In my last post I explored the idea of sharing our stories and the power it can have for other people to hear about the life you’ve experienced. These stories don’t have to wrap up nicely with a little bow on top and they aren’t required to have a happy ending. There is power in simply sharing your own journey with another- I know this because I experienced the powerful significance of being blessed by hearing someone else’s story a few weeks ago at the Choose Joy Conference in Southern California.
We have a tendency to cling to people who have experiences and stories similar to our own, and yet there is still significance in hearing the stories of people whose paths vary from our own as well. This story was both incredibly similar and at the same time entirely different from my own struggle to grow my family.
Steven and Lauren Shaw are a husband-wife worship leader team, who shared both their music and their story with the conference attendees on Saturday morning. Like me, they know the struggle of infertility.
They know the longing to become parents, the endless wait to fill a space in their heart they’ve reserved for a child. They know the ups and the downs- the hopeful days and the disappointing nights. They’ve been there, done that. And that gives them a lot of credibility in my book.
Even though their starting point of infertility was similar to mine, the path it took them down was different. They decided to adopt and went through their own journey, very different than my own, but full of it’s own unique challenges and hurdles to overcome. They now have a family and are living out their dreams of parenthood.
In sharing her story, one line in particular stood out to me, Lauren said:
“If I had known the blessing that was coming, I would have been rejoicing the entire time- even on my hardest days.”
I’ll be honest- I’ve heard this thought before. I’ve heard the sayings (that sometimes come across glib) communicating the idea of oh if you only knew what was on the other side, it would make fighting through all this seem easy or worthwhile or whatever else people say when they are trying to cheer you up.
What was different this time is that she wasn’t trying to cheer me up. She was making a statement about her own experience, it was a fact to her. If she had known the blessing that was coming to her in her family, she would have been rejoicing the entire time- even on the hardest days.
And so I started to think about my hardest days. My can’t get out of bed, bawling my eyes out, mind-numbing, heartbreaking, hardest days. I thought about specific days that really tore me up inside- the day I found out my ovaries were running out of eggs, the day I knew my first and only positive pregnancy test wasn’t going to bring me a baby, the many occasions I sat on the bathroom floor staring in utter disbelief at yet another single line on a negative pregnancy test.
Could there really be a blessing ahead of me that would cause me to rejoice, even in those heartbreaking moments?
I found this thought both challenging and exciting.
Exciting because- wow- what kind of incredible blessing in my family must be on the other side to make someone feel that way!? And challenging because- gosh, that’s a hard thing to keep believing when your physical circumstances tell a different story.
And yet, it’s a challenge I want to accept. I want to believe that like Lauren said, there truly is a blessing that is waiting for me, that would cause me to rejoice even in the midst of completely real and undeniable grief.
I am brought back to one of my favorite verses:
“Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth!
You’re ending up with far more children than all those childbearing women.”
God Says so!
Isaiah 54:1 (MSG Bible)
Some versions say “Rejoice oh barren woman!” others say “Sing for Joy!” It’s such a beautiful, encouraging exhortation, and yet honestly, I have struggled with guilt over this verse. I have thought about the many (MANY) times I have failed to rejoice in this journey. I have felt shame over the fact that some days (a lot of days) I have mourned instead of rejoiced. And yet I don’t believe that this verse is supposed to bring guilt and shame for our sadness. Instead, I believe it is a promise with an invitation. It is a promise that there is joy on the other side of our sadness, and it is an invitation to begin to experience joy today in anticipation of better days to come.
You can wait to start rejoicing until later or you can start to rejoice ahead of time- either way cause for JOY is coming- we might as well start rejoicing now.
(If rejoicing in the midst of this journey is something that’s difficult for you- you are not alone! This is something I am learning how to do myself and no one said it was easy. Check back here often as I’ll be continuing to share my journey of learning to rejoice ahead of time and as always you can contact me if you want to connect.)