When we want something so terribly much that we become a person who prays, what should we expect from heaven? What kind of response should we hope for from God?
After our daughter was born in 1997 my wife Elizabeth and I oriented our lives towards raising kids. After six years of trying to have another baby without a single sign of fertility, my wife became desperate, even angry with God. She never threw a temper tantrum or grew distant, but a part of her spirit seemed grey and monotone. She endured six more years of restlessness and intermitten longing supported by feeble faith but always cramped, a monthly reminder that she was barren. She lost all hope of having any more children of her own so we planned to adopt. In the next four years Elizabeth forgot about the prayer she had prayed and she let die the hope that had burned in her heart for over a decade. However, God did not forget.
But it was too late. Elizabeth had accepted her empty body and mentally prepared herself for a different life open to adopting foster kids. She did not want to get pregnant at her age; that season had passed. God was of a different mind and He opened Elizabeth’s womb again, for the second time. He finally answered her prayer from 16 years ago but the timing seemed all wrong. He gave her something she didn’t want anymore.
Play-doh makes a great gift for a five year old but not for a sixteen year old who wants a car. Is God out of touch, not in tune, always giving belated birthday gifts? My wife and I cannot understand this God who would give us a child in this season of our life after 16 years of nothing. Our friends would interpret this as a generous miracle, so why do we struggle to experience the joy that comes with such a pleasant surprise?
I’ll be honest, for me it’s the financial setback. Nine thousand dollars to cover the birth expenses and my wife’s time off from work. Then there’s the gouge of child care for the next five years (plus diapers). At age 40 I’m already behind the eight ball but I was beginning to make progress; I could save to pay for expenses like roof repairs or pest control. Now I can’t even afford to eat out or send my kids to summer camp. I know these are “first world problems” but they stress me nonetheless. For Elizabeth, I think it’s more the risk of an unhealthy baby, more common with women her age, and the fact that after a few years this kid will be an only-child. Elizabeth loved her childhood because she had brothers to play with and she wants that for her children too. I suppose we could have more kids in our forties, but do we have the energy or money for that?
For those of you reading this who care for suffering children, my post will seem like complete nonsense and selfishness, I know. There is a mother who often comes in to the Thrift Store I manage. Sometimes she pushes her daughter in a wheel chair and other times her child can walk, rather stumble by her side. The look on this girl’s face is blank and her frail figure contorted because of the seizures that attack her body almost every day. I know nothing of their suffering and I am ashamed that I ever complain about my life. Once while dreaming about my new child I wondered if he might have such a disease and how my life would change if I had to care for him all day every day like this woman does for her daughter. I let their sadness reach my heart as I prayed to understand why God would give people pain or allow them to suffer.
I know very little, but here’s what I know after almost 30 years of walking with Jesus:
1. God suffers with us and He can comfort us with an amazing grace that surpasses any suffering we might experience
2. God knows what I want more than I do
3. God is full of wonderful surprises too
4. God is not concerned with cash-flow; He has a different currency
5. God loves us and He showed us how much he loves us when he sent His son Jesus to die for us. If nothing in this world ever makes sense to us, this revelation of His love is enough to hold us and keep our faith alive.
What could be more wonderful than sharing this love with another person? Come on baby, come into a world you could not possibly imagine. I have a feeling that play doh time will be fun with you.