When I was about 11 years old, my favorite singer made a public announcement that she was having a baby, and that she chose not to marry the baby’s father (this was a big deal in late 70s Philippines). That made a big impression on me, a young girl who had just found out about her father’s mistress, and who never had a Christian upbringing (some people would say I did, but that’s for another blog). I decided I would just be like my singing idol. I would sing for a living, and I would also have a child without the “complications” of marriage.
As it turned out, my “singing career” didn’t last long, and I never had the child I selfishly wanted to raise without a husband. It all worked out. My father died just when I began singing in a band, and I needed a more steady job. Christ found me, and I learned the real significance of marriage and family. I wanted to follow hard after God, and singleness let me do that with more focus. Singleness allowed me to say “yes” to God in many ways I could not have as a married woman.
Then I turned 40. God called me to become a teacher. I was involved in children’s ministry. The irony hit me. Hard. Many times, the children I worked with would be abandoned, neglected or abused. Sometimes, I wish I could just take them away from the pain, adopt them and love them the way I think they should be. I couldn’t. Not only did I not have the means, I also knew these children had families—in some form—who would not want their children taken away. Some would, for financial or other reasons, but a child is not a commodity to be bought or traded.
I never really thought about this seriously until I turned 40 six years ago. Every month, my body prepares to have a child. Sometimes, the hormones get the better of me and I weep for another potential child “lost” in the ways of nature. On especially difficult days I would imagine what my child might look like, and grieve all the more.
Like the biblical Hannah, I wept before God, cried for a womb that never bore. Unlike Hannah, I have no husband and am past the age of safe childbearing.
I kept this verse in my heart:
Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married. Isaiah 54:1
Who wants to be called barren and desolate? Here, in Uganda, where I serve as a single missionary, to be a mother is the greatest honour a woman can have. It is undesirable to be single and not have a child. A woman remains a “girl” until that first child is born. I sometimes wondered how I could earn respect from others when I remain childless. Yet there is a promise in that verse that I cherished.
Working with children can be heartbreaking. Every day, I find out more versions of vulnerability and abuse. As I learn about my kids’ families, I worry about them more than they themselves do, because they don’t know any better.
My kids. That just naturally flowed out of my typing fingers. They are my kids. I have them for at least five hours a day, longer when they get older. I have a God-given opportunity and responsibility to impact them with the gospel. On some days, I am in awe at this calling and feel wonderfully blessed. On other days, the heartache is too much.
Yesterday was one wonderfully blessed day. I received a letter from a parent, who wrote:
Interestingly enough, he misspelled my name (“h” is very hard to place and pronounce in this place). But that first sentence, from a Ugandan man, was like a balm to this weary soul. More tears came, but they were tears of joy and thanksgiving. God was right, as always. Sometimes when someone else makes the observation, it makes a greater impact on the heart–particularly if that someone’s worldview clashes with what he says!
Hannah had her Samuel, whom she dedicated to God. As soon as he was weaned, he was taken to the temple. She had other children, too, because God is generous like that.
I’ve had more children than Hannah, though I have not carried a child in my womb. This was only possible because God gave me the grace to say “yes.” Sometimes that “yes” would be reluctant, even tearful and fearful. But God always accomplishes his will—and does exceedingly, abundantly for his children.
Being the weak believer that I am, I will have more bad days. But thanks be to God, there are these blessed, joyful, significant days to look back on. Pain, hardship, tears, and the feeling that we are incomplete will always be with us while we are in this flesh. We groan with creation for the time when we will be glorified with Christ through Christ. Let us not grow weary in saying “yes” to him, not for the fulfillment or joy it may bring, but because He is oh, so worthy of it.