28th February 2014. This week marks a year since we started trying for a baby. Twelve months. Three-hundred-and-sixty-five long days of overly-conscious barrenness. Empty of new life. This is where we are at and after a year of not really holding it together I find myself in front of this keyboard now in need of a way to voice what this unexpected situation has brought us so far.
According to the NHS website after 12 months we are now medically categorised as ‘infertile’. “Out of every 100 couples trying for a baby, 80 to 90 will get pregnant within one year. The rest will take longer, or may need help to conceive”. And so this is where we now find ourselves – knowing that for every ten couples hoping to conceive, we are one of only two left still trying for a family. “Trying”. What a word! As if it was simply a case of putting in a bit more effort if the fruits of one’s labours isn’t immediately forthcoming.
Rewind to a year ago: full of hope and excitement at the prospect of becoming parents, contented hours were spent daydreaming of the future. Cosy chats as we poured over every detail: a house to be future-filled with every kind of day – child-laden, weary, satisfied. I had in mind that there may be difficulties ahead – that we may not conceive easily or at all – but the track record of so many friends and family conceiving quickly meant the odds felt pretty good, though the ability to follow suit with ease and speed was never a guarantee.
For my husband and I this move towards parenthood was always going to be underpinned by our faith in God. The two go hand-in-hand – the miracle of life and the Miracle Maker working in partnership. We have chosen not to live from a place of lack and what ifs when as Christians we believe we are called to live in the fullness of everything God has for us, whatever lies ahead. What I couldn’t have foreseen was how this desire for a baby would stretch my faith to its very limits and call into question every promise that I have ever pondered of who God says He is.
Rewind again to my teenage years: I’m a sandy-haired girl with a love of children and innocent dreams of motherhood, who dedicated Sundays at church to looking after the littles and every summer playing with young cousins. Such absolute pleasure and satisfaction. Fast forward to the year I met my husband – a kindred spirit with dreams of being a daddy and every Sunday I would spot him glowing with contentment as he cradled someone else’s baby in his arms. It became a running joke – he adores babies!
I am not unaware of the sacrifice and exhaustion which define parenthood. As friends and family go through their own schooling before us we watch and take notes; extend sympathy and a helping hand; cook meals and rub tired shoulders; allow for every grisly memory of labour to be recounted over and over by shell-shocked minds; celebrate each new miniature triumph as we wipe encrusted food and toys from once-prized furniture.
Countless couples around us have embarked with terrified excitement on the most significant vocation of their lives these last twelve months; and I have experienced the bitter taste of envy and yearning.
At first our decision to start a family is an adventure; nail-biting but nothing to worry about. Then the months begin to sluggishly traipse by, marked by hope and disappointment, false alarms and greater disappointment and I sense the bottom falling out of my world as I start to plummet.
Storm-battered. Daydreams in tatters. We cling on with dogged determination to hope and to the belief that we weren’t made with this innate desire to be parents for it to be wasted. Could God have created us to radiate a planet-like pull to children that we pass in a cafe, supermarket queue, or walking down the street, for it only to be enjoyed by those that are not our own? Every time a small hand is slipped into mine or a tiny warm body is passed for a cuddle my trampled heart strums with longing, with knowing, that I was made for this.
But I have not known such depths of sadness, such sorrow until now.
Grief is a cunning shape-shifter. Some days I wander through the hours numb and dazed by the heaviness of it. Behind my vacant eyes I wonder whether I have any spectrum of emotion to feel anything. All is coloured grey. Other days the sharp, urgent stab of complete brokenness rushes in, taking my breath away, buckling my knees so I am panting on the floor, heaving for air: foetal, gasping, crushed. Grief in these moments is thick-tongued and chokes the throat.
So many mornings I cry for hours alone. Immobile. A stuck record. Tears prick pins and needles and my head throbs in pain. My grief is always unpredictable, always G-Force in its intensity. Soon it is joined by fear as I realise that even now I tiptoe around the very depths of my despair. The well is deep. As the months pass I can sense its crater-like call and I fear if I get too close to the edge I may tumble in and never return.
