Empty Arms on Mother's Day
By Amy Thomas
Published Church of God Evangel, May 2006
Pain and heartache surface at the most inconvenient times- sudden tears on the way to a sister's baby shower...a tightening knot in the stomach at the announcement of yet another friend's "surprise" pregnancy"...the uncontrollable and unmistakable flushed face and embarrassment at an uncle's tactless blurting our, "So when are you two going to start popping out kids?" But for the couple living and struggling with infertility, one of the worst days of the year is Mother's Day.
Mother's Day is filled with mixed emotions for me. I have a great mother and mother-in-law, both of whom I am happy to honor on that day. I have siblings and friends who have children; I rejoice with them in their celebration of life. But on Mother's day, I also have the painful reminder that I am still childless after 10 years of marriage. So many years I have sat through a Mother's Day service wearing a brave smile on the outside, all the while crying on the inside and counting the seconds until the service is over and I can dash to the safety of the car before the tears gush out.
In this article, however, I want to tell of a journey God has taken me on since Mother's Day two years ago. A journey of heartache, of healing, and of restored hope in God's promise.
I woke up Sunday morning, already dreading the day. Usually I'm rushing my husband along, excited about getting to church early for praise team practice and to make preparations for the community dinner to follow the morning service. But on that day, I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed to shower and get dressed. I put on one of my favorite dresses, hoping it would make me feel better. I checked my hair and makeup; I checked to see if we had everything. Then I checked everything again, stalling, in hopes of postponing the upcoming dread, if only for another five minutes. But the trip began, and I had to face the day head-on.
Before service I stood at the door to pin flowers on all the mothers as they came in-young mothers with babes in arms and toddlers clinging to their coats, middle-aged mothers with teenagers following at a safe "cool" distance, elderly mothers whose children had grown- all having one thing in common with each other, but not with me. I found myself wondering if I would ever have a place among them.
I don't remember much of the service that morning. I'm ashamed to say that I spend most of the time feeling sorry for myself and just keeping the tears in check. Usually I would at least have my husband sitting next to me to hold my hand and give a little encouragement throughout the service. But this year, he had other responsibilities...and so I was all alone.
It was actually a few weeks after Mother's Day that the healing began to take place. My friend Stacey led a Bible study on the "Lament" psalms. After reading several passages and sharing an outline with us, she encouraged us to write our own lament concerning an issue in our lives. Immediately, my infertility came to mind. At first I dismissed it. I really wanted to pick a "safer" topic, especially since there were lots of people around, and I wasn't sure if we were going to be asked to share at the end.
But then I thought of David. David obviously found comfort in pouring out his heart, his feelings, his stuggles and deepest pain into his psalms. Maybe I could find comfort there as well. I began writing, and the words began to flow. I began to feel a release from the pain; the burden was lifting. I didn't want to stop writing! After the service was dismissed, I went home and wrote some more. With each line it seemed I traded some of my pain for God's peace. By the end, my hope had been restored. God was in control. He still had a plan for my life. I could trust Him to meet all my needs. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20, 21, NIV).
To be perfectly honest, there are days when I still struggle with my infertility. There are still tears on occasion, still a brave smile to be worn at times. I don't think the pain will ever completely go away, but at the same time I now have something to hold on to. I've had my Jacob experience of wrestling with God, and I'm holding on to it. I've poured out my pain; I've asked the questions I was afraid to ask. God is sovereign, still in control.
Whether God chooses to bless me with children or not, I am finally at peace. I still serve a God who is able. He is able to sustain me. He is able to bring me peace and joy in the midst of any circumstance. He is able to work all things (even this) for my good.
Dear Lord, my Father, my Savior, and my Friend,
sometimes I just don't understand-
You've heard my prayer; You know my desire;
You've seen my tears; You've heard my cry.
Why haven't you given me a child?
You opened Sarah's womb; You opened Rachel's womb;
You even opened Mary's womb to send your Son into the world.
Why won't you open mine?
I see so many unwanted children, abandoned children, abused children.
I would love our children and raise them to serve You.
Lord, I look to You! You are my healer and my provider,
my Savior and my Lord. All power and authority is in Your hand.
There is nothing too difficult for You.
Lord, breathe life into my barren womb; fill my empty arms;
soothe my aching heart!
Lord, I will give You the praise. I will testify of Your mighty works.
My voice will not go unheard; I will give all glory to You.
Lord, I rest in the promise that you hear my cry; and not only do You hear,
but You answer.
I put my hope and my trust in You.
I know that You are faithful to me always.
I will be faithful to You.
Whatever the future, whatever Your plan.
I will continue to praise You. I love You, Lord.