I share this journey tentatively, my heart a tangle of nerves as I present what still feels raw and unprocessed and unfinished. Some days my faith feels shaky and I’m not quite sure I fully believe the things I know to be true about God.
But I share this journey in hopes that those of you who are in a similar place of doubting, fear, disappointment, or waiting (whether it be for a child, for a spouse, for a job, for a certain stage of life), will know that you are not alone in the days of disappointment and in the struggle to believe God’s goodness. I share our story with the prayer that my words would point you towards the ever-faithful and always-sustaining hand of God – a God who cares for us deeply and promises to always hold us fast.
We started talking about baby names before we even got engaged. Matthew and I circled around names and combinations, throwing out new ideas and talking about the pros and cons of going by your middle name instead of your first. It all felt so light and exciting.
When we first decided to start trying to have kids, it was exciting to think about those names being given to an actual tiny human being. To think about the little people who would be characterized by those syllables and who would respond to that first-middle name combo when they were in trouble.
What we didn’t realize is how long it would be before we would be able to use those names we’d thought of over dinner during our datings days.
I always knew I wanted kids. I started babysitting at age 12 and fell in love with each of the kids I spent time with. As I grew I always made friends with the neighborhood kids. In high school, when I drove home from school, they would run after my car as I entered the driveway and I would pass the hours with them, braiding the hair of the little girls and climbing trees beside the boys.
Whenever I was asked if I wanted kids I would giggle and say I wanted four girls. Four girls with bright yellow hair that I could braid. Tiny feet to put shoes with bows on. Little dresses hanging in their closets. I always saw myself as a mother.
When I got married and having kids was a reality, I knew for a while that we just weren’t ready. Fresh into marriage, both struggling with depression and anxiety, moving across the country, starting new ministries. I didn’t think we could handle it yet.
But then the desire descended like a weight. It came so quickly that it surprised me. Sudden and urgent and heavy and growing. We prayed about it for 6 months, finally deciding that, ready or not, we wanted to move forward with trying to have a baby.
We were nervous and excited. I pictured in my head Matthew’s large hands holding a tiny body, his face lighting up as their eyes met. When I laid down in bed at night I heard their tiny feet pounding on the wooden floors as they ran around the house. I felt their weight in my arms as I rocked them in the middle of the night. It felt so close. So possible. So beautifully exciting.
But the months passed and those two lines never appeared.
So I started to suppress these thoughts in my mind. It hurt to think about their tiny feet and their blonde hair and their little hands holding Matthew’s fingers. I mentally packed up those little dresses hanging in the closets and those tiny shoes with bows. It hurt too much.
It broke my heart to hope for them. To think about what could be.
So I didn’t think about them. I tried not to imagine what our little family could look like. I tried to forget my desires: those tiny hands and feet. I tried to minimize my wants: to be a mother and to see Matthew be a father. My heart closed off to the reality of what could be…because what if it couldn’t be? The thought hurt too badly to consider.
But when hope is suppressed it can quickly lead to numbness, doubt, and deep, unprocessed grief. It’s a scary feeling.
I wanted desperately to have the bravery to believe for a child, no matter how long it took. I wanted to allow myself to feel the desire and the hope for a future family. But I struggled to walk myself through the grief that I felt month after month.
And then a year passed, then six more months, still without the answer we prayed for.
Over a year and a half of tentative hopes followed by deep disappointment. I struggled to understand God’s character in all of this. My faith felt shaky and uncertain. Each month came with another ‘no’ and another tailspin into heartbreak and tendencies towards despair. Each disappointment made me question if I really, actually believed that God was good?
Even on the days where I was sure of God’s character, when I knew that he was good and sovereign and faithful, I feared that his “best” for us would be months, or even years, of more ‘no’s and more waiting. I was scared that God’s good plan for us would be that we would need to let go of our desire for a family. I’m still scared of that.
And here we are now, still in what seems to be a continual holding pattern of waiting and hope and disappointment.
I’m sad to say that this story doesn’t yet have a neat little bow on it. We are still waiting, still praying, still struggling to believe that no matter what, even if God walks us through years of waiting for a child, that beyond a shadow of a doubt, he is still good.
So here we are, over a year and a half into this journey with maybe more years of disappointment to come. But, by his grace, God has use this as one of the most sanctifying experiences of my life. He’s been teaching me a lot of things, the primary thing being WHO he is in all of this. It’s been the simple reminder that he is near, he cares, his character is deeply kind and unwaveringly good.
No matter what happens, even on the hardest and heaviest days, I can have hope because of this truth, which I believe to my very core: our God is a God who is near – intimately near – near to the point that he entered broken flesh, experienced deep suffering and distance from God so that you and I would never have to – so that you and I could be with God forever. This God suffered more than I ever will, died to atone for my wretchedness, and now is alive. Because he is alive everything has changed. Because he is alive I have hope. Because he is alive you too, no matter what pain or brokenness the Lord is walking you through, can have hope.