For all of you who have been praying for us in our infertility struggles I have a story to tell you (before you get too excited this is not a lead in to a pregnancy announcement).
My one year old daughter was swaddled and snoozing, I was home from work after anther 16 hour day, at my desk, head in my hands, praying the evening prayer service at The Trinity Mission, Exhausted, I was mostly reciting the words trying to get my heart in sync with.
And then the room changed.
God was there. There was no bright light or angels singing but a heaviness descended over me. I was absorbed in peace that felt full and continued to get fuller as I sat. There was no audible voice but in my heart I heard these words,
“I’ll give you a full household. . . but not of your own children.”
And that was it.
No amount of longing or reaching could make that peace stay, it lifted and I finished my prayer wondering if I had made up the whole thing.
Sometimes when I share this story, others think it means we should adopt. At night I worry that it means my daughter will die. But when the words came they didn’t feel like a command or a warning. They just felt like God’s presence.
Over the past three years I have hated those words. I’ve convinced myself that I misheard or was delusional.
And at the same time, I have loved them. They assure me that God is with me, that I am seen and known and loved and through them my grief is far more bearable (I’ll add that I do believe that God could still give us another child, far be it from me know the extent of His plans for me, all I know is that these are the words He has given me and my sense after He spoke them was that we wouldn’t have more children.)
This week I read this by an Orthodox Saint,
We shouldn’t ask God to release us from something, from an illness, for example, or to solve our problems, but we should ask for strength and support from Him to bear what we have to bear. Just as He knocks discretely at the door of our soul, so we should ask discretely for what we desire and if the Lord does not respond, we should cease to ask. When God does not give us something that we ask for insistently, then He has His reasons. God, too, has His ‘secrets.’ Since we believe in His good providence, since we believe that He knows everything about our lives and that He always desires what is good, why should we not trust Him?
Let us pray naturally and gently, without forcing ourself and without passion. We know that past present and future are all known, ‘open and laid bare’ before God. As Saint Paul says, ‘Before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to His eyes.’ We should not insist; such persistence does harm instead of good. We shouldn’t continue relentlessly in order to acquire what we want; rather we should leave all things to the will of God.
And then over the past few months on our Liturgy of Life reading group has been reading and writing about grief and suffering in the life of the Christian. In my own family we have been singing and meditating on the psalms, lately these words have been constant on my lips.
Here my prayer O Lord give ear to my cry for mercy.
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness.
Enter not into judgement with your servant;
For no one living is righteous before you;
For the enemy has pursued my soul,
he has crushed my life to the ground.
He has made me to dwell in dark places
like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me.
My heart within me is desolate.
In desolation I’ve been revisiting God’s words over me. And today I am ready for a new prayer, a prayer I’ve never prayed in all these years. Today I stand with open hands, my heart longs for more children, but in longs for Christ more. Today I take my eyes off of the, “not of your own children,” and remember that God always words for my best. Today I remember the first part of his words to me.
Today I pray for a full household, whatever that could mean.