motherhood, heartache, + healing

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The following is the manuscript I spoke from at our home church on Mother’s Day. Our pastoral staff invited several mothers to share how we see and experience the good news of Jesus as mothers, in our various stories. To watch the sermon from 5.12.2019 online, click here.

For three years, I was the woman hiding in the church foyer on Mother’s Day. Many of you know our infertility story — my husband and I suffered the loss of four babies to miscarriage before we adopted our daughter. And then in the almost-five-year span of time before we adopted our son, we experienced numerous adoption-related heartaches and losses.

So much of my Mother’s Day experience has been shaped by my journey to mothering these two kids now growing up in my home — seasons of doubt and longing so stifling I thought I wouldn’t breathe again and seasons of deep joy and contentment so expansive I could hardly believe it. 

The good news of Jesus and the reality of God’s spirit indwelling me has ultimately taught me that there is space to hold both grief + longing, and joy + gratitude. 

I had always ‘mothered’ in some way or another — as a college student I led Bible study small groups of teen girls; as a young wife, I discipled and mentored college women. I had considered biological motherhood an inevitability. So multiple miscarriages was such a painful shock both to my physical self and to my heart. I was surprised, after our first miscarriage, to discover the strength of longing to mother children in my home. That longing grew with each subsequent heartache. That first Mother’s Day after we lost our twin boys, I didn’t stand when they asked mothers to stand — I thought I didn’t count. And when someone who knew the story gently handed me a carnation anyway, I felt like a fraud. I was in this strange middle place — technically a mother, yet not in any measurable way earthside. 

It was the people of God who began to speak truth to me in those days. Women who had also walked the road of infertility would send me texts and cards and offer comfort. Women who laid hands on me and prayed for God to grant us a child. I got to experience the presence of God through His daughters —and his sons— in those days of longing. I believe this is one of the truest kindnesses of God: He gives us one another, to walk through seasons of hurt and need. When we hold one another up and speak life and hope along the way, we are extending the gospel into places of hurt 

After we lost the third baby, when I was so angry at God, my brother said to me at one point that “God has the best chest both to lean on and to beat on — He can take it” — and I began to see that my pain and suffering weren’t in isolation and they weren’t an affront to God. God himself suffered when He sent Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins.

God knows suffering. He knows it.

In the brokenness of my body and this world, God’s closeness mattered — it was real. I loved God and I wanted His love for me to mean “perfect healing and desired outcome on desired timeline” — but God’s love for me is far bigger than that. He isn’t a wish-granter, He is so much better: He is a holy, righteous, beautiful, tender King.

When our children came into our home through adoption, I began to see that more fully — because while the joy and gratitude we felt were enormous, we began to see so clearly that even though our kids were the answer to our prayers, they are not the satisfaction of our souls. 

My heartache wasn’t healed because I held a baby now - my heartache is being healed as I behold Christ.

And isn’t this true in the every day griefs and joys as well? 

In the every day griefs of parenting littles and feeling like a referee between sibling squabbles and helping our kids manage disappointment of their own and caring for our kids when they are sick — God is an ever-present help in trouble, a refuge for our weary souls, offering sufficient grace for our trouble.

And in the every day joys of parenting littles and celebrating their growth and teaching them about Jesus and seeing them delight in something they love and experiencing the joy of their affection for daddy and mama — God is the giver of every good and perfect gift, the gracious + compassionate King, the joy that is our strength.

This is the gospel —the good news— for mothering, biologically or otherwise— that God meets us where we are, as we hold both grief + joy in His presence, and trust Him to work in us and through us, for His glory.

sarah sandelComment