Friday, August 31, 2007

2 Hearts Beating As 1...Sometimes

On the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums I am posting monthly devotionals based on various chapters of Hannah's Hope. Here's the 7th in this series.

The following is copyrighted material and has been adapted from "Two Hearts Beating As One...Sometimes," chapter seven of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, & Adoption Loss by Jennifer Saake, NavPress, 2005. Please do not duplicate without permission. You may read a portion of this book here.

Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" - 1 Samuel 1:8 (NIV)

Unlike my husband, I found that infertility defined me. Someone would ask, "What do you do?" and Rick would answer with a description about his job, while I hoped no one would aim the same question my direction. "Stay-at-home-mom" was a socially acceptable answer. "Stay-at-home non-mom" never went over as well...
Infertility can feel like being caught in a burning house. The two of you run in different directions, tripping into and over each other, trying to escape the terror. As the suffocating heat closes around you, part of the panic comes from the lack of assurance that you are still together in this darkness.

While their barrenness was beyond the control of either Elkanah or Hannah, God ordained Elkanah to guide his family through the process. The apostle Paul give this admonition: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything" (Eph. 5:22-24).

I know submission can be an unsettling concept. Since sin first entered the world with Adam and Eve, it's been hard for women to let men lead. As a direct result of our sin nature, we have an impulsive drive to run the show. While my desires often conflict with Rick's God set him in authority over our family... When my doctor presents a medical course that offers me hope, it is hard to hold back when Rick gives a flat-out no, or even when he wants to just take time to prayerfully seek more answers. But my marriage vows are to my husband, not to my doctor or anyone else!

Does this mean that my husband's decisions are always the "correct" ones? Not necessarily. But I am called to trust God by allowing my husband to lead me, even in the face of his very human fallibility. I challenge you to allow your husband to take the leadership role in your fertility journey. In the struggle to "have a family," it can be so easy to forget that as husband and wife we already are a family. It is important never to lose sight of this fact. While the desperation might make it feel otherwise, our marriage relationships truly must remain higher priorities than having babies.

Thoughts to Ponder:
What most attracted you to your spouse in the beginning? Why did you marry? What do you most desire about your partner? What joint activities bring you the most shared pleasure? If these answers don't readily spring to mind, it has been too long since you shared a common heartbeat. Sit down and list your answers on paper, then pursue ways to add to your list of joys together.

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham... You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear - 1 Peter 3:5-6 (NIV)

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the man you have given me to share my life with. While there are times I just feel like he doesn't "get it" or can't understand my depth of grief, thank you for the checks and balances of emotions and rational thinking between us. Thank you that even though he is not perfect (nor am I!) I can trust you to guide us through him when I step aside and allow him to lead. Thank you for the times I can lean on his strength to take the next step in our journey and his sanity to hold back when I might blindly rush ahead of your plan.

Help me to remember to keep our marriage a priority when this baby quest becomes too all-consuming. And thank you for your grace to bring our hearts back together at seasons we seem far apart. For my sisters without their husbands, due to divorce, widowhood, emotional/spiritual disconnection, or even separations such as military deployment, I pray your extra strength, comfort and grace upon their hearts tonight. You promise to be a father to the fatherless and a husband to women alone. Please be all of that to my hurting friends tonight.

And daily, Lord, please be preparing me more and more to be your Bride, ready to stand before you, spotless and blameless because of the blood of your Son, in whose name we pray, Amen!

How Long Does It Hurt?

On the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums I am posting monthly devotionals based on various chapters of Hannah's Hope. Here's the 6th in this series.

The following is copyrighted material and has been adapted from "How Long Does It Hurt?," chapter six of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, & Adoption Loss by Jennifer Saake, NavPress, 2005. Please do not duplicate without permission. You may read a portion of this book here.

This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. - 1 Samuel1:7 (NIV)

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days... So his father wept for him. Genesis 37:34-35 (NIV)

Culture dictated this time of feasting, yet Hannah found herself observing an unplanned fast. Bitter, salty tears didn't mix well with the food Elkanah lovingly provided. Why bother feeding a body that had failed her, anyway? As for her heart, did she really want it to continue beating if it would only be an ongoing target for Peninnah's brutality? Deeply depressed, she could nourish her spirit only with tears. The very thought of food was repulsive... Would this parching thirst of her soul never end?

Infertility provides many decision crisis points: If we buy the larger home in hopes of filling it, will empty rooms seem much too empty in the interim (or if they never do have inhabitants)? But if we buy smaller while knowingly trying to grow our family, might we regret such a decision very quickly, should children come sooner rather than later? Or can we even think of buying a house at all, when medical aid and adoption can be so costly?

The loss of a child brings even more quandaries. When a hoped-for adoption or early pregnancy suddenly is no more. do we tell the world or grieve in silence? When a child shared our home and hearts, even for a brief time, how do we cope when she is gone? "Dare we try ever again, after having our hearts ripped out?" No one expects to need to make choices such as "Should we cremate or buy a burial plot?"

It can seem that all decisions either become rooted in or somehow always circle back to "the baby thing." How can I get out of bed this morning, brush my teeth, and go through the motions of normal life when my life is anything but normal? No matter how seemingly unrelated to my parenthood journey, anything that stirred up my emotions invariably led me back to my deepest pain: how much I missed our babies, how much I wanted to be a mommy to living children. I felt useless without being able to accomplish my one greatest goal in life. I felt lonely and unfulfilled. It all seemed so unfair...

The loss of a child, either a unique individual or the child who may never be, though he has filled your hopes and dreams of a lifetime, is not something you ever fully "get over." Just as Jacob, after being told of his son's death, could not imagine life ever again without tears, you may be in the darkest days of grief right now. How long will it hurt? In some sense, forever.

Grief ebbs and flows. With time and by the Lord's grace, there will come a day when you surprise yourself by hearing your own laughter again. "Even in laughter the heart may ache" (Prov. 14:13), but when that day comes, there is no need to feel guilt in experiencing moments of joy.

I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13(NIV)

Dear Lord,
Grief is such a strange creature. Sometimes when I most expect to grieve, I end up handling things fine. And other times the silliest little things trip me up and send me for a tail-spin. While I don't understand this journey, thank you that You promise to never leave me nor forsake me in the midst of this pain. When I'm hurting with such intensity I can't believe I will ever survive, you are right there sharing in my tears and anguish. And when those long-distant rays of joy finally begin to sooth my aching heart, you celebrate with me as you embrace me with Your amazing comfort.
In the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ,