Made In His Image: Infertility Awareness Week


As much as I’ve tried to begin to shy away from the hurt that infertility has brought into my life, God keeps leading me back to it and reminding me that during this battle His love for me has been made evident. I have proclaimed His name louder and I have knelt deeper in prayer. I have hurt, and I have heard His voice. I have cried, and He has comforted me. I have screamed out in anger and in frustration…and He has remained steady at my side. What has God taught me through infertility? He has taught me that He will never leave me or forsake me.

I will be honest that I didn’t know Infertility Awareness Week even existed. However, I’ve had a million thoughts running through my mind in the last month as I have tried to process everything that God brought me through in regards to infertility, and as I begin to process everything He will be faithful through as we enter into the adoption process.

There are two questions that I haven’t been able to answer until now. They were the two questions I was asked right in the middle of treatment, and right at the end as we decided to no longer pursue infertility treatments. They were this: “Why does this hurt you so much?” and “Will you ever be happy if it never happens?”

“Why does this hurt you so much”? was the question that most haunted me. It was asked by friends who already had children. It was asked by my family members. It was asked by people who barely knew me. And maybe their wording wasn’t all exactly the same, but the essence of the question still was. They couldn’t understand it. And honestly…I couldn’t either.

I thought for a long time that maybe I was selfish for wanting God to grow our family so much that it hurt. I thought I was asking for something that wasn’t meant for me. I felt slighted, and hurt, and marked by God as not good enough for this blessing that most would view as “common”. What hurt the most? Probably the thought of family Christmas when my husband and I grow old and there aren’t any grandchildren, or maybe the thought that I would never know that bond between mother and child as she carried her baby for nine months in her womb, or possibly when I realized there wouldn’t be any little ones running around who had both of our blue eyes and my brown hair with his curls. The hurt, I think, comes mostly when we realize that the buck stops here. That even though we love tradition and heritage so much, that with us it would be different. And I could not reconcile it with what God had laid out in the Bible for husbands and wives. He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply…why was He withholding this from me? Am I broken?


A couple of days ago God placed the book of Genesis on my heart. It’s a book I keep coming back to over and over again. This is the passage that has clung to me:

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them” Genesis 1:27

And that’s it, friends. That’s why it hurts. Because God, who is our Father, is also our creator and we were made in His likeness. We contain attributes of the Father, and so naturally, just as it was His will to be our Father…it is our desire to follow suit, it is our desire to hold flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones and know that we are connected, that we are family.

God is all about His children. He created us. He gave us free will that we would choose to freely love Him…because that’s how family works, isn’t it? We can choose to stay connected, and we can choose to walk away. But it is the hope of every father and mother that our children would also choose to love us…as we have hoped to so dearly love them. God describes His church as a family, He describes us as sons and daughters, Jesus referred to Him as our Father. Why does infertility hurt so much? Because the desire to be a part of a family is intertwined into who we were created to be and in who God is to us.

And so it’s not just that my womb has never stretched to hold life…it’s that it feels like a part of me is entirely missing.

That’s not something that I was prepared to encounter in this life. It’s not something that’s preached about at church, the topic of “what if you can never have children?”. It’s not talked about in  high school or middle school… in fact the opposite is discussed, “how not to have children right now!”. And I don’t think you can ever hope to even comprehend the magnitude of it or the depths of your soul that it reaches, unless you yourself have felt its sting.

But…here’s the second question I was asked: “Do you think you could ever be happy if it never happens for you?” There was a period of time where I thought my answer might be no. I couldn’t understand what the purpose was in purchasing a house with three bedrooms and a yard for kids to play in if we would never give birth to children to fill those spaces. I couldn’t get over the fact that I had spent the majority of my life caring for children at local day cares, and church nurseries, and teaching piano lessons, and serving as a private nanny only to be met with the disappointment that I wouldn’t get to step into the leading role as Mama even though I felt so completely prepared.

