Monday, March 31, 2014

Barren

This has to be my least favorite word in the English language.  At the same time, I’m drawn to it.  Every time I’ve heard it spoken or seen it written the past few years, I’ve stopped dead in my tracks, trying it on for size.  Does it really describe me?  Is that who I am?  Has there ever been a word more empty, more haunting, sharper in truth?

The teacher in me loves my Merriam-Webster dictionary app.  I usually use it for school purposes, but it also comes in handy on a personal level.  I’ve probably typed in this six-letter word more than any other, seeking to understand more about how I feel inside.  There is a long definition but one line always jumps out at me and grabs at my heart: “devoid, lacking.” 

Devoid is defined as “being without a usual, typical, or expected attribute,” and we all know what lacking means.  We’ve all felt this way in some aspect of our life at one time or another- not good enough…left out…inferior.  Sometimes there’s something we can do about it: try harder, change our circumstances, focus on a different aspect of our lives.  But what happens when you HAVE tried your hardest, the circumstances are truly out of your control and you’re still devoid and lacking in the one aspect of life that everyone is MOST focused on (and for good reason)?  What happens when you can’t escape the painful reminder that you ARE devoid and lacking…because there it is, all the time: on your Facebook feed, in every lunch table conversation, on the aisles of Target, on TV, in magazines, at every dreaded family reunion, even in the pages of your Bible when all you’re seeking is some comfort and wisdom?

I’ve often complained to my husband that no one understands the pain that comes with infertility (unless they’ve been there) and he, being a man of true faith, always points me back to God.  “There are reasons we can’t see,” “God really does care,” “He can fill this hole in your heart if you’ll just let Him…” Brent always has all the “right” answers but in these moments, I am rarely in a state to listen fairly.  There is also a noun form of the word “barren,” meaning "a track of barren land."  Under synonyms for this form of the word is the term “no-man’s-land.”  I’m sure Brent would wholeheartedly agree. 

However, thanks both to these nudges from my husband and to my deep-seated faith that remains even in my most seemingly faithless moments, I have often turned to the Bible (in addition to but so much more importantly than my dictionary app) for clarity.  There is one passage in the Bible that begins with that six-letter word and ends with the most important promise we need to remember.  It doesn’t matter how hard we try or how difficult our circumstances are; it really IS all about focus. 

“ ‘Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord.”  (Isaiah 54:1) …“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.  Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.  You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.  For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is His name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.”  (Isaiah 54:4-5)

I can’t say that I’m singing about this yet and I’m not sure I ever will.  I don’t feel a shout of joy coming on and I’m a little confused about how I’ll ever have “more” children than anyone else despite all this, even figuratively.  However, I do feel afraid sometimes, and I know that disgrace and humiliation all too well.  Those references confirm to me that these Words are real, true and applicable.  And I also know my Maker, the Lord Almighty, the Holy One who IS my Redeemer.  I know that He IS God of all the earth, including this little life I call my own.  In truth, my life is His, just like everything else, and He truly does know best. 

I get a little glimpse of this truth every day when twenty-some kids call me “Mrs. Jones,” even if not one will ever call me “Mom.” I remember these facts when I’m serving at church, working with the youth and the kids, doing things I may not have time to do if I had two or three little ones by now.  I am reminded of His perfect plan every time that darn near perfect husband of mine takes a deep breath and explains how much he loves me (no matter what!) one more time, as patiently as the first time I questioned him.  I feel peace flood my heart when God speaks to me through a friend, someone whom He so obviously has placed in my path deliberately. His redemption comes in many forms.  We just have to look for it.


When I look at the people and opportunities God HAS blessed me with, I feel anything but devoid and lacking.  Perhaps I could be defined by that empty, haunting, and sharp word: “barren,” but that doesn’t mean it has to define me.




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