The years spent waiting to hold our children were by no means passive years. They were laced with hope and dashed dreams, emotional sifting and spiritual refining.
We waited nine years for our daughter. For our son, it would take another four.
Somewhere in the 6th year of medical testing, with no clear answers as to why my womb remained empty, our doctor unceremoniously announced that my “organs were old” and chances of a biological birth were slim. At the age of 30, those were NOT the words I wanted to hear.
Less than a year prior to that pronouncement, we had begun the screening process for adoption. Once the rigorous psychological examinations and endless paperwork were finished, we were told by the Portuguese social worker it would still take years for a child to be chosen for us. We would just have to wait.
It’s a tenuous place to be when there is a longing in your heart for something God hasn’t clearly promised, and something only He can provide. It makes no sense why a perfectly natural yearning should be denied, nonetheless, it is. Waiting is the only option, with no guarantee how the wait will end.
Sometimes I found myself bargaining with God during those nine long years; other times I was patient and full of faith. In the early years, I was capable, in my despair, of cancelling engagements and weeping uncontrollably for hours. At other times, I could, with whole-hearted devotion, care for my friend’s child despite my own scarcity. From the outside, it could have seemed to others like I suffered from a personality disorder, but under the surface, God was using this wait as discipline, training me as His child. Training me toward singlemindedness.
Singlemindedness is defined in the dictionary as having one driving purpose or resolve. It shows up in the Bible as an attitude of devotion to God. Not merely doing what He says, but a combination of honor, love and desire for Him. The forming of a new child-parent relationship, not just a religion.
Having my longing thwarted forced me to look deeper into God’s nature and beyond myself. It also exposed the fact I like to be in control and I secretly believed my happiness depended on receiving this blessing. Every time I pondered my barrenness, I was forced to make a choice: faith or fear; submission or despondency. My motives were being purified; my true beliefs laid bare.
I wouldn’t have chosen this trial, but as time passed, I slowly began to perceive a muscle of faith gaining definition. I was fighting less and listening more. I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but one day I caught myself thinking the unthinkable. I’m convinced it was the Spirit nudging me because I couldn’t have come up with the thought on my own.
By faith, I risked asking God to withhold the blessing of children until He could trust me to desire Him more than the gifts He could give. His will be done, not mine.
My desire for motherhood didn’t decrease with this request, but somehow a glimmer of light broke through the darkness. A seed of hope was planted, not by human desire but by the Spirit. What the wait would produce I still didn’t know, but the sifting sand of human effort began to feel more like solid ground. I slowly began to dream again. I allowed my heart to soar and I started pondering how God might want to use my talents for His glory. It felt almost like an emotional second wind.
What I realize, now, is that this trial, and many more I have experienced, are serving to strip away dependencies and break chains that are holding me back from really living. As my eyes are being trained to look at Him, my mind to pursue him, my heart to trust and my soul to find its meaning only in Him, I am finding freedom. Freedom to love and be loved; freedom to be authentic and vulnerable; freedom to enjoy God and those around me; freedom to be fully present.
In Scripture, pain and glory often walk hand in hand. Resurrection power and suffering are inextricably intertwined. Participation in Christ’s suffering isn’t limited to physical martyrdom – it is also the mustard seed faith that chooses deference to God, even when the pain seems unbearable and the outcome unsure. The life of faith lived one day at a time.
If we believe what Scripture says, then our sufferings here on earth are nothing compared to the weight of glory reserved for us. We have been adopted, and the Spirit in us is the deposit guaranteeing our future. But we have to wait until we are called to our eternal Home to fully experience it. And we have no idea how long that wait will be. However, unlike the wait of human desire, we know how this wait will end. This assurance gives us the courage necessary to wait actively, not passively. By seeking God first, even in the painful times, our wait will bring glory to Him now, and in eternity.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” –2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Tamara Carpenter is part of Newsong’s Board. You can read more of her writing on her blog: tamaracarpenter.com