Thanks for everything you’ve given me so far. You’ve blessed me so much. Thank you for blessing me with my marriage to Joel. He brings me so much joy and I love being married. Thank you for my friends, and our families, and our little house.
Thank you for loving us and giving your Son Jesus to save us and giving us your Holy Spirit to guide us. Thank you that I can serve you by serving others in my job. I feel so lucky – so blessed – to be where I am and have the life I have. And it’s all from you, and I want it to be all for you.
God, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I’m after a new job.
See, I’ve been doing my current job for a while. I’ve been working hard at it, supporting people in complex situations, and taking care of myself so I don’t burn out. I know you led me to it and I know you’ve given me qualities and skills to thrive in this work. But one of the things that helps me through is knowing that I won’t have to do it forever, because there’s another job I want more.
This is different to the last time I wanted a new job, because there were steps I could take then: meet with mentors, apply for a position, resign and start somewhere new. This one is frustrating because there are no steps I can take, no application process, no brave new ventures outside my comfort zone. And yet it’s a job I want so much:
God, you know how much I ache for this. I know you know this because you saw me trying not to cry in church the other day. Another month of disappointment, and a sermon about mothers and fathers, and hearing people ask the mothers-to-be about their pregnancies. And yet I was also singing your praises because I know you are good and you only give love. And I know you’ve got a plan.
But I’m starting to worry that maybe it’s not a very good plan. So I just want to share my thoughts and feelings with you.
That day in church I was coming back to what I always come back to: maybe we’re infertile.
And God, you know that I’ve never taken this stuff for granted. You know I’ve always been aware that some of the bad stuff in the world may well happen to me, because it has to happen to someone, and I’m not invincible. It’s almost a kind of paranoia crossed with anticipatory realism. Remember how when I was younger, I always assumed that I would be raped someday? Joel was so sad when he heard that. I’m sure you were pretty sad that I thought that too. But really I was just mentally preparing myself for some bad things to happen.
I also didn’t assume I would get married. I wanted to, so much, but I didn’t think it would necessarily happen. The likelihood of being in my thirties (which in those days seemed like the beginning of middle age) and unpartnered – I knew and accepted this. Kind of.
And when we got married, I knew we wouldn’t necessarily have kids. Some couples struggle with infertility, temporarily or for a lifetime, and we might be among them. Remember how I used to joke about it before we started trying? Because we’d been using natural family planning to avoid conception for two years at that point, so I joked that either it works, or we’re infertile and we don’t know it yet! (Ha ha, very funny.)
So it’s not that I feel entitled, like I have a God-given right to motherhood. (Although I have felt that way at times.) You don’t give rights – you give gifts.
But, really, I think it would be a mistake to not give me the gift of motherhood.
Here is where, if this were a job application, I would tell you what a hard worker I’ll be. I’m prepared to start from the lowest position, God. You can give me a difficult pregnancy – that’s okay. You can give me the nausea and the pain and the swelling. I’ll take all of that in my stride and I’ll also eat as well as I can and exercise gently and sing to the baby every day, just some simple tunes while she* learns her mother’s voice. I’ve always wanted to try that trick of reading the same Dr Seuss book to the baby every day before birth and then using it after birth to calm her down or prepare her for sleep. And I’ll do my best to breastfeed her, cracked nipples and all. And then I want to teach her well, Lord, not just with a formal education (though I’ve got stacks of homeschooling eBooks already, how did that happen?) but also teaching her about you and about love and grace and truth and justice and mercy and service and generosity and family and herself. I want to teach her by living it with her.
And your daughters** have taught me so much to prepare me for motherhood, God. They are beautiful examples of strong, tenderhearted women who love their children well and who are also honest about how hard it is. I don’t feel that I have romantic illusions of perfect motherhood. Instead, I’ve learned that motherhood is cleaning up poo and vomit and Lego, it’s wrestling with toy packaging, it’s sleep deprivation, it’s trying to respond calmly rather than yell, it’s costly, it’s hard on a marriage, it’s heartache when kids make bad choices, it’s monotonous and mundane, it’s the stretching of love and patience to cover a multitude of things. But your daughters have taught me well about that too: I’ve learned that I can do hard things, and I can be a little bit kinder and braver every time I do them. And they will be the first to remind me that I’ve got you to help me, and a sisterhood of women wanting to support me too.
I’ll even do the really hard jobs, God, if that’s what you’ve got planned for me. I’m sure no one chooses to have a disabled or sick child, but then they can always choose to love that child, and I would make that choice to love, God. I cried reading about Kelle and Nella and Kate and Gavin, and it looks so hard God, but it looks like love, brutal and beautiful, every-day-for-a-lifetime love, and that’s what I want.
The problem is, I know you’re not impressed by all of my lofty promises of hard work, all my great ideas, and my careful use of words that are easy to say but that even I don’t understand, like love and grace and truth. You’ve never really wanted me to earn my way to you, or to strive hard for a gift from you. You’re all about love, that kind of love to surpasses all understanding, even as I use the word a zillion times.
And I know you love me. You love me because I’m your child and you made me.
That’s what I was thinking about in church the other day, God. You made me. So you know that my heart loves to love - intimately and personally and over the long-term, like the wife that I am, like the mother I want to be. You know that I’m good at nurturing a few close relationships, like in a family. You know that I love to impart respect and value and worth to all people, including infants. You know that I care deeply about justice for the poor and oppressed, and giving generously, and questioning the mainstream, and following Jesus into the messy work of the kingdom, and that I struggle to put these things into words for adults, but in raising children I could share all these things and more.
You know all I’ve learned about parenting, through my work and my experiences and my reading, and while it’s great that I can share some of this with parents in my job, I also want a child of my own to put it all into practice. I can teach parents to love and discipline, but at the end of the day I have to let go of the babies in my arms, and leave it to them to do it their way with their children.
And I’m terrified that – because I’ve learned all of this, and because I love to share it and I long to live it - you’ve got a plan for me to do it for every child except my own. I know we’ve talked about foster parenting, God, and I want to do it someday, and I said I’ll do it even if I don’t have any children of my own. But surely you know as well as I do, God, that it would break. my. heart. every time a child leaves my care again, if I can’t also give love to my own children.
And then there’s that song that used to inspire me, God, but which now terrifies me too:
Alone with a lifetime, Africa called
She went for the first time, it grew in her heart
All of the children, so many children
Now Esther has 2.4 million children
She writes us and asks us to pray for them all …
“Do anything you can to help, oh please help
There’s so much to do and I’m just Esther”
I can’t do that, God. My heart is for loving a few deeply and personally, not a million practically. Yes, I do care about the millions of children – you know that I do, Lord, and I’d sponsor children endlessly if I could. And yes, I care so much about the children from unsafe homes who need foster parents – why else would I do the work I do? I am passionate about these issues and one day I hope to transfer that to being passionate about individuals, to the specific children in my care or needing my help.
But my heart is breaking at not having a child of my own. I want so much to cuddle a newborn and tickle a toddler and find a shared activity with a teenager. Yet I don’t have one. Not even a zygote.
It’s the job we celebrate at this time of year, and it’s the gift of love that I yearn for most: motherhood. So I’m asking you: please, please let your plan for my life include motherhood.
And if your answer is no, I’ll still praise you, because I know you only give love. But God, I want it to be yes so much. Please.