And yet God is still God. He is still good. He is still kind. My heart breaks and my eyes swim but I cling to that life raft of truth, fighting to speak it out with my mind when my heart falters in believing. He is faithful. He is faithful.
As time passes, emptiness becomes a familiar companion. I wonder whether I have been swimming under water for forever; the weight of it crushing my chest and forcing me always lower. I don’t recognise myself and can’t seem to find the beginning of the knot to untangle the huge ball of mess that I have become. Dawn breaks anew and as I surface I falter in my desire to begin another day which will be no different from the last. Hope is still there though she flickers and spurts. Creativity wanes. Motivation is lacking. ‘Useless’ whispers its name to define me. Satan is a true deceiver at such times as this. He fly-posters my heart with details of my inadequacies and I am too weak to tear them down.
I am told often by well-meaning friends that I must trust in God’s perfect timing – but waiting is miserable, even if God’s plans are wonderful. I hope that hindsight will be a beautiful gift when it finally arrives.
We wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait.
At this stage in our story a year has not yet gone past and in my rational mind I know we are still a potential 80-90% success rate statistic and yet my body – or perhaps my spirit – seems already to understand that we still have far to go. We have tried everything we can think of and taken the advice of successful couples in the hope that perhaps we have missed something somewhere. Searching for clues online becomes a mixed blessing of advice laced with paranoia. I realise that the quest for pregnancy has become an unhealthy obsession for some would-be mothers and the strength of their anxieties leaps out from the screen. I slam the laptop shut for fear of being infected; knowing that I could become that – desperate that I won’t. Regardless, I have come to hear the workings of my body so well these days. As the months progress I seem to know, even before the evidence appears, that it is not to be again. The grieving begins earlier and earlier. I’ve barely passed the right time and my whole body seems wracked with the certainty before really knowing that another month will pass by with its true desire, true purpose, unfulfilled. Grief floods me again.
In the dead of night as familiar snores disclose my ever-steady blessing of a husband who valiantly swallows his pain, I wrestle, Jacob-like, with my God. I didn’t choose this. I would never have chosen this. How is this anything like what I had hoped my life would look like? What about those dreams? Didn’t you design me to be a mother? Didn’t you carefully craft my personality to draw children closer? Why, Lord? Are you punishing me? When is it my turn? I hammer on the door. I rail and cry out. But no answer comes. Round and round the garden I go, but a wall as high as Jericho’s has shut me out and there is no trumpet blast to release me. And even as I repent of my stubbornness of will, even as I run to my Jesus for love, I can’t find Him. There is nothing but silence. Where are you God in this? Why have you hidden your face from me? Why have you forgotten me?
My quest to find my God continues, but He doesn’t answer me and so I stop asking for the one thing I want most. I have always delighted in prayer but suddenly my words have dried up. Slowly I lose any ability to pray for others, to be a listening ear, to enjoy the gifts He’s given me. I discipline myself to practice an attitude of gratitude and thank Him genuinely for so many blessings. I write lists of how we can use this time as two to its fullest advantage. I praise Him sometimes freely, other times through gritted teeth and promise myself that I will not walk out on everything I have agreed to surrender. I wonder what I said I’d signed up for when I picked up my cross and started edging forwards through life; not my will but yours……
The fury of so many unanswered questions eats up any gentle kindness, over-spilling into the day. I find myself containing the urge to lash out, to punch, scream, smash. My mind becomes a sound-proofed room and as reality and mentality blur I wonder occasionally whether I have accidentally voiced aloud this ferocity that boils away. A mop bears the brunt of my rage one day when I cannot contain it, cannot scrub it out. Another day I leave a bread board smashed to pieces on the kitchen floor. The release feels good as I fight the lack of control over my body, my mind, our circumstances. Most days I sense this urge bubbles only just beneath the surface. I am kamikaze with self-contained frustration and confusion.