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-38

Through all of this hurt and disappointment, God has still given me purpose. Every child that I see now, I know that God specifically created and wanted. I see the looks on my friend’s faces as they parent their kids and I know how incredibly blessed they are and I marvel even deeper at the miracle of life. And I realize so much more now, that this life is not my own. It was redeemed at a cost. And that cost was the love of my Father. He must come first, even before my dreams of being a mama.

I prayed that God would bring me peace. I prayed that He would lift this burden from my shoulders and that one day…I would feel whole again. It’s been over three years, and friends, He is doing exactly that. There really is no explanation for what God is doing in my heart, or how my cloud has begun to lift and float away. It just has. Without warning, God has parted my clouds. He keeps speaking to me…it feels in softer tones now. I have felt the fire, and I pray that it has refined me. There was such a temptation to let it melt me instead…but I think now, God was holding me all along. Even as I kicked and screamed, because I’m His child.

We have begun the paperwork to pursue domestic adoption, and while that brings me so much Joy, I know the road ahead will still be hard as we begin to understand the depth and the grief that separation from one’s biological mama entails. The hurt that waits up ahead is not just my own anymore, it’s of my baby and of their mama. It seems that pain multiplies, and my heart breaks as I know that the pain in this world just keeps spreading. But…my God is a mender of broken hearts. And Joy can multiply too. Perhaps, He allowed my heart to be broken that I may weep with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice…that I  might better understand and know my baby who will come home to us one day and their mother who will forever hold the other half of this broken heart of mine.  I know the wait could be long for placement, I know that there is the possibility that we won’t be placed, and I know that God has used infertility to prepare me for that wait. I know what it feels like to wait for a long time…I know what it feels like to not know how this ends. And I know how good my Father God is, even if what I will and what I desire never comes to be. His love for me comes first.


My Joy has begun to emerge from a place in my heart that I didn’t know existed and that I don’t think would ever have been uncovered if I had never experienced infertility. So, could I ever be happy if none of this ever happens for me? The answer  is yes. I think that because of all of this my Joy will be felt at a greater magnitude. I think that without it I may have taken for granted all that God is and who He is and how He loves me…and how He loves His children. My Joy in Jesus is greater…I am happier in Him because of this. And that is my victory. That though I was met with pain, and though I felt as if I was broken…Jesus has restored my soul. He has replaced the weakness of my heart with strength. He has given me Hope.

To those of you who suffer in this, know that Jesus is greater. Know that prayer is not just uttered desperate words…but that it is fully heard by your Father. Know that tears of pain can become tears of Joy in Him, and that Joy is not dependent on whether or not we are physically healed or whether we are able to become parents…but instead is an unspeakable mystery in the glory of our God for which we can not explain but can proclaim. Joy in Jesus defeats the darkness…and that is full truth.

I have found His grace is all complete, He supplieth every need. While I sit and learn at Jesus feet, I am free, yes, free indeed.

I have found the pleasure I once craved, It is joy and peace within; What a wondrous blessing! I am saved from the awful gulf of sin.

I have found that hope so bright and clear, Living in the realm of grace; Oh, the Saviour’s presence is so near, I can see His smiling face.

I have found the joy no tongue can tell, How its waves of glory roll! It is like a great o’er flowing well, Springing up within in my soul.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory, oh, the half has never yet been told.

B.E. Warren.

Does this mean I don’t have hard days? no. They still come once in a while. But it means that I’ve found my strength in Jesus, and that this battle no longer stands a chance at defeating me. Jesus is stronger. Jesus is better. Jesus heals hearts. Infertility can’t ever steal your purpose or your worth. It won’t distort you before the Father. It doesn’t mark you as lesser or forgotten. On the contrary…it marks you as brave. It marks you as strong. You, my friend, are a canvas for which the Lord God will paint beautiful things on. Your life can bloom in Him. And your heart can heal.

