My greatest fear? Growing up it was a superficial one. I was afraid of being buried alive. For years, I insisted to those around me that upon my death, all organs were to be extracted from my body so I could not wake up in the grave. And then, just in case, I wanted someone to assemble an air horn above the grave, with a cord tied to my hand, so I could yank it and alert the entire town if I happened to wake up.
Eventually, I realized that being buried alive was highly improbable and the irrational fear fell by the wayside. I’m pretty confident now that upon my final resting I’ll remain dead until the trumpet sounds and the dead in Christ are raised.
More recently however, I have wrestled with a more legitimate fear.
It can be summed up like this:
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… infertility.
My fear of barrenness had its roots in an emergency room visit when I was 17, when a doctor solemnly dismissed my parents from the room to explain to me that, because of a recent incident of abuse, I would likely never have children. In the wake of that moment, while I grappled with the severity of the blow, I tried to reconcile “moving on” from the abuse with the fact that its ugly tentacles would forever stretch into my future. There was never an hour more bleak and desperate than when those words hit my ears. It was as though earth itself had crashed upon my chest, compressing my lungs, robbing me of even the most basic instinct to breathe.
At 17, children were not on my radar, but the hope of normality was. After all my grand dreams of accomplishments and conquests had been ruthlessly shattered, and my entire life as I knew it had been completely obliterated in the aftermath of coming forward, I still clung to this microscopic glint of hope that perhaps one day, I could have a little family and a small, humble role in the ministry.
But one doctor, one set of discharge papers, and one devastating moment tore even that away.
As I looked toward the future, I mentally prepared myself for losing out on the three things I longed for the most. No Ministry. No Marriage. No Children.
If you know me, you know that I’ve been in the ministry for 8 years and I’ve been married for 2. Logically, two out of three ought to be a giant faith-builder… but our hearts are not always on the same page as logic. By the time the concerns set in motion over 10 years ago were eventually absolved, I had other nagging suspicions confirmed by doctors and tests. My heart became overwhelmed with the facts. I’d like to say that my prayers were saturated in unwavering faith, but it would be the farthest thing from the truth. In fact, it’s because they weren’t that I have learned the valuable lesson I am about to share.
I’m not sure how many times I went up to the altar, raised my hands, and tried to pray down faith… or hoped someone else could pray it down a little closer to me so I could reach it. I’m not sure how many times people laid hands on me and prayed for my healing. I’m not sure how many times I laid in bed at night, weeping silent prayers beside my sleeping husband. I’m not sure how many attempts I made to persuade God to give us a baby. I’m not sure how many times I walked out of a service, reminded of some promise, and used it to convince myself that God would do it.
What I do know is this…
Every time I prayed, I was motivated by fear.
Not faith. Not even hope really. Fear and doubt were the driving forces for months… and I’m not even sure I realized it.
Every tear was a little more worry slipping out, that God would not heal me. Every march up to the front of a church for prayer was fueled by the notion that God may not answer. Every promise I grabbed a hold of and carried out the door, was repeated over and over… because I was afraid. My begging, my pleading, my bargaining with God… was propelled by this nagging doubt in my mind that God, even though He COULD do it, may never do it.
And you know what?
I never got anywhere.
Service after service, I walked away, struggling to convince myself that God would perform the work. Altar trip after altar trip, I let down my hands and walked back to my seat, never really feeling like I got through. No one ever proclaimed a powerful prophecy over me. I never heard God make a special promise to me. I never felt any grandiose power electrify me. The absence of something like that to grab onto was disappointing. I didn’t understand the brick wall I was hitting. I tried to muster up faith. I tried to build it out of promises and the knowledge of other people’s miracles. I could not understand why it was so elusive for me, and why I couldn’t find the secret button that would get us a baby. Or when I got a tiny taste of faith, why it was so fleeting. It’s not like I wasn’t trying. I certainly was. But there was something missing. Faith in this matter was so intangible and obscure to me.
In all of this struggle, I discovered what it is to wrestle with God and desperately seize the reins. But it was one quiet night in January that the elusive mystery of all my struggles came together in one clear and obvious picture.
It was there where fear dissolved in an instant and faith was mine to possess.
No conjuring it up. No struggling to build and mold and shape it… it was just there.
An overflowing, unflinching faith. Faith that does not hesitate with the opinion of professionals, or waiver when another month goes by. Faith that does not leave room for fear or doubt. Faith that sees only irrelevance in evidence that is contrary to the promise of God. It is a faith so powerful that it not only flows in the direction of believing God will give us a child… but it flows deep and strong in the form of peace should God choose not to grant a child. The irony of this faith, is that it can embrace with fullness the opposite outcome of what the faith propels you to believe. Faith that moves mountains… and faith that happily climbs the mountains…
Where? Where does the torment of a heart simply abandon you, and where does such a faith come from? Where can I find it?
You will find it in a blessed place, though, it is one that people don’t often like to go.
You will find this faith in the presence of surrender. True surrender.
Not just the declaration of surrender….but the fullness of surrender.
I discovered this faith when I looked at my life and said, “Here I am… all of me… If You do not want me to have a child, then God… I do not want a child. I only want Your will.”
But friend, be careful not to err in your motive. For it would be easy here, to grab the surface and lose the fullness.
This surrender wasn’t a way to bolster courage for the possibility of living through something I did not want.
It was not a way to prove something to God, and in essence, try to manipulate Him into granting me my will.
No… I wanted God’s will more than anything in the world.
More than I wanted a child.
Imagine… preferring the thing you dread the most over the thing you have always wanted the most…
My humbling admission? There was a brief span of time where I couldn’t say “I want God’s will even if He doesn’t want me to have children.” I couldn’t. Not in a million years could I truly, with all of my heart, say it. I would have liked to have been able to say it. I wish I could show you a spotless record of surrender from salvation forward… but I struggled with this one for a little while.
But then, I did. I surrendered. When I released my grip, gave up the power struggle, and resigned the most important thing in my life over to Him, I could say “I want Your will, God… if I never have a single child on this earth… I want Your will.”
I found the place where you choose His will, regardless of what it may mean for your life.1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” I have discovered that fear is merely the dread of something against your will. The absence of a healing. The death of a loved one. The antagonizing prospect of a future alone. But love constrains us to embrace the will of God… no matter what it entails.That is where the cold clutches of fear drip away in the warmth of a mutual love between you and God.
And there it was. The long hidden mystery of faith, unfurled in my life in stunning splendor. A promise soaring high within my heart that God has placed there. Fear evicted. Faith strong.
I found it in surrender.