And I miss my babies. Sometimes I miss them so much I feel like I can’t breathe, can’t find a way to express this pain of separation. I don’t know them in the physical but somewhere, somehow, they are out there and I am desperate to meet them, to invest in them, to laugh with them, to nurture them. Around us couple upon couple receive their promise while we battle with restless uncertainty, wondering where ours is.
I cannot ask God for a baby these days, but I make the decision to pray for my children – for all they will be and all I hope they will choose and pursue in life. I thank God that He knows them already and I pray that He delights in them. The longing to know them too, to have them here and begin life together is an ache that I swallow daily.
I have allowed my husband to see the depths of my grief just twice when I could not contain the overwhelming torrent as it washed me down its river, but afterwards the lid was shoved firmly back on the box. I would rather protect him from what he cannot change and a room inside my heart in which it feels like he cannot join me. Our taut muscles and tired bodies are a giveaway that we feel the strain of this joint and unnamed grief between us. Some days we wade through it to find each other. Other days intimacy stumbles and falls.
Never before have I known such loneliness as this. My God, my God, where are you?
Social media has become a torment to me. Pregnancy announcements flurry forth. Black and white scan images arrive via text and email. Happy expectant mothers post photos of their expanding bumps. Shots of beautiful newborns sleeping peacefully in their ruddy hospital freshness appear. I circle a club that I cannot enter. I log myself out and stay out. Self-preservation is my closest ally. I start to choose where I go to avoid children. I survey each location and sit carefully in a cafe, away from the plaintive cries of babies. I shut my eyes to scenes of happy families in movies, newspapers, Sunday mornings at church; each one a stabbing reminder of what we yearn for and are bereft without. Never did I think I could resent and envy those I love most for having what I want. It is a vile side to myself that I cannot deny. I rock a friend’s child to sleep and am told I’m a natural, the compliment stinging and resonating truth in equal measure.
Six months into this my friends come to realise that I hide from them though I don’t think they understand why and I have not given them much help in figuring it out. I am too scared that my unpredictable reactions might surface at any moment, embarrassing me or offending them. Can they understand this pain? I know I am not easy to be around and most days I loathe the shadow I have become. I am a see-saw of faith and self-pity.
Some friends are faithful, holding my hand and crying with me when words fail. Embarrassed others don’t seem to know where to begin, hoping perhaps that I will offer a starting point when all I want is for them to cross the void and reach me on my solitary island; acknowledge that This Thing is here even though there aren’t words. Some try to find the positives but slip away when my stuck record doesn’t seem to change. I cannot be anything but real in this. I cannot apologise for needing to wear this broken heart on my sleeve. I find I have no choice. And I cannot reach out to those who want to help but don’t know how.
Yet as the slow months roll blindly into one another, there are gradual glimmers of hope that I had not considered. A text message beeps from a friend who has been praying for us long before she would have known we were in this. And then another. We tentatively share with those we find we can trust and as we do we are swarmed with love and tenderness, tissues and prayers. We are lifted up by our loved ones and for a moment the howl of longing is released and eases.
Over time couples like us begin to emerge from the shadows and I realise we are not alone. Society tells us the norm is the quick-conception families. Of course, every conception is different but there are many of us (one in six it’s reported) who understand a different reality. Faith-warriors. Torch-carriers. Battle-scarred but still believing. I stand in awe as I discover the courageous few who have been living this for much longer than we have and still stand firm on the promises of God, knowing His character, trusting that He hears and sees, believing for more.
At first I wonder why we are so hidden, why we don’t speak out this state to highlight that it is more common than you’d think. I check myself. I know full well from my own rawness that self-preservation asks for it to be carefully protected. The brave face is often a fragile mask which hides delicate vulnerability. I take comfort from a knowing hand-squeeze, a hope-flame that still burns brightly, and a victorious testimony that reminds me of faithfulness and desperate pleas now answered. And I pray that future couples will find that they don’t have to be in this alone.
I know we have options moving forwards. A biological baby is not the only answer and there are many, many babies living who need love. I find I can only move one step at a time.