 

How Sweet the Sound of Grace: When the Joy of Jesus Defeats Your Battles

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. James 5:7

Spring is in full force here in Wisconsin. I can see it bursting forth in the buds on the trees and in the little purple flowers peeking up above the ever growing blades of grass. The Sugar River has begun sweetly flowing again, and any sign of frozen ground has melted away. It seems too poetic to say that my heart is experiencing its own season of new life. The winter was hard, both on my soul and on my body. But God has begun placing sweet blossoms of hope on the hard places of my life and I’m seeing Him revive me in every sense of that word.

Revive. What emotion that word evokes for me! I know I keep talking about this same battle, but it’s the battle that has most tried to define me. Infertility…infertile…as in nothing will grow. And I believed that for a short while with all my heart…that nothing would or could grow from me. I sought doctors who prodded and tried to jump start my body, but nothing. I had placed my hope in needles and in x-rays and in hormone therapies and in procedures. And as sterile as those doctor’s offices felt…so did my heart.

I had wanted Jesus to bring about new life naturally. I hope that one day He will. But for now, I am experiencing a form of new life that I had not planned on. I feel as if something inside me has woken up. Some storehouse of Joy that I had left untapped. My husband and I are on a new adventure, and I had thought maybe that was what had made the difference. But I think it goes deeper than that.

It goes all the way down to the roots of my disappointments and to the ugliness of my dark days. As we come out of the season of Lent, the season of grieving both for our Savior and because of our sins, I have discovered that Jesus went right to the darkness I had reserved for myself. He broke down that door, and He entered with Life.

Joy has everything to do with Hope, and is based entirely on Grace. Infertility brought out the ugliest side of me I have ever seen. I was broken, shattered, fragile, and bitter. I cried more nights than I didn’t. I literally grieved for a life that never existed. And yet I kept pushing. Something would come of this. Something HAD to come from this. And so I preached Hope. I clung to Grace. Even in my ugliness I ran toward my Savior. I wasn’t sure how this battle would end….I just knew it would.

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24

I am not pregnant…and yet I feel like this battle has been won. I can feel it in my soul. I walked blindly for over three years with the hope that infertility would fade away, and I grieved what I thought I had lost. I prayed God would heal my heart, even if He chose never to heal my body. I prayed that infertility wouldn’t become my idol…that it wouldn’t cover up who I am in Him.

I prayed those words, but I’m not sure that I actually expected to feel almost a physical weight being lifted up off of my shoulders. I told my women’s group a few months ago, that I actually felt like I was coming out the other side of this battle. A friend had sent me a message, concerned that I had lost the peace that passes all understanding. And just in that week before I read what she wrote, I had experienced that exactly. I do not understand how the bitterness of my soul was lifted. I can not explain why the depth of sadness in my heart has been healed. But it has continued on being healed, more and more so each day.

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Next month is Mother’s Day. For three years that has been a day of sadness for me. I watched as mother’s in our churches were praised and how their children loved them. And I couldn’t understand why God would keep me from becoming a mother. I was broken as those around me became pregnant and as their families continued to grow.

But now…something has changed. I have been changed.

My life was never mine to plan out. God has shown me this so clearly. I belong to Him, every part of me does. And this is true whether we are aware of it or not. He is our creator, our Father, our maker. Our lives belong to Him. And we can go through this life kicking and screaming, complaining at every “wrong” turn, or we can surrender.

We can surrender to the beautiful sound of Grace in our lives. We can sit back and watch how God unfolds the moments of our life right before our eyes. Beautiful lives don’t come from plans and savings and working our days away. They come from the Giver of Life. They come when we loosen our grip on bitterness and disappointment and heartbreak. We so often hold onto to those things…and we don’t have to.

We may experience hard winters. We may feel them coming. We may see everything freeze around us. And yet…God will bring about Spring. He can melt what freezes in us. He can bring fresh sprigs of green from hearts that we thought couldn’t grow anything. You are not what you battle. You are who He says you are, His child, His beloved, His redeemed.

Joy won’t come with the fulfillment of our plans. It won’t come in the safety of our savings. Joy is found in Him alone.

