I’ve always wanted to be a mother.
At the age when most little girls were dreaming of being ballerinas or doctors or princesses, I was dreaming of a family to call my own. Sure, I knew that I would also want to be some of those other things when I grew up, but first and foremost, I longed to be a wife and a mother.
In the last year or so of my life, the ache of this as-yet-unfulfilled longing has grown increasingly more difficult to ignore, and the Lord has been taking me on a sweet, though painful, journey of finding His goodness and love right in the middle of it. As a 25-year-old woman who is (still) more single than a slice of Kraft cheese, I have had to face the possibility that my life may not turn out anything like I’d planned or hoped. I may not ever personally bring a child into this world. I may not ever get to be a mother in the way that I’ve always dreamed. And if not, He is still good. Being able to say those seven words in relation to this deep desire of my heart continues to be one of the hardest and holiest battles I have fought to date.
Here in Arkansas, I am a member of a beautiful little church that believes children hold an invaluable place in the heart of God and thus, in the church. It is one of my favorite things about this community. But it also means that every week there is inevitably one child (or many children) who cries out “Mommy!” in the middle of the service. This happened week after week for the first few months I attended Redeemer, and each time my eyes would instantly fill with tears because I long so desperately to be one who responds to that call. There’s a particular pew on the left side of the sanctuary of a little white church in Siloam Springs, Arkansas that has caught more than its fair share of my tears.
At first, I would try to hold those tears back out of shame or a fear that someone would ask me why on earth I was crying. But now I simply bow my head and let them quietly slip down my cheeks, because I’ve found that the Lord always meets me in these moments of my wordless aching. In fact, these have been some of my most sacred and precious moments with God over the last few months.
Sometime in August of last year, I wrote in my journal:
“Last night I wept for my own womb – for the emptiness of the part of me that was created to cultivate life.”
And on that same page I copied down the first three verses of Isaiah 54, which have encouraged and comforted me countless times since.
“‘Sing, O barren one, who did not bear,
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,’ says the Lord.
‘Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.”
There, right in the middle of all my unmet desires, God tells me to sing.
The One who knows my heart intimately, of Whom I can say with confidence, “O Lord, all my longing is before You; my sighing is not hidden from You,” (Psalm 38:9), looks on me with infinite compassion, wipes my tears with a nail-scarred hand and tells me to sing.
How can I refuse Him?
Sing, O barren one.
My fingers brush across these words on the thin pages of my Bible and I hear the still, small voice whisper,
My precious daughter, you may be barren but it does not change the fact that you are My beloved. O barren one, you can sing because you are My beloved.
Sing, O beloved one.
I want to believe Him. And I do, for awhile. But then fear comes creeping in and convinces me to curl my fingers tight into a fist around this heart that aches with longing, around all the areas of my life that echo back their emptiness in places where I expected there to be the sound of children’s laughter. But again I hear Him,
Do not hold back.
Enlarge the the tent of your life and stretch out the curtains that have kept these parts of your heart hidden and dark. Let the wind of My Spirit catch them in its breeze and let Me breathe new life into your nurturing, mothering heart. Let Me show you all the ways that you were meant to bring forth life into this world. Lengthen the cords of your heartstrings and set your stakes deep into the firm foundation of My love so that you will be ready to spread your arms wide to the right and to left and welcome everyone that I bring into your life. You know that it is My blood that truly makes someone your family (Mark 3:35). As I promised Abraham that I would make his offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5), so too shall your descendants in the faith spread far and wide across the earth. You will be a mother to many, even if your womb remains barren and desolate for the rest of your days.
Sing, beloved one.
I will ever be in awe of the Lord’s deep, immeasurable love for me, and how He speaks so sweetly to my soul. If you know the ache of barrenness, I pray that He uses these words to speak healing and encouragement into your longing.
with love and wanderlust,
“How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love!
How can I keep from shouting Your Name?
I know I am loved by the King.
And it makes my heart want to sing.”
(Chris Tomlin, “How Can I Keep From Singing?”)