And then one day, in the silence that I have grown used to, I suddenly hear His heartbeat again. It overwhelms me and I stumble about in wonder, giddy and laughing as I recognise the sound. My God has come looking for me in my wilderness and I hear His voice. My thirsty soul weeps and weeps with joy as my ears are opened and I am flooded by His presence. I cannot fathom the turning point. I do not know why there is this change. Could it be that as I cried out again in anguish, “Enough’s enough”, this time my prayer has penetrated heaven? There is no change in our circumstances, but suddenly as I realise that God has been millimetres from my face this whole time, I also see my double-grief for the first time: my barrenness and my seeming-abandonment. The Creator of the world has not bestowed upon us the gift of His creation and that has shaken everything I thought I was made for, but my parallel grief has been that silence had fallen between us like a curtain and I have been without the warm familiarity of His presence.
Slowly, my senses return. My nights are speckled with vivid dreams of explanation and my days are touched with slivers of understanding. Bible verses that we have held onto but which sat useless in our hands still make no sense but seem worth re-studying. Strangers who know nothing of our circumstances burst into the dull ache of my days with divine knowledge and wisdom; cutting through my confusion with such ease. And for the first time I begin to understand that I have been given such a glorious opportunity over this last year.
We may not be any closer to conceiving, we may still long for a child and not know how far we still have to go until we receive this gift, but my wonderful heavenly Father has seen fit to add to me so many other gifts, which I had been too confused and consumed by questions and pain to understand: inner strength; quiet humility; childlike faith; rising courage; the relinquishing of an independent spirit to an almighty Saviour; the quest to keep speaking God, keep seeking God when all my usual channels are stuffed with white noise; the determination to praise when all seems lost and hopeless; a stubbornness of spirit which believes and trusts when there is no sign, no sign at all, of change.
A kind friend gave me this gift of a quote from Sarah Bessey which summarises so well what it is like to be here, “I think we need to be able to hold in our hands: the stories that hurt and wound and discourage us AND the stories that breathe hope and whisper of a new world and bring light to our souls”[i]. That has been our daily walk – holding the hope and despair in tension.
I have wrestled with what it is to hope when all hope seems lost and I hold onto the idea that perhaps “real hope only comes after despair”. As Walter Brueggman writes, “Only if we have tasted despair, only if we have known the deep sadness of unfulfilled dreams and promises, only if we can dare to look reality in the face and name it for what it is, can we dare to begin to imagine a better way” [ii]. Hope is subversive precisely because it dares to admit that all is not as it should be”[iii]. Hope is not kidding ourselves. There is power in hope. It has been our lifeline, a “radical act of faith and courage, an embodiment of the Kingdom”. Hope has scooped us up and pushed us into the next day when despair has told us that all is a waste.
Over this last year I am ashamed to admit that I have related far better to Sarah’s incredulous laughter than Abraham’s righteous faith. Childlike faith, a faith which pleases God’s heart, has often eluded me as my logical brain questions and calls on God for sensible answers – putting Him on trial for his seeming inactivity. All that is required of me has been a faithful heart. Oftentimes I have forgotten His magnitude, His nature, His promises, as my doubts skyscraper heavenwards, blocking Him from view. I have chosen to trust my own logic over the unpredictable creativity, the unexplainable, glorious problem-solving tactics of heaven.
There have been times this last year when, in my anger and resentment, I would quite happily have walked out on God, but His kindness has always stopped me with a timely flicker of understanding that on the other side of my blindfold He remains close by. Day after day I have felt forgotten and in that I have forgotten that God’s character is unchanging: He knows all, sees all, and forgets nothing and no-one – “You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, You’ve collected all my tears in your bottle, each ache written in your book”[iv].
