Warning: Lengthy musings ahead
This blog vacillates, for me, between being a bulletin board of progress updates on our adoption for friends, family and others in the adoption world to being my version of artistic expression only to be appreciated most by me, Nate and one day our girls – as it’s so very specific to our lives and what God is doing in us. You see, I’m just not an artist. I totally envy those who can somehow channel their innermost thoughts into something tangible like songwriting, art, or dance. Me, I settle for writing these words here as my rag-tag outlet. It’s sort of my stream of communication back and forth with God and for some reason at this time in my life it just feels very natural and even at times necessary.
So, for those of you reading for progress updates or who get slightly squeamish at my proclivity (these days) to over-share, read with caution (or wait until the next post, which I anticipate will be my version of diet blog).
We’ve just taken off from Cincinnati on our way to ski with friends out west. (No, we’re really not skiers and skiing out west sort of seems like we’re freshman who’ve been invited off the bench for the last 24 seconds of the varsity game. Sadly, the outcome of that scenario is never pretty.)
As we were on the runway, there was a slight drizzle of rain, not quite sure whether it wanted to be snow or sleet. For whatever reason, it brought me back to a public school cafeteria we were in years ago where our church was meeting. One of the women in our church was giving a talk – not sure on what – but she, as a side tangent, referenced her and her husband’s struggles with infertility. She talked about “barrenness” as analogous to rain. At times it was a drizzle in their lives and at times it felt like a rain storm in its truest form.
As she talked I remember diverting my eyes, as I’m sure many did in that cafeteria. I think it’s human nature to, when staring into hardship in someone else’s life, figuratively try on their shoes and see how it’d feel. I couldn’t do that with her story.
Even though at the time I wasn’t feeling the ache of desire for being a mom and was actually pretty content in just being married. I had enough to deal with in figuring out how to live with someone so “other”; child-rearing just wasn’t in the immediate trajectory for me. Yet, as she talked I just didn’t even want to picture the possibility of not being able to have children with Nate. It was too much for even my voyeuristic mind to envision.
And, now – here we are. Our current infertility (and I say current, because we are still fervently praying that God would “open my womb”) has become a back-drop in our lives. Although I’m really not staring it in the face at every moment, it’s just … there. Kind of like a muscle strain. You don’t think about it incessantly, but it affects the way you see and do almost everything else.
In September we had dinner with friends who have been amazingly compassionate through this time. Although they’ve had no problems conceiving their own children, it’s almost as if – at times – they’ve been given the ability to actually feel our pain in not having our own. I told them that I didn’t want to rush past this phase of infertility, as I really wanted to embrace the suffering that God had put before us. Our friend Jonathan said, ever-so-graciously, something that has stuck with me since then and I believe will for the rest of my life. “It’s not about embracing the suffering, Sara, it’s about embracing God.”
That’s it. It changes everything. It moves me from being a victim of my circumstances, forever wallowing in what I don’t have, to being someone standing on the edge of possibility. This is feeling awfully similar to much of what I’ve written already in other posts, however it’s so deeply profound for me that I just can’t get away from it.
Something that in some cultures becomes a scarlet letter for the woman who beholds it, is actually a blessing for me and for Nate because with it we get to press further in to the God who holds all things at His fingertips. I can honestly say, even as I type, that I am so overwhelmed with joy. This is not to negate the moments of deep sorrow. They go hand in hand, which really doesn’t make any sense to our natural minds.
A few years back Nate and I both, independently yet simultaneously, were going through a bit of a crisis of faith. From the outside, we had done Christianity “right.” We were spending time reading the bible everyday, giving of our lives to other people, modifying our behavior according to the tenets of Scripture … yet feeling so lifeless. It was like the worst sort of hypocrisy – it’s not like others were noticing (if anything they were lifting us up as leaders in our faith) but we couldn’t ignore the dissonance. Week after week we were teaching high school kids about what it means to follow Jesus with fervor and passion, yet were so dull inside.
I remember one night about six years ago, lying in bed with Nate and literally counting on our hands the people we’d seen who, as far as we could tell, were actually engaged in their faith into later adulthood. These were people who weren’t just doing things that looked like the sorts of things Christians should do (in fact they were really honest about their shortcomings in the faith), but had a richness and passion about them that only pointed to a deep love for God and a deep awareness that they were loved by Him.
The common thread with each of these people (there were about 7 that we could count at the time) was suffering. Some had broken marriages, others death in their family, still others faced with deferred hope—even in the midst of tidier circumstances. The odd thing was that their suffering wasn’t really the defining characteristic of their lives. We knew this because we had to dig a little bit to find this commonality among them.
Maybe us having this conversation was the thing through which God was given permission (as if He really needed it) to take us down a similar route. Anyone who has really felt the disconnect of saying one thing and living another would know that staying there for any length of time is mind-numbing. Who knew that one night’s pillow talk might contribute to the path we’re walking now.
If there is anyone still reading this post at this point 🙂 I would say to you the words that Jonathan said to me …embrace Him. Although we are praying every day that this infertility is only a season and really believing that one day I will live out my namesake (Sara Elizabeth – both were woman in the bible who were “barren” until God miraculously, at a ripe old age, opened their wombs) and birth children against the odds, it would be utter denial to not face the pain of being infertile now – at this moment — and the fear that we may not have a child carrying the combined best and worst of both Nate and me.
But, I can not stay there. This suffering—or whatever pain however big or small—is not meant as a stopping point, a place to set up camp; it really is just a proxy. And, praise God, that these are not just words I’m typing but they are small attempts to illustrate the enormous change happening within me at this very moment.
More than ever in my life, I am seeing that this God I’ve been following since I was 15 is real.
A friend on Young Life staff years ago told the story of his friend, also on staff, who battled cancer and died in his thirties. Just before his death, when he could barely speak, this cancer patient leaned into his friend’s ear and whispered, “It is real. Jesus is real.” Though I am not standing on the verge of a literal death, as I die to dreams I’ve had of a natural-born family, and heritage of children who will resemble me and Nate, I can honestly say:
It is real. Jesus is real.
And, you know what, He is even better than I’ve ever imagined Him. In the words of Horatio Spafford, who as the story goes wrote an old hymn when passing over, by ship, the exact point that his 4 children died in the Atlantic Ocean months earlier in a wreck almost as horrific as the Titanic, I can say:
It is well with my soul.