Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lay My Burden Down

I was devastated.  Word of her pregnancy should have lifted me to jubilant celebration, but instead it only reminded me of my own barrenness.  During the last month she had accidentally been careless with protective measures against conception, while across the map in my own corner of the world, I was purposely careless and pleaded with God to work a miracle through the physiological impossibilities shared between my husband and me.  She neither planned on nor wanted more children, but I longed for as many more as the Lord would give.  The last month in particular, I had taken bold and daring steps of faith and risked letting my hope rise again.  Like every other month throughout the last eight years, though,  the wave of hopeful anticipation and expectation crashed ruthlessly into the rocky shoreline of failed attempts and cold nothingness.  Allowing myself to hope again was simply becoming more than I could bear and I reminded the Lord of Proverbs 13:12 that says "hope deferred makes a heart sick..." At my core, I felt my heart becoming sick as depression mercilessly reared its ugly head again.  Nothing, however, could have prepared me for what God asked me to do that night on my way home when He said to lay my burden down...

My friend Dawn is the only person in the world who has seen me in and through the monthly bouts of sickness and despair when another pregnancy test reads negative, and although I don't generally talk so openly about this particular room in my emotional house, the time has come (Ecclesiastes 3:1) for transparency and honesty.  Several months ago, she walked and prayed me through one of my worst pits of depression yet, but it was little comfort compared to what she would give when I learned of my sister's unplanned and unsought pregnancy. It was, for me, a time of self-actualization and full realization of John 15:13 that says this: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." For years, I interpreted this verse to mean death, yet what the Lord has shown me in the last year is that it's not only about a physical death, but also, and dare I say more importantly, a mental, emotional, and fleshly death.  Let me illustrate with the following excerpt from my life's own story:

Somehow, I had let down my guard and every defense and purposed to try for a baby again.  After eight years of negative results, my energy waned and my hope staggered, but I kindled every seed of faith I had and lay it before the Lord's feet.  I pleaded with Him to work the miracle only He can work and then I pleaded some more.  In the natural, my husband is unable to have children.  The son we share, I conceived through a previous relationship, and my husband adopted him after we married.  He's an amazing man who loves our son as though  he was his own flesh, and for this I'm blessed and grateful.  Nevertheless, my heart yearns for more. Some of the things I have done and the steps I have taken in faith would seem foolish to the unbeliever, and be scorned by the weak doubter, but by His grace I have managed to cling to the Cross of His faithfulness and I dare to believe in the possibilities of His promises.  If He did it for Sarah (Genesis 21:2), Rebekah (Genesis 25:21), Rachel (Genesis 30:22), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:20), Elizabeth (Luke 1:24), and so many more, then I know His arm doesn't stop short of me.  In the light of a loved one's newly discovered pregnancy, however, the Scriptures were of little comfort.  What He did for all of these women, He hadn't done for me.  Instead, the Lord asked me to be the comforting arms of a scared sister.  The evening I found out she was expecting, I cried and asked God why not me?  She hadn't even been trying or seeking, yet I had been begging and pleading.  In an instant, I was caught up in a tide of bitterness and anger.  I so desperately wanted to be happy for her, but I was unable to see past the pain of my present circumstances.  That is, until the Lord told me to lay my burden down.  

As I listened to her pour out her fears and concerns over the new turn on her path, I felt the Lord telling me to be there for her.  What?! I screamed to the heavens.  How could I be there for her when I was in the midst of such agony and pain? Who would be there for me? I couldn't even stop my own flow of tears from falling as I compared her pregnancy to my still empty womb. I was hurt and I felt the Lord had delivered me a cruel blow, not to mention the insult He added to injury when He asked me to lay my pain down and pick up hers.  It's not about you, I felt Him say in my spirit.  The knife twisted in deeper as I tried to process what He was asking of me in that moment. I felt broken, crushed, and pressed on every side (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) and I couldn't fathom meeting another's needs in that instant.  But I did.  How? By His grace and His grace only.  (2 Corinthians 12:9) Why? Because it wasn't about me. Had I taken the pain I felt by her pregnancy and focused only on myself, I would have missed the opportunity to be there for her, to be the light of God in the darkness of her uncertainty. I would missed out on being the arms of God that wrapped around her as she cried, and I would have missed out on being His heart as He took in her worries.  More specifically, I would have missed her.  That, and not my empty womb, would have been the real tragedy.  In the single conversation where the Lord asked me to rise above my pain, I was given the privilege of living out Philippians 2:3-7 that says this:

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

In those moments, my pain became nothing and hers everything.  I won't lie, it was one of the hardest things to date that I think the Lord has asked me to do, and it didn't even stop when she and I got off the phone.  Still devastated by my own negative pregnancy results, I stopped off at the local vegan grocery store on my way home.  I had barely dried the tears from my eyes when I was greeted by an employee who beamed with smiles and excitement as she proclaimed these words: "guess what? I'm pregnant!" My burden had to remain down, not to be picked back up yet as God told me to continue in the work of being there for others.  I fought tears and nausea as I listened to her joy over finding out she was pregnant.  She shared her happiness and somehow I managed to share in it with her, holding my own brokenness back until I climbed into the car to leave.  There, an ocean of grief and mourning nearly enveloped me, but the Lord's hand reached down and took hold of mine through Isaiah 43:2.  Over the years I have prayed to Him and asked Him to help me love as He loves and walk as He walked.  These are some of the defining moments that stand out clearly when I know I did His work well, but I would never try to minimize the difficulty in it all.  In Matthew 16:24, Jesus told the disciples that whoever wanted to follow Him, "must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." In our lives we will face countless opportunities to do just that.  The question is - will we?

That except from my own life's story is only one page in the chapter of my sister's new pregnancy.  Her daughter, my niece, Olivia, is expected to arrive this fall and out of the ash of pain, jealousy, and resentment, has arisen the beauty of excitement and hope.  God didn't say yes to my prayers of conceiving another child of my own, but He is nevertheless giving me a baby to love.  The question we must all ask ourselves is whether or not we're willing to accept the gifts of God when they don't come packaged the way we want.  I asked Him for a baby, wrapped in the love and provision of my own womb.  I never imagined that His answer would have been to give my sister a baby instead, but here's what matters the most  - through her pregnancy, I am being given the opportunity to love as He loves and to walk as He walks.  I can't wait to meet my niece and love her as my own.  It's an unselfish existence that He must work out in us all, and if my focus is on Him, rather than myself, then He will keep me in peace (Isaiah 26:3) as He changes me from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Lay your burdens down to pick up the weight carried by others. It is this selflessness that will undeniably test you the hardest, but bless you the most. 
Let your next step be one of selfless love 

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