God’s promise of a child for us has not been specific or certain these last twelve months and I have wondered whether I am even allowed to hold onto it despite my conviction that I own a mother’s heart. I know regardless of the specifics of my desire, God is true to His promises. Sometimes He chooses “indefinite postponement for the best to become possible”[v]. As I have waited I have moved slowly, like Much-Afraid in Hinds’ Feet on High Places, into agreeing with God to, “go down with You into the wilderness, right away from the promise, if you really wish it. Even if you cannot tell me why it has to be. I will go with You, for You know I do love You, and You have the right to choose for me anything that you please”.
As I have walked round and round the question of God’s silence, with only sorrow and suffering for company, I have come to realise that in fact I’m not alone. Job – who experienced much worse testing in the Bible – speaks of his own sadness, frustration and hope at finding God in his troubles,
“If only I knew where to find God,
I would go to his court.
I would lay out my case
and present my arguments.
Then I would listen to his reply
and understand what he says to me……
I go east, but he is not there.
I go west, but I cannot find him.
I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden.
I look to the south, but he is concealed”[vi].
Job could not find God, but the Father knew where Job was. Job trusted in His love and faithfulness to him. In turn, I have come to see that perhaps God didn’t hide from me, he hid for me. I have felt so abandoned by God these last twelve months but He has taken this chasm of abandonment, this feeling that leaves me bereft, and has written it anew in asking me to abandon myself wholly to Him; to trust that He is in me even when I can’t find Him. And I find my heart turning to Him now to ask the question, “How abandoned to You will you let me be, God”? “How far into knowing You more will you let me go”?
As I reflect on what I know now that I didn’t know twelve months ago I realise that He wants me to pursue Him passionately and desire to know him better – and without asking for this experience, greater intimacy with my Father is what I have been searching for. He wrote my faith before I was born and perhaps I am a little closer to Him perfecting it too. I have been a pool of snot and sadness before Him. I have let Him down and been a selfish, wilful, ungrateful child despite the outpouring of blessings in my circumstances. I have been lost for words and had only the groanings of a broken spirit to bring before Him – and still He sees me and still He loves me.
He wants me to take His promises to me at face value, even when I see no evidence to suggest that they are coming to pass and to believe in them with everything I am.
What is it to wait on God well? To hope confidently. To find strength in Him. To sit patiently, peacefully with the unknown, the uncertain, the What Ifs? To believe. This time of waiting has shaken me in every way. I have been full of impatience to see my life move forwards and would gladly have run ahead, out of step. I am coming to understand what it is to accept that which is beyond my control and to surrender all of my will to all of His. The desires of my heart have been fierce and so close to the surface of my nature, yet I know in the very core of my being I am shaped in such a way that nothing will fit, fill or satisfy my heart but God. I have been reminded that my history with Jesus tells me that He is faithful always. I have his back catalogue and it’s an immaculate, astounding read.
I have sat and waited in this dark time and as my eyes have re-adjusted I have found myself to be in a desert place with not one single green thing growing. Paul E Miller writes, “Sometimes we all have desert experiences. Things that used to be important, no longer matter. You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God. But when we don’t receive what we pray for or desire, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting on our behalf. Rather, he’s weaving his story. In the Bible Paul tells us to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” [vii]. Thanksgiving helps us to be grace-centred, seeing all of life as a gift. It looks at how God’s past blessings impact our lives. Watchfulness alerts us to the unfolding drama in the present. It looks for God’s present working as it unfolds into future grace”.[viii]
God has been and continues to be an invisible gardener in my life and at times it isn’t a comfortable process. I wonder often what He has been pruning in the time of distance and sadness to make me of more use to Him. I have been learning the lessons “of accepting and triumphing over evil, of becoming ‘acquainted with grief’ and pain…..of finding them transformed into something incomparably precious; of learning through constant glad surrender the Lord of Love Himself in a new way and to experience unbroken union with Him”[ix].
I have been on a crash course in how to grow all the best kinds of fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – each in turn examined, stripped back and re-sown in my life. It has been lonely and isolating but perhaps I am glad he has chosen to do it in secret, with few onlookers to see the times of my ugliness in His transforming work. I hope I shall “come forth as gold”[x] after this time of weeping.