Your life is found in Him alone. Until we turn our faces toward Him, we are simply wandering away. I used to worry that all this talk about prayer would simply be talk. That I would talk to God, and He would always for eternity tell me to wait. I was scared that I wouldn’t see an answer, that I wouldn’t feel a difference.

But I feel changed. And my circumstances haven’t changed. The only explanation is Jesus.

I find myself completely defined in this hymn, Amazing Grace. It is who I was and who I am and who I will become.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that Saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

The Lord has promised good to me; His Word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.  – John Newton

Friend, if you have been praying that God would heal you, that He would mend your broken spirit, that He would revive your withered soul…know that He will. He is faithful. He who created the heavens and the earth, He who became like us and died a death that only we deserved, He who conquered death and who declared victory over our sins…He has not forgotten who you are. He won’t leave you alone in this.

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

Isaiah 49: 15b-16a

A Grace Note: Easter Morning 


Dear Reader, 

Out of the grave, He sprang up, and with Him came freedom for the soul of the sinner. We saw Him rise, we know that He physically lives. His scars are our scars, His wounds were our Hope. Our ugliness was wrapped up in His Grace and as His blood poured forth, so did the tears of God as the Redemption of His beloved people came near. To love, it seems, means to know deep pain. We decided that it had to be so when we took of that forbidden fruit in the garden. Even then, we sought quick glory over time woven grace from the Father. To know Him is to love Him, and to be known by Him is to experience His Grace. You know when the devil told Eve that she would be like God if she ate of the fruit? The twisted truth was that God loved her enough to become like us. Made in His image, we were already loved, but maybe we didn’t believe it. Jesus came that we would know for sure. Jesus is the proof of the goodness of the Father….the same Father who made sure that even as we faced the consequences of sin, we would never do so alone. He banished us from the garden…in Love. We couldn’t eat from the tree of Life and live in sin forever. We needed Grace. We needed a clean slate. We had to become a new creation…in Christ. Death where is your sting? Where is your victory? Jesus proves with an empty grave that nothing can separate us from the love of the Father. We are alive in Him and never forgotten. Now, instead of the warning not to eat of the forbidden fruit, we are greeted with the invitation to “take and eat”. Jesus has become our tree of Life…and Jesus was freely given. 

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

Old Roots: When Jesus Wakes Your Soul

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“The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead – whom you killed by hanging Him on a cross.” Acts 5:30

A mere 1/2 acre is what our small home sits on. Yet, in this tiny corner of the world, we have full grown pine trees that seem to reach all the way up to Heaven. We have lilies that peek in through our bedroom window, and purple irises which light up our front yard in the early summer. Sometimes, when I walk out onto our deck, I feel as if we own our own forest. Cedar wax wing birds live here, and little yellow birds like to greet our sweet cat through the windows as they eat seed from the feeder. And as I begin to see all of these living things come back, springing green and fresh from the ground, and hatching fresh and new from their nests…I know that I can take no credit for any of it.

Mine were not the hands that planted those flower seeds, and I was not the gardener who grew those tall pines. These things, these living things, which pop back up year after year, from roots older than I am, come back new and vibrant….even though in the winter months they appear as dead.

Jesus had roots too, you know. Scripture talks about the root of Jesse, and Jesus calls Himself the vine. His Spiritual tree is rooted entirely in the Father, and His mortal family tree goes back all the way to the Garden of Eden. His human life is rooted all the way back in that tree that we chose to eat from…the tree that would someday become His cross.

Today, I’ve thought a lot about that cross. The symbolism will always blow me away. I have been thinking of how that cross made of wood was once a seed, and then how from that seed sprouted a green chute, and how after it popped up, tender and green, it grew. For years it continued to grow. Until, one day, someone came along and chopped it down. And its life seemed to have ended…but its purpose still had not.

