Attending crisis pregnancy fundraiser banquets exposes a special place in the heart of a barren woman. It’s kind of a gritty and smelly place. When you cannot have a baby, it is simply painful to hear about those who consider it a crisis, no matter their circumstance. I know it’s unwise to feel that way. Each person is where they are; living in the reality of their own world. But, it’s hard not to think cynical things when you’re in pain.
That evening I was at a table with some good friends and some others from our church that I’d never met before. We did introductions and began all the standard get to know you questions that come along with it. The inevitable, “Do you have children?”
And that’s when I have to go through my 3-step process:
As sincere a smile as possible; hide the hurt and/or shame.
“Not yet” with as much anticipation as would seem appropriate, but also that little hint of discomfort that would discourage further discussion.
And move the conversation along. Don’t cry, vomit, or make people feel weird.
I learned from one of the ladies at our table that she and her husband had adopted siblings from Russia after raising their bio kids. She told me that it was one of the hardest seasons of her life. They were teenagers now and currently their home felt in constant chaos and turmoil. Her eyes filled with tears and I saw her try to blink them away as she attempted to avoid a public melt-down. It must have been a really hard day/week/month/year. I was humbled. I needed to remember that I wasn’t the only one that was hurting.
For the rest of the night, I kept glancing her way. I thought about her and tried to imagine what her home must be like right now. They rescued their children! Shouldn’t it just be beautiful and wonderful and easy like in a movie? Don’t they get extra credit spiritually for doing something like that? Shouldn’t their awesomeness star chart be filled and earn them a free pass to avoid this kind of torment and frustration? I thought ache happened before you adopted, not after.
That next Sunday morning, our friend Mike Satterfield was guest speaking at our church. He spoke on surrendering to God. Of ALL things! Whyyyyyyyaaaahhh??? So much of what he said wasn’t fair. I sat there assuming that the other people in the room were being convicted of way less emotional things, like trying not to cuss as much or giving up a fantasy football addiction. But there I was. Alone. The only barren woman in the room. The only one being asked to surrender THEIR UTERUS. It wasn’t fair. Surrender meant coming to a place of acceptance, which did not leave much room for the companion that bitterness had become. We were in a codependent relationship and I was very content inside of it, no matter what it was doing to my soul.
Obviously, I was not planning to “respond” with any type of personal decision to surrender ANYTHING on this sunshiny Sunday morning. Nope. I was going to sit right there in my seat and continue brainstorming where we should go for lunch. Does anyone sit in church genuinely hoping that God will prompt their heart to give something up? Naw! Maybe the rededication repeat offender like I was in 7th grade at every student event, but definitely not today and definitely not about my infertility. I was most certainly NOT physically going up to the altar to kneel and pray so that my whole church family could watch me ugly cry. Just no. I was about to throw some deuces and go find solace in the bathroom during the rest of the invitation.
As I was stifling this conviction in my heart, I responded to the Lord instead by staring at my friend Lyndsey’s little girl a few rows in front of me. She looked just like her momma. I inwardly decided to sit there and glare jealously and let the anger in my eyes tell God what I really thought. “I will not yield to you. Not today.”
As my eyes burned holes into the back of their seats, my gaze was broken by the woman I met at the benefit dinner. She passed right in front of me, walking through my stare-down and shook me back into reality. My eyes followed her as she went to pray. I looked at her kneeling, sobbing and I knew exactly what she was broken about. Her family. Her children. Her home. It was the stabbing pain in her heart. I looked back at Lyndsey’s family and their sweet happiness. My eyes kept shifting between the two starkly different images.
One family was called to a season of enjoying the blond little bow-covered darling that had their hair and eyes. They’d hit the jackpot. The other family was in perhaps the darkest place they’d ever experienced. No children should have to suffer, waiting for a forever family. And no family should have to walk in such severe heartache during the healing process. It should just be easier than that. It just SHOULD.
In that moment I knew the Lord was asking me if I would surrender to live inside of either spectrum and leave it up to him. Was I willing to find out what He actually had for me? What if the hope of a happy ending never came full-circle for us? Was I willing to enter into whatever scenario for family and children God might call us to one day? Was I willing to wait a long, long time if that’s what He wanted?
Tears started flowing, and I found myself walking to the front and muttering a prayer, attempting to surrender near that mom who unknowingly paved the way. Ugh. I HATE crying in public. My sister-in-law Jenny came and held me. She didn’t say anything except that she loved me. I didn’t have to tell her. She knew where the hole in my heart was.
I’m not sure if I actually fully surrendered in that moment, but it was a step. My prayer wasn’t super profound. It went like this, “Fine! Fine, God, Fine! I will do whatever you want me to. UHHHH…”
Poetic, I know.
For several years I have said that my worst sins of judgment and condemnation happened at the corner gas station in Riverside, Texas. There were some eyebrow-raising definitions of “parenting” that I happened to witness frequently whilst filling up my truck and grabbing the occasional Arizona Tea. Surely I am the better and more deserving woman than some of these! What about the vast populations of this world in need of water, food, clothing, and truth? I have a home that is safe, warm, and painted a lovely shade of blue. What have I not done that warrants allowing someone else to achieve this thing that I cannot?
Unmerited gift of grace. Unmerited gift. Unmerited grace. It’s something I cannot decide is too wonderful for a less deserving person to receive. Simply unmerited. Simply a gift. Another dear person in my life would soon receive this gift way outside of my own grand design. I had no idea the profound impact this would have on my attempt to surrender and walk away from bitterness.