The pain of yearning has cut me open and left me unstitched now. Nothing on this earth that I have tried has healed the gnawing persistence, the gaping hole which barrenness has ripped through me. The comforting warmth of a familiar hug, the soothing words of a close confidant, even my own hands pressing desperately on that deep chasm inside my chest – none of these things have made any difference. The only relief I have found these last twelve months has come from those moments when I have chosen to lose myself in worshipping God. He who was torn in two by the nails we insisted on hammering through his innocent flesh. He who endured grief and torture, abandonment and humiliation for my own sake. He who understands what it is to bear even my small body’s worth of pain. I must uncurl these tightly-wrapped arms from around my body, fling them wide and sing praises to Him to ease my own agony. I bear my heaving chest and lift my blinded eyes heavenward. Nothing else will do. And as my voice sings out and the tears flow freely, I find that the pain in my heart blurs and is forgotten in the joy of turning my attention on the One who understands all that is within me,
“I bring to you a fragrant offering.
I pour out my love and I will wash Your feet.
I offer up to you, O Lord, this brokenness.
And what you see in me shall be my confidence.”[xi]
Over time I find I must worship Him more and more. In the car. In the kitchen. In the shower. In the office. I wake up with praise on my lips. I was born to worship Him and He has chosen now to rip off other labels that I have tried to wear instead. “Behold as the clay is in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand”[xii]. I wonder whether in fact I am starting to believe that I am fertile soil after all; a daughter of the King; a woman born to be “clothed with strength and dignity…. laughing without fear of the future”[xiii].
In this season He has nurtured my compassion for others. I have come to understand pain as I recognise it more quickly in those around me. I have never been scared of being vulnerable with other people, but now I find I want even more to draw out and help soothe the brokenness we carry. I have seen the kindness of heaven and come to know what it should look like here on earth. I have watched friends don their wellies and wade into my puddley mess to hold my hand. I have known what it is to have someone sit close and listen – even when they’ve heard it over and over before. Sometimes just being loyal and close by is the best that one can do. I hope I am better placed now to cross any void with a touch when words aren’t enough……..
This baby – these babies – are the most longed for, loved-in-advance, wanted children I could have imagined. God has not gifted us with a swift and sure, we-expected-it-and-we-received-it pregnancy. We have laboured in prayer for these children long before they were conceived and the thought of being in labour was even a consideration. They are dreamt about, considered and will be adored. And bizarrely with hindsight I couldn’t ask for a better beginning for my children to be born into than the foundation of prayer and hope that goes before them. In a world where children struggle to find and know their worth, my desire is that my children know the passion which their earthly parents and heavenly father have for them and that this will be their firm foundation. And if they are ever in any doubt as to whether they are loved and seen, I now possess a whole raft of words which speak over them the inheritance they were born into. What a wonderful start to give them.
Our struggle is by no means over.
The rawness of being childless is still very real and on the rare occasion that it’s let out it pierces the deepest, darkest, most vulnerable places within me.
The waiting remains a daily challenge: a choice between declaring His faithfulness and buckling beneath this great sadness; of matching the despair with expectant hope. I still sense the strain in friendships as each day the void widens further and I battle with feeling I must squash what we’re going through because it’s nothing new and friends are no longer sure of asking. Perhaps they feel that the more time passes, the less they have to offer me. Other people’s lives move on and ours somehow doesn’t. Such isolation.
I find I take little pleasure in planning anything significant in case our circumstances change. Daydreaming seems a pointless, painful activity, so the days roll out never-endingly before us. We live constantly with unanswered questions and it’s a sometimes hourly battle to stop the tide of uncertainty from eroding our choice for peace. I know I have more work to do in this.
I have become almost oblivious to the fact that self-preservation dictates my behaviour now, choosing for me where I go and when I go there; praying all the while that I won’t see a protruding baby bump or hear the squall of a newborn to set my womb screaming for its own.
