On Oct. 21, 2011, I wrote out several prayer requests in my journal. I wanted to be bold and ask Jesus for things, no matter how grandiose the requests felt to me. They were as follows:
- The job at White River Christian Church (we still had not heard for sure if we had it or not, and it felt painfully close to slipping out of our fingers)
- A job for me in Indiana
- Help with our finances (we were living with Tom’s parents at the time. I was teaching part time, but our monthly income was not covering our expenses, and I was watching our savings slowly disappear)
- A house (this felt particularly out of reach. How could we buy a house when we had no money?)
- A baby (At this time, we had been trying for a baby for a little over 4 years.)
I am still amazed by all that has occurred for us this last year. And so thankful. I don’t ever want to not be thankful for these things.
But what do I do when that last prayer is still unanswered? When my heart aches so desperately to be a mother?
We did finally seek medical help for our infertility, since we finally had money for it, and we were finally in a place where starting a family felt right and made sense (as much as I ached for it before, it didn’t feel right. I knew it wasn’t our time yet). And I’m thankful that our problem does seem to be treatable, albeit not the shortest of processes.
And my job is great. I really enjoy going to work every day. I enjoy the people I work with. I enjoy having extra money every month, to save or give away or invest in our home. Most of the time, I am ok. Most of the time, I truly enjoy life.
But the problem with infertility is that it stabs you in the gut when you least expect it. I can be happy as a clam, joyously plugging along at my day, and then I pass a pregnant woman in the hall. And all of a sudden, I am crippled by the ache of it all, the immense emptiness that overtakes me. In those times, my current lot feels profoundly unfair and cruel, and my mind struggles to work itself around the “why” of it all.
Advent is a mixture of celebration and waiting, as we celebrate the “now” and wait for the “not yet”. It is the recognition of a God who entered into our pain, not to take all our pain away, but to redeem us in the midst of it. The gospels are full of utter joy, but they are also filled with raw suffering, not the least of which is the suffering of God himself.This advent season, I was hoping for a miracle. There were a few days where I really thought we had gotten it. Then came the knowledge that no, we hadn’t, and I was left in the same awful place. So this Christmas, like the last five Christmases, I am faced with the reality of suffering. I am even more reminded of this reality after Friday, Dec. 14, when 20 parents lost their children to a senseless tragedy. There is no less suffering within this life of faith than outside of it. And sometimes this can cause my faith to waiver and my hope to crumble to a greater extent than I would like.
But when I feel as though there is no hope, I am drawn toward the God who was birthed in a dirty stable, so that he could enter into our pain. It is hard to believe that he aches with me right now, that he enters into my suffering and feels this grief with me. But when I read the gospels, I can’t help but see that he does. He is a God who loves to announces his mission by granting a child to barren women (Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth). He is a God who takes great delight in granting “the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps. 113).
This Christmas, I may not have the miracle that I long for, but I have a God that stoops down to care for me, to lift me out of the dust and ashes and make me into something new and glorious. And I have so many things to be grateful for. Our beautiful home. Our precious church family. Our jobs. Our sweet marriage and friendship. Our wiggly, sweet, adorable dogs. So, so much good.I’m praying that I can embrace the extravagant, particular love of the Emmanuel this Christmas, the God who stooped down to be near to us and suffer with us. And I’m praying that those who lost their precious children in the recent shooting will feel it in the midst of their unimaginable pain as well.