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“And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9

I was thinking how that tree, the one where Jesus would be lifted high, was entirely linked to that first tree in the Garden of Eden, the one we ate from. The one we chose over the tree of life. And how fitting it seems, that through the fruit of one tree that brought into the world death…so our Savior would become the fruit of another tree, that would remove death from the world. And how He would tell us, “Take and eat. This is my body, given up for you.”

The tree that lifted Jesus high, was rooted physically in the world, like us…but its spiritual roots were tied to our sin.

We have roots too. And like the roots of a tree, ours are very often tangled and deep. Our roots grow old, and yet as we age we seem to experience new life out of them. There are parts of our roots that bring us joy, that seem to resuscitate us. And then there are parts that are too strongly knotted, and they cause other parts of us to die. This is because unlike Jesus, our roots are not always found in the Father. Instead, we find ourselves rooted in pride, in greed, in pain, in disappointment, and in sin.

When we chose to eat of that tree in the Garden of Eden, we chose to allow our roots to wander off, to grow into territory that wasn’t meant for us. And so we find ourselves looking for fertile soil in places we cannot flourish, in places our roots simply can’t hold onto. Our sin has caused our own hearts to become a tangled mess. And so when that tree that would become the cross was cut down…maybe a part of our own broken world was cut down too.

Good Friday feels like winter to our souls. It’s when the world feels at its darkest. It was when God literally withheld the sun, and turned away His face…for one brief moment. So that we would feel the magnitude of what it meant to be without Him. Our Jesus, nailed to a tree that grew from our tangled roots and that died in our tangled mess, was lifted high amidst our broken world and our tattered lives.

But in three days, friends…Jesus will rise. His body, planted low in a grave, will shoot out of it. That tree that ran red with His blood and that bore witness and an active part in His death, will become our pathway to the tree of Life. Our winter, will become spring.

Because Jesus shares His roots with us. He has weeded out our gardens. He has untangled and unknotted that which we could not undo ourselves. He has become for us a river of Life….and by His wounds we are healed.

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“I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4

Our roots are no longer grounded in this temporary world. Because of Jesus, who sprung up for us, our roots are now founded in the ancient and in the eternal. We get to return to the Garden of God. We get to be rejoined with our Maker. We get to walk with Him in the cool of the day. And the Lord God will be our Light.

Don’t you see, friends? Everything about our life story can be found in the Garden of God. In the Garden we lived and then we fell. In the Garden, grew our free will. And in the Garden, grew the Cross.

Jesus’ life story is rooted in the Garden too. I see it made evident in the imagery scripture uses to describe Him and in the way He portrays Himself as the vine. And as He walks through the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night He was betrayed, I see it again, all too clearly. Our sin began in a Garden…and in a Garden is where it would meet its end.

Go to dark Gethsemane, all who feel the tempter’s pow’r. Your Redeemer’s conflict see. Watch with Him one bitter hour; Turn not from His griefs away; Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Early hasten to the tomb, Where they laid His breathless clay; All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken him away? Christ is ris’n! He meets our eyes. Savior, teach us so to rise.

Go to Dark Gethsemane, by James Montgomery (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal)

 

Of Broken Things: Why Jesus Broke For Us 

“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man He had formed.” Genesis 2:8

Only God’s beauty could have pulled me out of bed today. My head hurts with a cold that just refuses to quit, and yet my heart willed me to get up for just a few minutes and breathe in the fresh air of spring, and the perfection of these flowers that miraculously sprung from the ground this April.

The previous owner of our house had planted what looked like an overgrown garden of weeds right into the yard in front of four towering bushes. Each year, the plants she placed there would be the first to spring up, right out of the grass, to my dismay. They weren’t pretty. They didn’t flower. Weeds quickly took over, and last year out of sheer frustration at the determination of these “weeds” my husband decided to simply mow over them with the lawn mower…

And then this year, just as we were debating whether or not to dig up that whole area of yard in order to get rid of this shambled mess in front of the bushes…they began to flower. And they are beautiful.