Some days I cannot locate exactly what it is that we’re praying and hoping for any more. The immediacy of the dream has faded around the edges over time. I can’t imagine easily what it must be to hold, smell, feed, and cradle a newborn; to look down on a tiny masterpiece bound up in its own identity yet flecked with inherited features. We have prayed for so long for the physical reality of this child but all I have to cling on to is the imaginings of that moment. Our baby is a concept, a hope, a wondering. I have nothing solid or secure to pin down the pleas of my prayers. I have no personal reference point only the comparisons of what might be for us one day. It is a strange, strained time; a disconnected dream in the face of a multicolour reality which flows on regardless of our unanswered prayers. As the days go by the certainty of parenthood seems to be slipping out of our fingers. We pray blindly because we cannot see what we are asking for. There is nothing tangible – only the cries and gurgles of other people’s babies. The names we have chosen for our children roll around our tongues as we try them out and hang in the air, unclaimed.
We are stepping closer to the beginnings of hospital scans and tests. Friends tell me it’s a positive step forwards, but I wonder at their conclusions for to me it only brings the reality of our situation – our failure – into sharp relief, invading our privacy and exposing our vulnerabilities in an effort to investigate the unexplainable. I will have to dig deep to find the strength to begin the next stage of this journey. In sharp contrast the swirl of pregnancy announcements continues to surround us and with each one the yearning only grows stronger.
I wonder still why why why why why why why?? Who knew it would end up looking like this?! But I know God doesn’t ask me to understand why. I am learning to ask, “What are you teaching and showing me in this time?” I am learning not to ask questions at all but simply to be.
At the beginning of 2013, as we started trying for a baby, one of the verses God gave us was from Isaiah 45:3, “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” In the darkness which has marked many, many of the days which have followed I have come to realise that there have indeed been hidden treasures; secret riches that He has given us. I thought on first receiving such a verse that they would be obvious treasures, found easily and an earthly blessing to have. How ignorant I was!
It turns out that God was so eager for me to find Him more that He designed for me a personal treasure hunt. ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’, He seemed to be saying. ‘Kick and scream all you want – you’re going to have to go through it. And as you find me, you’re going to realise just how creative I am and just how much I have for you. I want you to learn to pray persistently. I want you to nurture faith. I want you to know what it is to stand in this waiting time clothed in peace. I want you to praise me when the gift is nowhere to be seen and to glorify me all the same. I want you to take my Word and believe in it even when you see no proof. This is to be your testimony’.
I have dragged myself through many of these three-hundred-and-sixty-five days and I have kicked and screamed. Along the way I have held onto faith, truth and His promises but at times they have seemed cold and rough in my hands. Yet I sense God urging me, “Look again” and as I open my hands again, seeing this time with His eyes and not my own, I realise I now own the precious, costly jewels of God’s character. He is faithful, compassionate, all love and goodness. He will never leave or forsake me – I only have to call and I will find Him. He won’t push me further than I can stand – and there have been many days past and still to come when I question, ‘How much longer?’
These things I have learnt about God are treasures to me. They are significant and they have changed me. In my pursuit of His gift of life I have come to realise that knowing the Giver is actually far more important to me. Though I still long for a child I wouldn’t be without this event on my timeline. Perhaps now as I am beginning to lift my head again I can declare that regardless of how long the wait is, my life is richer because of what I have tasted – both the good and the pain. And I have come to see my God determined to be at work in me for He loves me endlessly.
i] From Sarah Bessey’s blog post “A radical act of faith”
[ii] From Walter Bruggeman’s Prophetic Imagination
[iii] From Sarah Bessey’s blog post “A radical act of faith”
[iv] Psalm 56:8
[v] From Hinds’ Feet in High Places by Hannah Hunard
[vi] Job 23: 3-5, 8-9
[vii] Colossians 4:2
[viii] Thoughts from “A Praying Life” by Paul E Miller.
[ix] From Hinds’ Feet in High Places by Hannah Hunard
[x] Job 23:10
[xi] Taken from a Misty Edwards IHOP devotional
[xii] Isaiah 54:11
[xiii] Proverbs 31:25