(Photo copyright: Whitney Napier)
Ever have those days when something totally takes you off guard?
Not in a good way, in a way that makes you think long and hard about life and the meaning of it all. I recently had one of those days. I sat down on my yellow living room couch, with my favorite mug of coffee in an effort to try to gain comfort. I realized something. I picture life as a staircase, and each stair has a label. It is as if together we are all walking up this staircase, defining ourselves by the label of the stair we are on. And when we are unable to move on to the next step, we feel stalled and less then those walking on. As a woman, I am defined on the first step as a child, next as a student, then as a ____ (whatever job description), after that as a wife, and then as a mother.
That’s the progression we expect to walk in life.
But the sometimes heartbreaking but at the same time weirdly refreshing fact is that God has different plans for all of us. What is best for you may not include some of these steps. It’s so hard not to feel “on pause,” when all you want to do is take that next step. It feels like others are passing you when they advance, taking on the next position of our mental staircase. Personally, I am standing on the stair of wife, longing to walk into motherhood. I happily observe others taking that step! I would never wish for them to be hindered in experiencing the joy of being a mother, but it still feels like a void in my life. Social media has made the awareness to our voids so much more obvious, hasn’t it? It’s never been so in-your-face as it is today. But the choice for joy has never been more abundant. Awareness is not a bad thing, if we use it fuel us to do something meaningful with our lives. What dreams do you have? Go for them!
God has a specific purpose for us.
I dove into the one thing that has proven to be the deepest source of validation. Real, raw testimonies of women who have lives so messy and complicated they challenge me. I find these women in the Bible. Women who struggled with infertility. I really was shocked at what a theme of scripture it is. I knew of Sarah, wife of Abraham the Father of Israel, [Genesis 21] and Hannah, known for her conversation with Eli the high priest in the Temple [1 Samuel 1]. But I had forgotten about Rebekah, bride to Isaac, [Gen. 25:21]; Rachel, beloved wife of Jacob, [Gen. 30:22]; Samson’s mother who is unnamed [Judges 13:2-3] Michal, King David’s first wife, [2 Samuel 6:23]; the Shunammite woman, who helped the prophet Elisha, [2 Kings 4:8-17]; and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, [Luke 1:5-7,13,24-25]. I was stuck, that prayer was such a dominate detail in the story of each of these women (except for Michal, King David’s first wife). Michal is the only woman who did not receive a miracle baby from the Lord. There is no evidence that she followed the Lord, and God ended the line of Saul with her. In the case of Samson’s mother and the Shunammite woman, neither woman is portrayed as asking for a baby specifically. God seemed to fulfill in them an inner longing, unconfessed in the pages of scripture. They were living their life, serving God and the people of God, and portraying simple contentment.
I think it can be easy for those of us who struggle with infertility and have a personal relationship with God to feel forgotten by Him.
Does He not hear our deepest desires and pleading? I have caught myself struggling with the feeling that a baby is the only evidence of an answer from God, and anything short of that is a dismissal. Recently, when I read 1 Samuel 1, God showed me something new. I saw the description of Hannah [1 Samuel 1:7-8, 15-16]. Her husband described her as weepy, basically moody, and sad. Hannah described herself asdistressed, troubled, and anxious. She poured her heart out to the Lord. And Eli, the high priest, said, “Go in peace, may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him” [1 Sam. 1:17]. Then this is what God used to challenge me, it says that “her face was no longer sad” [1 Sam. 1:18]. Hannah didn’t have a baby yet. But she knew that God had heard her cry. I often find myself needing this reminder. I don’t want this season of waiting on the Lord to be marked by me being sad; I want to live in the light of being heard by God. He cares and wants what is best for me. We are heard. We know that being heard was special to Hannah because the name Samuel sounds very much like the Hebrew word meaning “heard of God.” God did fulfill her desire, but she learned to be happy before the baby was given.
There is joy in waiting.
God is intimately involved in the gift of life, even briefly studying the lives of these women in the Bible proves that. I loved reading the description of a couple in the line of Jesus Himself in Ruth 4:13, “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife...and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.” Maybe Ruth was another woman to add to the list of those mentioned in scripture who struggled with infertility. Whether you are having a baby, or struggling with infertility and not having one, God is the author of life and we can stand confidently that He hears us. We do not need to feel less, or stalled, or void. Our battle is daily to live in joy and to turn around and allow the stair we are standing on to be a platform for proclaiming the fame of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Even if He never answers in the way I wish He would, He is enough for me. I’m happy for those who easily have children, what a joy; but I can honestly say, I am grateful for the struggle God has given me, because He has used it to show me a deeper side of Himself. He has also used it to give me an awareness and sensitivity to others that I wouldn’t have without experiencing this pain. God is good, and He hears me.