Of all the things my Dad taught me by his example, the lesson I struggle most to un-learn is this one: you can have whatever you want if you work hard enough. Independence, determination, and self-sufficiency are such hallmarks of good American breeding, Dad taught by daily example that these are the skills that will carry you to success. It is still, sometimes, a shock to me to learn how badly these traits stink in heaven. God’s ways are not our ways. His road is marked by dependence on Him. by humility. by surrender.
And me? I am a Jacob. I am a manipulating, scheming, wrestler with God in the night. I still limp today, but my name was changed.
Today marks a strange anniversary for me. 18 years ago today, I miscarried a baby. Our daughter had grown into the second trimester, and I believed she would make it. It was my second miscarriage, and my age was just eighteen. This isn’t an unusual tragedy, and I don’t know many women who haven’t experienced it. But it was a shock to me, a storm that rocked my comfortable notions of who God was and what faith in Him might mean. I had two friends who were pregnant at the same time. Neither of them Christians. Nor did they really want the child. Neither chose to get married. Yet their pregnancies were healthy, their babies delivered without any prayers given. This was deep salt in my wound, and all my tears and questions in that dark February were not immediately answered by God. Heaven was like brass, and I never felt more alone. I stopped praying, it just felt so useless. I spent days in my bathrobe, in the dark living room, staring straight ahead, trying to figure out this God, with no success. Then I got an idea. If I could find a promise in His Word, just for me…if there was a verse that said I would definitely have children, “someday”, then I could cling to that life raft and move on in hope. So I searched and searched-rustling pages, flipping back and forth in the Bible, trying to find a promise I could throw back to God-a clause where He HAD to give me a baby. Looking for some formula I could follow. Some rule I had misunderstood, some clue as to what He wanted? It was all manipulation. I can see, from here, how I had taken my Dad’s lessons and applied them to my faith. If I just believed hard enough, if I had a BIG faith, then God would have to bless me in the way I dictated. He would be forced to give me the answers. the children. the peace I no longer had.
Because unlike my Dad, I didn’t want money. or power. or fame. I wanted a family. And as long as what you want is a good thing, then surely God doesn’t care how you go about getting it, right? Growing up alone had produced such a deep ache. I was determined to fill in that hole somehow. So I got married, just days after graduating high school. Happily set up house and started pressing John to give me children. He wasn’t ready but I didn’t care-this was all about me, remember? And he would come around to loving the baby, I was certain.
Because already, our marriage wasn’t what I had imagined it would be at all. I was certain that when we were both staring at a sweet baby who looked just like us, then all the fighting would magically end. So I secretly flushed enough of my birth control pills to get my way. Now here I am, six months into my new, grown-up life. I have the husband, the house, the baby on the way and all my hard work is about to pay off, just like it is supposed to. Except, it doesn’t. It was thwarted, and stunted, and ended before it began. The marriage was on the rocks. we couldn’t afford the house. and the pregnancy ended in a bloody emergency room.
And here I sat, alone. Flipping thin Bible pages and searching desperately for another way, to get my way. I was still manipulating, still twisting and flailing about to get what I wanted. I had been stopped short by God’s sovereignity interrupting my perfect plans. I figured that if I was going to get my house, my husband, my babies-then I would have to appease and placate the One in charge. I didn’t see that I was just slapping a little holiness onto my manipulations and calling it faith.
And I couldn’t find that verse.
instead I kept finding verses like John 13:7 “What I do now, you understand not, but you shall hereafter.”
and Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are alled according to His purpose.”
and Psalm 131:1,2 “Lord, I do not look into things too great for me, but like a weaned child, I put my trust in you.”
and Job’s cry “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”
and the power of God’s Word is that it can break through to the most stubborn of hearts. I have always looked at that miscarriage as the first time my faith in God was tested, the first time I realized He was God, and I was not. And the beginning of surrender to His will. You cannot walk with God and have your own way-I think that is why so many of us don’t! It’s hard to give over your dreams, your hopes and desires to a God you cannot see, cannot control. Yes, He is good and compassionate and caring, but what if in that goodness He decides I should not be a mother? And for the first time, I was real with God. I cried and fought, but came to the place where I finally surrendered my desires to His perfect will.
This morning I was looking back. Trying to imagine what it would be like to have a daughter who would turn 18 this August. She’d be driving (able to go get milk at the store for me!) Would she look like me? Would she adore her little brothers? I bet they would look up to her. Wow, she would be almost the same age I was, when I lost her-how strange.
And I began thinking about that dark February, when suddenly I was crying. Tears of joy and gratitude running down my face as I realized every prayer that young, ignorant, selfish girl had in that living room has been answered. And every answer was a direct result of a wrestling battle where I ended up surrendering to whatever God wanted.
in 1990, I lost a baby. After surrendering He gave back not one, but three healthy children…
In 1992, I left and tried to divorce my husband. After wrestling and surrendering to the point where I said “ok God! Even if I am never happy, I will obey and keep this covenant” God eventually brought us to a place of great joy together…
In 2000, we lost our dream house, 2500 sq feet on 130 acres in the country. Learning a little quicker this time, I was resolved to trust Him even when nothing made sense. God took this situation that should’ve ruined us financially and miraculously turned it into blessing. If we had not gone through that experience, we would not trust Him so quickly in dark times today. And looking around my quiet living room this morning, my heart was full of the realization that this 1700 sq feet cottage on 1 acre of country, is truly my dream house, and a better fit for us than that other home, ever was…
I would go back to Lincoln Ave.
back to 1990.
back to that stunned crying girl in a faded chenille bathrobe.
I would take her face in my hands and tell her about her future-whisper that she gets it all.
This God she doesn’t understand? He hears her heart. and despite all her selfish motives He wants to bless her with even more than she is asking.
I would tell her to stop fighting. Surrender, more quickly.
I would flip open that new Bible she is clinging to, to a place she has only read a few times. A story where God Himself was crying and wrestling. and she would see the answer to her struggle in these words:
“yet not my will, but Yours, be done.”