity.
Yes, there was a dance to be danced in this valley.
Instead of letting all that I lacked consume me, I was being made ready to delve into unknown frontiers of Him. His call, here, was louder than the life for which I’d begun to fantasize.
The same God-man looked different than He had to me even one week before. He was my opportunity, not my dead end. I suddenly wanted Him more than His promises.
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Excerpted with permission from Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet by Sara Hagerty, copyright Zondervan 2014.
Have you been waiting on God to fulfill the desires of your heart? In Christ, we lack nothing. He will give us strength in the waiting and when the answer is “no”. Place all of your hope in the Lord – His grace is all we need! (2 Corinthians 12:9) We would love for you to share about how you’re trusting God in this season! Come join the conversation on our blog!
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