With Thankfulness: How Can I Ever Thank You?
It was a bitter cold Sunday in December where my heart wore the weather. At the time, we were attending a church busting at the seams with prolific twenty-somethings. Most all the women my age (or younger) were either pregnant, nursing, or carrying their almost-walking 1-year-old in an ergo. They came on Sundays to be reminded of a faithful God, but I entered those doors each week with the stinging reminder that my request of that faithful God hadn’t yet received a response.
This particular Sunday, Nate was out of town. I was doing announcements for church so I had no excuse to pull the covers up over my head and forfeit my weekly encounter with envy. Little did I know that this was the day that would produce a forever perspective change.
As we sang the worship songs, my eyes filled with tears. Our adoption had just recently hit yet another roadblock, and the end was no where near in sight. The road to family seemed blocked at every junction. The words of these worship songs felt void against the backdrop of pain in my life. Like most pain yet-untouched by God, my paper pregnancy, apparently also barren, had fostered a growing ferment on my heart. My hurt was expanding beyond just the issues of child-bearing. The vision for my life was impacted. I started to see many things through the lens of being overlooked by God.
I closed my eyes to keep from looking around me at the others whom I assumed (in my naiveté) could more easily proclaim the truths of God in song because they had what I wanted. And, I saw this vision in my mind’s eye: the word family written on a piece of paper, nailed to the cross. And the Lord whispered to my spirit: If you never have a family, will you still love me?
I walked out of church that day numb. I had no answer to the question asked of me. Me, the one who had boasted of a willingness to be martyred for the sake of Jesus couldn’t readily say “yes” to a God asking me for allegiance in the face of my biggest fear.
The crazy thing about it all is that I never wanted to be a mom. I wasn’t the little girl who played house and dreamed about being a mommy. In my late teens/early twenties, I didn’t even want to get married. Marriage and children, to me at that point, were far from desirable to my driven heart. I saw them as obstacles to a devoted life, not the instruments they truly are. God broke in and gave me the desire to have children. He spoke to me about both biological children and adoption, well before I even deemed myself ready. Desire for a big family came from Him.
So His question, to me, had less to do with the content – my having a family – and more to do with His nature. Why would He put this desire deep in my core only to ask me to relinquish it? Why invite me to travel a road with a dead end?
It took me 3 days to respond.
I knew the right answer, but I couldn’t go there. I spent hours picturing a life like the one God was asking me to consider – void of family but full of Him. Could I love a God who took away the very thing He gave me? Could I trust the leadership of a Man when the mystery He offered wasn’t magical but perplexing? And, more than trust, could I further engage with the very one on whose watch I was wounded?
Somehow, out of this darkness of consideration that seemed so bleak, came a response that I didn’t expect. It was so unlike me that I knew the Holy Spirit had a set a new resolve in me that my flesh could not have produced. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes, I could love Him. Yes, I could trust His leadership. Yes, I could even find delight and joy and contentment living out the underside of mystery – perplexity. Yes, I could dance in the valley and take up residence in the desert. It was like His Spirit broke in and revealed to me the vast oceans of beauty and fulfillment and true depth available in just God. In Him alone. So much so that His promises birthed on earth paled in comparison to just Him. A drink of the Father’s love makes even the largest of a person’s vision or impact or dreams seem so small. The actual touch of His hand on our lives brings layers of healing that no “answer to prayer” can facilitate.
Looking back, I have no idea how that response could have come out of my bitter heart, but the breaking in of God’s love was the initial step on my road to healing. The first signs of healing in my infertile heart paved a way for the kind of ground God wanted to take in my life.
Almost 7 months later to the day, we became a family.
When I held Eden’s little body against mine for the first time and brushed my fingers across Caleb’s face, it felt as if all of my faculties were activated. Gratefulness was an understatement. The God who gives and takes away was faithful to me at the prospect of my forever barrenness so much so that His answer to my prayer was only an extraneous reminder of His goodness.
I didn’t need children to be convinced of His goodness.
And then, He gave me children to remind me of His goodness.
This will be our second thanksgiving with two extra seats at the table. And, God willing, we’ll add two more for next Thanksgiving. In 2 short years, the Hagertys will have gone from a family of two to a family of six. My dream — God’s dream infused in me — was resurrected. But, even more than being grateful for all that has come through our adoptions . . . the chance to be a family, the opportunity to impact four little hearts, the growing heart for orphans, the connection to Ethiopia and then Uganda, and the next 18 years of joy under our roof . . . I am grateful for the Father’s visitation.
A heart that has had a real encounter with the Father’s love (even if just one) cannot help but be thankful. A day, or week, where the focus is thankfulness is not enough to the one whose depravity has received the healing touch of the Father’s hand. I want to know this Man — this giver of love in its purest form — so much so that gratitude is not something I need to work at but something I cannot contain.
Sara and her husband, Nate, have been married for nine years and brought home their two children from Ethiopia last year. They recently started the adoption process for two more from Uganda. They have a heart for prayer and to see people touched by the love of Jesus. What started as a blog chronicling the ups and downs of adoption has become a passion for Sara. You can read more of her musings on orphans, walking with God through pain and perplexity . . . and spinach juice at Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.