Grace Under Fire

The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?

 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
 He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children
Psalm 113:4-9

Dear Sister, 

I write this to the one who looks with a hole in the eyes at the pregnant mom with a cart full of kids at the grocery store. To the one who can't bear to take another online pregnancy announcement. To the breaking heart who has planned how to tell her husband she's expecting but has not yet been able. I cannot begin to imagine or share your exact pain and longing, but you cannot begin to imagine the places the enemy has taunted me as well. We all walk alone in our journeys of grief, no two the same. But we do share Christ, and that alone is the only place I can begin or end anymore. 
Only the people that I've decided to tell for a purpose know about our journey to conceive for a second time, and the rest I willingly let wonder. I'm not "infertile", I have born a son. In fact, the word itself pains me because it can be used so unlovingly against women who want nothing more than to carry a baby. So I'm going to take a minute to contest the word on philosophical and Biblical grounds, if I may. The dictionary defines infertile as not fertile; unproductive; sterile; barren - and this is where my struggle lies. A woman who has not conceived, or has only conceived once, does not have "unproductive" reproductive parts that make her less than human. She is fearfully and wonderfully made. Her insides are not "sterile", they are moving, living, breathing parts that were created to perform perfectly, but the fall has taken it's toll on us all. "Not fertile" means that nothing is able to live and grow, but that leaves no room for a miraculous God. Am I trying to induce false hope? No, believe me I'm not. I'm about real hope in a real God, but more on that later. The only definition I'm not going to contest is the first part of barren, because it is both Biblical and logical. The beginning of the definition of barren is not producing or incapable of producing offspring. 

Biblically the word barren means: shakkul {shak-kool'}; from shakol; bereaved -- barren, bereaved (robbed) of children (whelps). And the American dictionary provides the description for bereavement as "deprived of a loved one through a profound absence..."
Beloved, barrenness is a tragedy that God Himself knows, and He has heard the cry of the barren woman for thousands of years.

I feel like I have a soul sister in Rachel from the Bible. She kept watching woman after woman bear son after son for her husband, one of them being her very sister. In Genesis 30:1 we see her anguished heart plead to her husband, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” and in truth he responds, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”(v. 2). Only a woman who has the fire of godly desire for children inside of her feels these words vibrating against her very soul - give me children, or I'll die. It is within us to want to fulfill God's heart for us, to "be fruitful and multiply". The women that God moves in to desire children are waging a holy desire against a body that can't will itself to do anything apart from God's grace. 

I've heard all about God's sovereignty, and I've heard much about His grace - but one facet of barrenness that is rarely talked about is His mercy. For me, it was merciful that He did not grant me the desire of a full womb five years ago, because that would've halted our international adoption to our sweet Ella. In His mercy, He has given one of my best friends six children. He was not unloving to either of us, just as He was not unloving to Rachel. You see, dear sister, if He would have given Rachel multiple sons, it would have completely altered all of history from that moment forward - the fact that Jacob had twelve sons born to the women they were born mattered. Rachel had the exact amount of children she was meant to have for us, to fulfill a holy promise from long ago. But the Bible itself is not void of human feeling. Rachel wanted to mother children so desperately, that after her son Joseph was born she boldly says “May the Lord add to me another son.” (Genesis 30:24). You would think a woman who gave her slave to her husband so that she could have a family would be content with one biological pregnancy, but the beauty of the Bible is that Rachel is relatable. She wanted everything that God wanted for her. 

As Christian women we hide our anger at our circumstances, because that looks more holy and presentable. But hidden anger is still anger, and it takes hold and buries itself deep as a root of bitterness, and the Word is very clear that "no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Heb 12:15b). Bitterness is fast to pull us away from love, it has blinding principles. It shows us everything we don't have, and the things we do have are never enough - always falling short. In God's mercy He allows us to throw our weeping, weary bodies before the throne and plead. And sometimes, He had the same intentions all along. Other times, He gives us something we could never expect ourselves, and if we look closely and humbly, we realize it was far better than what we could've dreamed for ourselves.

