I am barely awake before the litany starts. All the shoulds and coulds and wishes and wants come one after another. They're not all bad; they're the list of things to pack for an upcoming trip, they're the things I need to do before we leave, they're the piles of things I wish I could pack in a return suitcase: lilacs, mountains, foggy mornings, fires at dusk, time alone with my husband.
He and I have been talking about the difference between wanting a thing itself and wanting the approval from others that comes from having the thing. In this case the thing is not a thing at all, but a child. May and June are ripe for conversations like these and I suppose visits to IVF clinics and adoption applications rise after respective Father's and Mother's Days every year. We're all just trying to plod through life, putting our feet in the footprints left behind for us. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.
But, what if first never comes? Or second? Or third? What then? Where do you put your feet then?
Then is when you have to decide: am I doing this because it is expected of me, because it is the logical "next step," or because I am truly being asked by God or given to by God? Am I trying to force the thing because everyone else around me has the thing and I feel twenty steps behind them if I don't too? Is God actually asking this of me, calling me to this, or am I trying to control my outcome because the alternative feels scary and lonely and very unAmerican?
I know I am dancing on the fringes of some sacred cows and these thoughts of mine very well might make some nervous who have been given a different calling. Please know I am not judgmental of anyone's decision, but I am mighty suspect of my own motives for my own life. What do you do when God has not given or made clear a path for the thing everyone thinks you're supposed to move heaven and earth to have?
I have no earthly idea.
When I was single with no prospects for marriage, occasionally someone or a group of someones would be talking and the topic of online dating would come up. I have a good amount of friends who met their mates online and so I cannot argue with its success rate. But I knew, deep in my soul, it would not be walking in faith for me. I knew God was asking me to trust him with the outcome completely. To not even look, search, move, or say "Pick me." And I also knew this was an unpopular and really, really, really difficult thing to do. I knew it looked foolish to others. But I felt deeply confident in my spirit if God had marriage for me, God would orchestrate the events necessary to give it to me (even if someday one of the tools was online dating, I knew it wasn't today). And then today turned into tomorrow and then into the next month and next year and then one day, there he was, standing in front of me in the foyer of our church. We had a two minute conversation of which he remembers most and I remember little. But God did that, not me. I was walking out and heard my name behind me and then a friend introduced us and it was good.
The only way I can describe how I feel about a controlled effort to have children for us is that same feeling of certainty: if God has this gift for us, I have to trust he will give it to us. It doesn't remove the need for acts of faith, in fact, it increases it (again, for me). It is an act of faith to rejoice with my pregnant sisters. It is an act of faith to bundle a box of baby gifts off to Portland when my best friend births her second. It is an act of faith to look up from the couple in front of me at church cooing over their new one. It is an act of faith to absorb the comments parents make about how rested we look and how easy they assume our lives must be. It is an act of faith to look at the lack and see a gift.
God is not wasting this time. And he isn't absent in it. And his goodness isn't far off and his gifts are plenty, if I'm looking in the right place. Mother's Day is a reminder of what I do not have, but every other day is a reminder of what I do. I have an attentive Father and a present Savior and a tender Spirit, who knows my heart far more intricately than I do. He knows if I was wringing my hands and fretting about how to bring a child into our home, I would not be looking at him. He knows how "fear and anxiety leads to control and manipulation" and how these wreck relationships in spades. He knows what is best for me is to trust, look at him, let him absorb the comments, let him absorb the stabs of fear and the hits of pain. He knows he's working in the waiting (and not the waiting for a child, but the waiting for the culmination of all things).
One of the great tragedies of the modern church mingling with social media and the American dream is we all think everyone should be doing what we're doing, or doing it the way we're doing it. Our problem isn't always that we lack faith for ourselves, but we lack faith for others. We think if it doesn't look like the choices we've made, then the choices are wrong. But when I read Scripture, I see a great many ways in which God makes his kingdom grow. There is one door, one way, and one path, yes, but it requires many different measures of faith to get everyone on it.
I wonder how many of us are waking in the morning with the litany too. All the shoulds and coulds and wants and wishes. The list of everything we're supposed to do crushing us before we've even opened our eyes. The kids should be in three activities a week. I should work out more. He should take out the garbage without me asking. She should be nicer and she'd get married. He should ask out more girls. They should discipline their kids more. I should discipline my kids more. My boss should promote me. I should shop at this grocery store instead of the other one. I don't know what your litany is, but you do, you know it better than anyone. What would it mean for you and your faith and your joy today, if instead you looked to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, and asked just one question: What do you want of me today?
And then took one step forward.