I walked into a room filled with nearly 300 women, hungry, eager, craving to connect to each other and learn from God’s Word. I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was my greatest fantasy come true!
We started off by going around the table and introducing ourselves. One by one, each of them shared who they were by sharing about their job, the number of years they had been married, and the number of children they have.
At a table of 12 women, I realized I was the only one without children.
While they were proudly identifying with their motherhood, I was becoming more aware of my barrenness…and began identifying with fear and insecurity. Immediately, I thought, How do I get out of this? Can I run? Can I hide under the table? Can I fake an illness? Maybe I’ll just pretend to pass out or that I’m receiving a phone call – quick, woman, think!
When my turn inevitably came, I skipped over the awkward by identifying myself as “not a ballerina” and confessing my addiction to books.
I’m just so clever when I’m forced to think on my feet.
We moved on to the next woman, and no one noticed we never got to the question about children for me – I never had to say the words, “I have no children.”
After months of being at peace with infertility (mostly out of relief from stopping all the crazy doctor stuff and the end of my raging hormones) the grief, the shame, the embarrassment, the insecurity, and the awareness all resurfaced again that day.
I watched a new mom holding her tiny newborn, another woman walk by with her baby bump, and another begin to nurse. I felt so alone.
Alone. Outcast. Different. Insecure.
Seems like most days walking through infertility isn’t so hard. Most days, it’s not even on my mind. It’s just a “not yet” or a “someday, Lord willing,” hope-filled thought. Then there are days where I am surrounded by hundreds of moments that remind me of what I am not, days where grief comes like a tidal wave.
In Sara Hagerty’s book Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, the author talks about her journey through infertility and reminds us that “grief’s tide can’t be predicted.” She shares how grief is like rain; some days have a light drizzle that you hardly notice, other days a gushing downpour.
Usually, in my suffering, I want to run away and feel sorry for myself. I want to believe the lie that I am an outcast, a leper, that no one, no one, understands. I feel alone and start believing the lies that my story is unique and my pain is too severe for anyone to understand. Rather than going to God in those moments and looking upward, I pull away and start looking inward.
Most of us want to run from our pain – it’s only natural. We touch something hot, we pull back; we get a headache, we pop an Advil. We don’t naturally desire to lean into the pain. But God’s way is supernatural. And that day, my heart was breaking and being comforted at the same time.
I didn’t expect the grief to come that day. Infertility was something I thought I was at peace with – a light drizzle in the background – but instead, the grief came as a full on hurricane, overcoming me like a tidal wave.
As I fought to keep from believing lies, I was reminded of the gospel. I am not an outcast, I have been grafted in (Romans 11). I am not forgotten or alone, I am chosen and loved (Ephesians 1:4). I am not a product of my past mistakes or being punished for my past sin, I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). My identity doesn’t reside in my job, my marriage, and my barrenness. My identity is in Christ.
Charles Spurgeon is quoted saying, “I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages,” and it’s true; I am never more aware of God than when I’m drowning in the midst of pain and overwhelmed by circumstances outside of my control. It’s through the pain and grief that I’m pushed up close to the presence of God.
Suffering isn’t meant to knock us over; it’s meant to anchor us. Pain takes us to a deeper place of healing, sending us to our very knees, where we can know the God of all comfort and the Prince of Peace in ways we never thought possible. Though we may often wish suffering away, God uses it to draw us near.
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. (Hebrews 6:17-19)
I’m learning to trust his purpose, not my plan.
I’m learning to find refuge in his love, not in trying to control my circumstances.
I’m learning to hunger for more of God, not for more of my own comfort or the comfort from others.
I’m learning to lean in, rather than pull back.
I’m learning to hold fast to the hope set before me, in the midst of the storm.
I’m learning to anchor my soul to the Rock of Ages.
I’m learning to kiss the wave.
One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. (Proverbs 27:7)