I was running late as usual. And I forgot. I forgot that they were doing baby dedications this Sunday, so I didn’t prepare myself. I am grateful I go to a church that has baby dedications- praying for the children, parents and affirming them as a part of God’s Covenantal community. As a member of that community, I knew I needed to stay, to pray, and to affirm. But, if I were honest, these are the days and moments that I feel the least a part of that community. The days and moments when I feel I don’t fit, when I am tempted to forget God’s Covenant love to me. As I walked in and started to listen, my soul began to grow dark. Tears filled my eyes, and I just began to repeat this prayer:
Give me grace, give me grace, give me grace.
Give me grace to not leave, to stay in this tension and pain that I feel. To stay to affirm and bless and thank God that He gives good gifts to His Children. Even though He hasn’t given those gifts to me.
I’ve heard many preachers and other speakers talk about barren women in the bible, like Hannah and Sarah. They say, during biblical times, if a woman didn’t have children she wasn’t a person. Of course, I know it was worse then, but I feel like that sometimes now. I especially feel that in the church, where the common restated belief is that in our current culture, children are often not considered a blessing. And so to counterbalance this we talk (a lot) about the blessings of motherhood. But yet, sometimes we see the world IS okay with children, as long as they can dress them up as dolls and accomplish their goals through them. And to counteract the belief that one must be perfect or that children are solely for our own pleasure, we talk (a lot) about the challenges of motherhood and parenting from a biblical perspective.
This is all good and necessary talk. I talk about it myself, too. But can we also acknowledge that we talk about this (and marriage) corporately and privately more than most things. And sometimes when you talk about good things a lot, they can grow closer to crossing the line of becoming idols in the counter-cultures you are creating or at least in some of the hearers hearts. For me, as someone who struggles in my heart to trust God with having children, I find my biggest temptation in regard to this is in the church. It’s extremely difficult to not elevate something, to lay something down, when it is continually being talked about. Granted, this is from my limited experience, but I find that Christian women who are mothers, tend to mainly (sometimes solely) talk about children when they gather. It would be completely wrong to assume that everyone who talks about children a lot, idolizes children. But it would also be wrong to assume that a culture of talking a lot about children wouldn’t create or feed unintended idols in hearts about having children or parenting children. I know it feeds it in my own heart.
In church after the dedication of those little ones to the Lord, we sang the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy. I was distracted at first, but then a line in the song struck me. “All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.” And I saw my heart as it was. Here I am, a creation (a work) of God, not choosing joy (ie. not choosing to praise God), simply because He has not given me another of His creation. Through that line, my smallness was put in perspective, and I was reminded that God is the author of every life, including mine and any children He would give me. All these works at every moment, everywhere should bow down to praise His name because He is Worthy. And it wasn’t like my pain or longing or desire went away. It was just that I remembered the greatness of God, and thereby let the comfort of God attend to my soul. The greater God is to me, the greater comforter He is to me.
So Lord, Give me grace, give me grace, give me grace.
People ask us a lot about our story with kids. And they ask me how I am with dealing with waiting on God for children. For the most part, I handle it pretty well mainly because I have a different story than many other women who struggle with this. That story is for a different time, but as usual, it deals with fear. But trust me when I say this, if God does not give you His grace to deal with infertility (or singleness) while a member of a local church that consistently promotes the blessings of motherhood (or marriage), your soul would suffocate. I typically find the days that He gives me the most grace are when I ask for it, especially on the days that I know it will be hard because it will be talked about a lot. Many times he gives me grace through keeping my focus on others like on baby dedication days or prayers I pray on mother’s day or filling shoeboxes of gifts for little kiddos in need.
Later on Baby Dedication Sunday our Pastor prayed. He asked we join him in these prayers. He prayed for parents and he prayed for those of us who want to be parents who aren’t. He prayed, “Would you give them the grace to hope in you?”
And so I join him in this prayer to my Father….
Yes, Father. Give me grace. Would you give me grace to hope in you? Because I know that whatever gifts and challenges this life brings, they pale in comparison to knowing you and being loved by you. I’ve heard so many say that they didn’t understand the depths of your love until they had a child. That leaves me wondering, can I know your love? Are you withholding something from me? Do you only give good gifts to some of your children?
Yet, these questions seem so untrue of what I know about You. Maybe that’s not the current plot twist of how you plan to display the knowledge of your love to me? Maybe that is someone else’s story right now. Because Savior, if you don’t pour your love upon me, my soul dies. I need your love. I need to know your love. It must be, then, that I can know it, too. Maybe I most know You today through this waiting. Through this suffering.
You say in Romans 5 that suffering leads to perseverance which leads to character, and character leads to hope. So would you give me grace to persevere in the midst of being constantly tempted with this desire? Would you give me grace to have the character to continue to thank you for the gifts you have given to others and praise you even when it hurts? Because in these things, I know you are giving me the grace to Hope in you. And I know that “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Thank you for pouring your love on me. Thank you for allowing me to know the depths of that love in a way that only you could.