Friends, I have heard much advice in nearly five years of my struggle to another small babe. Much of the advice I've been given has been unnecessary and borderline foolish (unintentionally, of course). First of all, journeys of grief should never be compared. I could never know the grief of losing a born child; and I can't expect anyone to understand the grief of painful fertility tests, or the wait of four long, grace-filled years to meet my daughter. If you are grieving the "deprivation of a loved one through a profound absence", God can handle your grief. You don't just have to suck up your deep emotional sadness and smile - that's pride. I've done both, sadly. I spent a long while thinking I needed to be a good Christian and just be thankful for my son, until I stuffed the grief of second-round barrenness so deep I forgot how to feel altogether. I felt foolish for wanting a second child at all, I recognized that there were many women who didn't even have one, and here I was some sort of ungrateful beast. But that wasn't it at all. Like my sister in the faith Rachel, God had given me a longing for children that only He could fill. Did you catch that? God had given me a longing. It's impossible for us to want anything good outside of the desires God puts in us, and children are good. He puts the desire of a child so deep in your heart you can hardly breathe. Beloved, you are not foolish for wanting your first, second, or sixth child. And no two journeys are the same. Instead of comparing ourselves to one another, let us come alongside and hold another up while we are weak. 

So what do we do when all we want is a child, and are not expecting? 
I've tried unsuccessful fertility treatments, countless hours in prayer, and loved ones praying over me, but I still hold onto hope. Not in my own flesh, for it is weak and dying. But in the God who placed the desire in me for another child. I hold not onto a false hope, but a hope in miracles. Yes, I have hurt every month when God in His mercy has said no, but I still believe that God is sovereign and in control. It would be very weak minded and faithless of me to not hope in a miracle. At 90 years old Sarah conceived. At 41 my mom started to miscarry me, and every logical piece of knowledge on miscarriage says that once they start they don't stop. I believe in a God of miracles, simply because a giant ball of fire has not grown dim in thousands of years and gravity holds my feet to the floor.

Motherhood is not only achieved through the womb, it grows in one's heart. I didn't just want to adopt my little girl, I needed to. David and I had so much love, even before our son was conceived, that we knew we had to spill it out onto an adoptive child. I know people that need to give that love so badly they've fostered. Another woman I met bore biological children, adopted a handful, and provided a home for another whom she never legally adopted, but she is just as much mom to all of them. God gave her all of that love for every single one of them. Adoption is not just some act of altruism, for some it is an act of necessity. So much love building in a mother's heart can either burst in blessings or break in despair. There are children that need mothers as much as mothers need children. If you allow yourself to look at everything you don't have - a healthy biological child (or five), you will miss out on today's mercies. 

Beloved, you are not good enough to be a mom. You can't earn grace, that's legalism. You can't be so good that somehow you'll convince God. That's putting the faith in yourself, and leaving little room for miracles. If it were up to my goodness, I would have no children at all - that's what makes them miracles. Miracles are undeserved glimpses of mercy. When I was struggling, was when He gave me each of my children. The enemy is always trying to make us believe we must be good enough for blessings, which is in direct contrast to the cross, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). You didn't earn salvation, grace, a husband or children. You didn't even earn the food on your table. The enemy wants us to believe that if we only work hard enough, all will be given to us - and once that's unfulfilled we have misdirected anger, bitterness, loneliness, desperation and ultimately depression. Grace is constantly under fire, it's the essence of spiritual war. God is merciful, He will not leave you alone if you cry out to Him. Romans 4:18 says, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."' I have personal hope against hope for healing, I always have and always will. Believe for yourself that God has a miracle, whether or not that miracle is born to you or was/will be born for you, He gave you love intentionally. Whether or not your last name's match, there is a child, teenager, or young adult that needs your love right now. If you have so much love to give, then I urge you to share it boldly - love was never meant to be wasted.

Sister, please hold it in no longer. Grieve well and give it all to a God who grieves with you. You are not alone. We all grieve deeply; for loss, and for love that has not yet been. Surround yourself with strong women who will uphold you in love and prayer, and please please stop purposefully putting yourself in places where you hurt, that's not always the brave or right thing to do. Take time away with a very near God and cry out to Him, ask Him to heal your soul and then go back to each day more alive than before. You are not alone. You are loved, and you are not broken or half-human - you are wonderfully and perfectly made. Your husband still longs for you and loves you deeply. He may not understand your sorrow but I'm sure he would love to walk with you through it. Go to the Lord daily with your sorrow and He alone will fill you up. "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26.

May God, in His loving mercy meet you exactly where you are today. I pray He may bless you beyond measure. May He uphold and comfort you, may His love shine down upon you and bubble out onto a broken world. May He provide someone for your to share your love with, through one miracle or another. May our Lord hold the weight of your sorrow so you no longer have to.


Your Fellow Sojourner