Sitting in the pew, alone at the evening service, I had come into the weekend tired and worn out. Looking for a place of rest. Often I attend church not out of obligation but out a need for grounding before the week starts. This weekend was no different, but it was a special one. Mother’s Day. A day when children make pancakes for a breakfast in bed, where flowers are bought and the unspoken sacrifice of mothers are acknowledged.
A day of celebration for some, a day of grief for others.
I find myself around mothers a lot. I know a lot more about breastfeeding and child raising that I ever thought I would as a single woman. Most of my very best friends have 2-3 children and we often hang out after bedtime or on a weekend morning when they can get away.
In my seat, on this evening, something broke. The emotions were ready at the surface. And it stemmed from struggling to put into words how much a day like this did to stoke the flame of a life I desire to have.
We sang these words, that dug deep in my heart and I tried to push them away, “There is a God who sees, just right where you are.” When I think about the fact that God sees me, the tears flow quickly because in this moment, I feel unseen, I feel forgotten.
Many times I think I am supposed to just keep going, be thankful for my blessings and keep living. But I also feel that this ache and longing are just permanent roommates that I will live with forever. The silent struggle of longing is a constant unwanted friend.
As I sat in that pew, I tried hard to disguise the tears, slowly wiping my eyes so that no one around me would notice. I tried to hide the sniffles and the hot mess I was slowly becoming. I didn’t want the pity, I didn’t want to explain why in this moment, the pain was bubbling towards the surface. I didn’t want to be another single girl crying about her lack of a husband and children.
In the pain, it’s lonely. Especially if we try to hide it. It’s exhausting to disguise something that hurts. If you are trying to hide a limp, you sometimes end up hurting everywhere else, because you are compensating for the bad leg. It’s often better to do the things necessary to heal or rest so you don’t injure something else in the process.
In many ways, I am afraid to admit that I really want this thing, motherhood. Because there have been other things that I have wanted for years and I didn’t get. Years of wanting something, praying about it, because that is what good church folk do. But this prayer it hasn’t been answered. This turns into tears of praying that God would take away this dream, that it wouldn’t be on my mind or heart. That I wouldn’t feel so distraught at the turn of every year when nothing has changed.
Then I wonder is it wrong to still want it when the prayer has not been answered? Even when it is painful to long, to want. Is it wrong to still desire this thing that is in my heart? We often pray that God takes away the pain, takes away the longing. Because it would just be easier if we didn’t want it as much, right?
However, I think if the longing wasn’t there, we would be missing something. We would be missing what happens between us and God when we long and pray and come before him. On this side of heaven, we will always be in wanting, longing, for something that this world cannot provide.
To be honest, the words that I typed at the beginning of this post were written a year ago. I couldn’t post them. I couldn’t admit that I was in pain because I was still in sitting in a painful longing. I was in a spot that I couldn’t have imagined 5 years ago. Sharing them now is a little bit easier, because God has revealed himself in my longing and pain. There are still moments that the pain is acute and so overwhelming that I have begged God to take away the longing, the desire for a different life than I lead now.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
And set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord,.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,
Who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie.
– Psalm 40: 1-4
But He has given me a new song to sing, a new dream in my heart. He has given me glimpses of joy that I would have missed if my life were different. He has given me a different picture of what motherhood and family looks like. He has surprised me in ways that I didn’t think were possible.
The longer I am on this journey with the Lord, God is gracious to expand my view of him. He isn’t a God that is transactional. We don’t pray, live good lives and he gives us stuff we want. His desire for us is bigger than that. He wants to be with us, to be near us so much so that our suffering, our longing, our wanting, is all a part of his timing and plan. It brings us so much closer to his heart. In the moment it can feel cruel and so unloving of God. But He is a father, a heavenly father, desiring for our eternal good more than our momentary fleeting happiness.
What is even better than in the middle of our suffering, pain, and longing, he doesn’t leave us to deal with it on our own. He is right there beside us, he is with us, to comfort, to love, to care for our aching hearts.
So friends, I don’t know where this lands with you today, whether Mother’s day is a great day, a hard day, or heartbreaking day, but as someone who experiences a wide spectrum of feelings on this day, God sees you. He sees you right where you are at, he sees your aching heart, your joyous heart, your longing heart, your grieving heart.