I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. My dream began in the same way I expect it does for most young women, with an expectation of the idyllic life. Graduate high school. Go to college. Get a job. Meet “the man of your dreams” and get married. Followed shortly by the house, the children, a dog, and of course, the white picket fence. Not necessarily, but most likely, in that order.
Of course, for most of us, life doesn’t quite turn out the way we expect. The same was true for me. My twenties were a difficult stage of life. I was in no way ready for marriage, let alone children. My thirties were a time of deep personal and spiritual growth, coupled with an intensive time of healing. And my life was rich. I had the opportunity to travel all over the world, go on several missions trips, build deep friendships and also serve others in the areas I was most passionate about – prayer, worship and healing ministries just to name a few.
And yet my longing to be a mother never waned.
It wasn’t until my late-thirties I began thinking more seriously about my future in that regard. I wasn’t worried about it not happening, I believed it would – I just didn’t know when. I was content in my relationship with the Lord and loved life.
Then in one moment, everything changed. I was 43 years old.
I remember the day vividly. I was driving home after having a casual conversation with my doctor about my desire to have children. In the kindest and most compassionate way she could, she reminded me I was reaching the age in which the risk of bearing children was far higher. Knowing my heart, she offered alternatives, none of which were options for me personally. I was in shock.
You see, I was content to wait on God for a husband, marriage and then children. But it never occurred to me that the lack of the former would for me, preclude the latter. I was suddenly faced with the shocking reality I might not have the opportunity to bear children of my own. My heart was crushed.
What do you do when it feels like the dreams and promises of God for your life appear stagnant or dead?
For me, I did the only thing I knew to do; press more deeply into my relationship with the Lord; to seek His heart, listen to His voice and cry out to Him. And pray. A lot. I felt like Hannah (I Samuel 1), pouring out my soul to the Lord, trying to reconcile the desires of my heart with the barrenness of my dreams. Pressing into God while pressing into the pain.
There have been times, more often than I can count where the grief of not being a mother has felt unbearable. It’s hard to not look around at others who have children, with little ones in their arms and not ask, “Lord, what about me? What about my mother’s heart? I have so much love I want to pour out.”
And to be really transparent, as a single woman, I have sometimes felt my grief at not being a mom has not been fully understood or has less merit simply because I’m not married and “can’t do anything about it.” While this could be my own perception, there has still been a silent pain I have walked through as a result. One doesn’t really stand up in church with other married women at the invitation to pray life over barren wombs.
“Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman” says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:1-2)
How does one sing in the midst of pain?
In my personal journey of intimacy with the Lord, I have learned, and continue to learn, what worship truly means. We certainly worship Him if for no other reason than He is deserving of it. It is also true that the depth of our worship is directly correlated by our willingness to worship Him in the midst of our pain. It is a choice, and sometimes a difficult one to say “Lord, I will worship You even when I don’t understand. I worship You because Your goodness is not defined by my loss, my pain or the outcomes in my life that are different than what I expected them to be.”
That is authentic worship. He wants the vulnerability of our hearts, not obligatory arms raised.
“For more are the children of the desolate…”
And there it is. The comforting presence of the Holy Spirit reminding me of all the ways I have been a spiritual mother to many. Those I have held, prayed for, spoken life into and poured His love over little hurting hearts.
To the children I held in my arms and sang over when I was in Argentina….
The little boy in Rwanda I am sponsoring so he can have a better life…
The sweet little boy and his mother who have become part of my heart…
And so many other children I have brought before the Lord during my times of intercession.
Does motherhood look different for me than I expected it would? Yes. Do I still hope that one day I will have children of my own (in some way) to pour into? Absolutely. Do I still struggle with grief at times? Of course. But in the midst of this journey, I am comforted by the knowledge that He understands my pain and that He is enough. My relationship with Him is far more important to me than all the dreams in my heart.
And so I sing.