A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that October will mark the 5th anniversary of my husband and I trying to have children. To some, five years sounds like the first 100 meters of a marathon, but to me, this mile marker seemed like a badge of honor. Almost like, if I’d made it this far, then I had a legitimate excuse to wallow.
Because, well, sometimes it feels good to feel bad.
Maybe if my pain is special and unique and if things are really hard for a sustained length of time, then certainly it means that I get a permission slip to be pitiful. As in the classic, don’t return phone calls to my mother; eat all the french fries; be offended by all the people type of pitiful.
Of course, everyone’s pain IS special and unique to the journey that God has them walking. But often I am tempted to hold on too tightly to my pain. To relish it and to keep it around when I need to feel cozy, understood and validated. Kinda like my worn out yoga pants that make me feel so known but so funky and frumpy at the same time.
There is wonderful, necessary, God-given space for grief (and grody yoga pants) in the spiritual formation of every believer, but when I dwell longer on my pain than on the Provision and Person of God, I have misplaced my trust. I can’t rush past our pain. I must let God use it to do His good work. But I have the ability to make it into some sort of messed up idol. Clutching my pain close makes me feel safe temporarily, but the reality is that it keeps me far from trusting God.
Yeah…so, holding onto the pain was on my agenda for the entirety of my 12-minute carpool commute to drop my kids at school. (MY KIDS–the ones God gave me instead of giving me what I thought I wanted; the ones who have completely and utterly changed my views on God, life, love, calling and family; the ones I’d endure 60 more months of “no” again in an instant. Those kids.)
So, my plan was to feel sad, but it was one of the first crisp Fall mornings (which I love!) and the Holy Spirit–the Comforter–just would not let up. He kept recalling to mind all the gifts these 5 long years have held. Friends who sent flowers, wrote notes, called and cussed with me on hard days. He reminded me of the countless ministry opportunities He’d given me and He reminded me how dear HE HAD BECOME TO ME during these years. He wouldn’t let up. So much so, that as I pulled onto my street, my heart was in a place of gratitude and worship. I could honestly and emotionally thank Him for the gift of infertility. Not because He had given me what I asked for, but because His “no” had become my greatest YES. Because He had peeled my white knuckles off of the pain and in exchange, gave me the Person of Himself.
And not to go all Garth Brooks “Unanswered Prayers” on you, but isn’t there something in your life that God has consistently said “no” to, in order to give you a YES in Christ Jesus? What desire is it that He is continually using to create within you a stronger desire for Himself?
Because He is God and we are not, could we, today (and tomorrow, and the next day; when the said “gift” feels like a dagger through the soul), ask Him to give us thankful hearts–ones of humble worship–that say together with the all-sufficient, all-powerful One, “not my will, but yours be done”? Because, when I open my hands to Him, it’s all a gift.
If you are walking through infertility yourself right now, I would love to send you my favorite book on the subject, “Infertility: Finding God’s Peace On The Journey.” Email me for more information at Kitty.Hurdle@CRU.org