You see, last autumn we trimmed up the bottom of those towering bushes. It turns out that all we needed to do was cut them back and let the light shine in on those plants that were so determined to grow. The warm sunlight had turned what we described as an undesired mess into a small corner of beauty.

Our lives mirror this in so many ways. How many times have I cried out and yelled that my brokenness is ugly? How many times have I looked away from broken situations and crushed spirits? The world is afraid of broken and messy things. We are called brave when we stand amid the tangled messes and the bruised life stories. We are labeled heroes when we jump into the darkness and dare to continue carrying on holding the light.

Bad things happen to us, and we cry and we break and we wail and we ask God why a million times. And those whose lives seem perfect to us stare back and call us strong. Yet so often we don’t see it. We don’t feel strong. We feel broken and shattered because of what has happened to us. We don’t feel like our stories are worth telling because we didn’t choose this. We didn’t choose what happened to us. We simply find ourselves treading water in the midst of it.

 

These daffodils that sprung up in my yard didn’t choose the darkness that they were covered in these last few years either. And yet, knowing that they were planted with a purpose, they continued to pop up year after year, even as we saw how messy and broken and unhealthy they were. They didn’t give up. Each year they grew out of the ground with the hope that this year the light would hit them and transform them, that this year would be the year that they would bloom.

I feel as they did. That each year through infertility and brokenness, I have to keep having hope. I have to keep popping up out of my darkness. I have to hold on to hope that the sun will shine and that God’s warmth will hit and that He will bring goodness and life out of what I see as dirt.

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“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” John 19:41

And then today I thought of Jesus, who walked through darkness for me, and who chose to have the light withdrawn from Him, so that He could plant in me Life. He was broken for me. And He who was broken, for us, became the most beautiful. His story was redemption. His scars became our joy. His death became our Life. He was the Light that would shine in our darkness. He is the warmth that we waited centuries for. He lifted up that curtain, that veil, which cast darkness over us, and He let the Light of His Father shine in on us. He who was the Light of Heaven, became the Light of us.

And out of our dirt….He sprung up. The root of Jesse. The Vine to whom we are the branches. Our Garden in which we were planted, in which we were formed, became our mess. And yet Jesus dared to walk in the Garden again…even though it became dark…even though it traded in its name of Eden for Gethsemane.

Nailed to a tree, which sprung from the ground from which we were taken and to which we would return, He humbled Himself, that the same tree that saw death would bring us Life. That though we ate from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and would surely die, we would also taste of the tree named Life and Live.

Our darkness would disappear. The sun would once again shine on us, and that sun would be the Light of Life. Yes, indeed, a garden will grow from where we have been planted. We will once again see the blossoms of life. Our messes will become our past and a Garden will be our future.

For Jesus did not come just to die…but also to Rise. For us, Eden became Gethsemane. But because of Jesus, Gethsemane transforms into Heaven. For though paradise was plunged from light into darkness, God chose to walk among us even when the Light could no longer shine, for God Himself is the Light of His people, and nothing can separate the Love He has for us.

Your mess is only the place in which you learn that God refuses to give up on you. Your tangled weeds, are only remnants of a darkness which once held you but no longer can. For now, because of Jesus, a Light has begun to shine, and you can grow.

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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” John 15:1

God who has planted all things, has reentered the Garden. His light will thaw you out. Your winter is over. Your spring has come. And soon Summer will find you blossoming in His warmest Light. Because nothing God has planted in you will return to Him empty. His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on you. Gethsemane has traded in its name. It no longer stands for darkness, but instead for Light.

So while you continue to feel as though the world is trying to mow you over, and that darkness is trying to choke you out, remember that Jesus who chose to be broken for you is cutting back the veil and sending His Light into your Life to warm you and to encourage you to grow from His light and from the vine  to which you are now grafted into. “Arise and shine, for your Light has come”. Don’t be afraid to grow. Jesus broke to raise you from this mess.

