For those who decided to keep reading, I’ve been thinking about babies lately, and mostly feeling ambivalent. But a few things (conversations, news, a book I was reading) converged today to make me quite sad about it, and made me realise that those feelings are never too far from the surface. What do you do with that restless longing for something you don’t have when you’re trying to live faithfully as a Christian, which means trusting in God, his timing and his providence?
Through my 20s I didn’t think about it much. I had run away from church and God at the time, and I didn’t move in a crowd that were getting married young and having families. I thought it would happen eventually and didn’t worry about it too much.
I came back to God in my mid 20s. I had to relearn what relationships and family meant, the value of them. When I turned 30 I had gotten to what I had thought of as ‘eventually’ and had a bit of a freak out about not being married/having kids yet. I made my peace with it, or so I thought. Now in my late thirties, not much has changed, but now each month I’m aware I’m getting closer and closer to the point where the door will finally close and my own babies won’t be a prospect anymore.
I guess when that eventually happens (hopefully not for a long while yet!) I will go through another period of grieving.
But it’s a weird grief. Part of me is quite relieved not to have children, with the attendant worries, tiredness and stresses of it. I admire and feel for my friends who are parents struggling through sleepless nights, or dealing with childhood illnesses, or other such things. I think about the amount of energy needed for parenting that I might have had ten years ago that I don’t have now and am grateful that I can stay up at night reading if I want without too much of a toll the next day, that I can order my days how I please, that I can spend my money how I want to (those are some benefits of being single too!).
Then another part of me howls with the despair of being unfulfilled. I don’t mean that to sound scary or unhinged; it isn’t a huge part of me. But it’s there, hiding in the darkness, ready to creep out at strange moments, like today, sitting in traffic with tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s a whole chunk of life, of the human experience that I may never participate in. It makes my heart ache and yet it seems like such a strange ache, because my life is perfectly full without children or a husband!
I know that anything can happen; God’s timing often surprises me. But trying to live with hope and yet having to be prepared in case the answer ends up being “no, not for you” is really hard.
I’ve been thinking about hope too, and realise that if my hope of fulfilment in life is to become a mother, then I am bound to be disappointed, whether I am a mother or not. I’ll either have no children and be sad about that, or have children and be burdened with worry. Same goes for marriage.
The only hope that is worth anything is the hope of new life with Jesus, because that is the only hope for which the answer is a definite, unqualified, resounding “yes! For you!” The wording of Romans 15:13 really struck me when I read it the other day:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Filled to overflowing with joy and peace. Overflowing with hope. And not through anything I’ve wished for in my own shrivelled heart, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m not alone. And I’m not unfulfilled. Thinking about that makes that grief and ache subside, it brings a peace and a joy that is not based on what happens or doesn’t happen to me in this life, but on something much more permanent. Hey, Philippians 4:4-9 (one of my favourite passages) is true after all! Gosh, who’d have thought it?