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Mess: The Cross and What it Means for Our Current Tally of Suffering

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We were sitting in church this last Sunday as our Pastor preached on the book of Colossians. He wanted to know where our hearts were at, or rather, he wanted us to know where our hearts were at. Where are they rooted? This is something I have written about recently. I’ve considered how what is in our hearts comes out in the language we use in prayer, towards God, and with others.

But a new thought presented itself to me as I sat there, thinking deeper about the condition of my heart, and it was this: have my burdens become my gods?

I will confess to you that the phrase, “a beautiful mess”, has almost become a tagline for my life. Infertility, illness, waiting, dashed hopes, uncertain futures…these things have wrecked my world. And yet I have sought, as many of us do, to find the beauty in  them. I’ve set my eyes hard on watching what God will do with my suffering. I’ve hungered for His presence to become real in tangible ways in the midst of them. I’ve given myself over to the mindset that because God has asked something hard of me that there must be some kind of unimaginable beauty waiting for me at the end of all of this. That one day, everything I have felt in the depths of my heart, all the hurt and disappointment, and brokenness would be worth something. Did you catch that? I thought it would make me “worth” something.


Our suffering won’t ever make us worth something. That is the hardest point to take…but it’s the whole reason that Jesus came for us. He saw that we would suffer. He saw that we would die. He saw that no matter how many times we strive to be refined in the fire…without Him we would simply disappear. But Jesus…His suffering makes ours worth it.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

You see, I keep records of wrongs. I remember the blessings that have not come my way. I remember the hurt. I remember the pain. I remember how I felt when I thought God had wronged me. And while I probably am not likely to speak this out loud, the truth is that the hope I often feel, especially in my infertility, is that God has seen me suffering, and because I have suffered…He will provide for me. Maybe if I’m being honest, I haven’t separated my suffering from who God is. Instead, I’ve added it to a running tally of why God should show up for me.

I have wanted to claim that my mess is beautiful. But I have looked for beauty in the wrong place.

The beauty of our stories, laced with hurt and disappointment, is not actually found in how well we have handled things or in how we have used our pain for something good. It’s not really in how well we fought our battles. It’s not in the outcome. It doesn’t arrive when we finally receive what we are praying for. The beauty is not in us at all.

The beauty is in who God is. It’s written on the palms of His hands and the tears He himself cried for us in the form of Jesus. It’s in the way He perfectly loves us. It’s in all the prayers He has heard us shouting up to Him. It’s in the way He bends low to reach us, even as our hearts sink deeper. The beauty of our pain is actually the truth of His resurrection, that though we feel as dead we are alive. That though our pain seems huge, Christ’s strength is stronger. That no matter the outcome of what we hope for in this world, we know that the outcome of our salvation is always Victory.

Because of Him, the disappointments of this life will NOT be the disappointments of our eternity. Our hardships here have to loosen their grips on us, because they can no longer hang onto us forever. Better things are coming.

“…Because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

The beauty in our mess has nothing to do with us at all, and everything to do with the beauty of our God who saves us from it. The most beautiful mess of all can be found on the cross of Christ, because that’s where all of our sins and sufferings were nailed. Jesus stretched His arms wide and took it all away, because He knew nothing but destruction would ever come from our suffering without Him. We could never sacrifice enough. Our suffering couldn’t save us, couldn’t bring us closer to God. Hard things would and will continue to come our way, but we wouldn’t choose them for ourselves. Jesus chose the suffering on the cross so that our suffering and sin would no longer define us, and instead we would be defined by His grace for us. Know this friend, it is not Jesus who wants us to hurt. It is not Jesus who brought about infertility, or illness, or suffering, or shame. It is Jesus who saved us from all of it. And it’s not any amount of suffering that we have come through or any amount of our lives that we used for His glory that catches the attention of our Heavenly Father…It is really only Jesus.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

The beauty is in Him. Always Him. Only Him. And because of Jesus, we get to see that beauty on display. We get to “walk with Him, and talk with Him, along Life’s narrow way.”