For years I struggled with feeling like I didn’t fit in or belonged in church. Over the past few years that has changed. I have found a church that is like family where I do feel like I belong. Except for one day a year. One day a year I struggle to feel like I belong. It’s not that the people in my church change or treat me differently. I know they don’t mean for me to feel this way, and I know my church isn’t the only church where someone like me feels the same way on the same day. So what day am I talking about? Mother’s Day.
“One day a year I struggle to feel like I belong.”
It hit me a few years ago. I tensed up and my stomach sank. I felt a lump rise in my throat and I had to breathe deeply and concentrate on not crying right in the middle of the church service. They had asked all the moms to stand up to be recognized and receive a flower. My church isn’t the only one that does this…churches all across the country will do something similar this week. They don’t do it to hurt but to honor the moms in a culture that so often does not…I know that, but it still does hurt. There is a sense of shame that comes, of guilt, of being incomplete. I thought about how those women who had miscarried, struggled with infertility, or had past abortions felt. My heart broke for them as it broke for my own longing. I thought about those brave women who placed their babies for adoption so they could have the life they weren’t in the place to give right then. I thought of my own birth mom, and wondered if she felt some of the pain and out of place-ness too. I wrestled in my head with the Bible verses that say it’s better to be single if you can, and to serve the Kingdom of God. But I still felt like I had done something wrong or had failed in some way.
“But I still somehow felt like I had done something somewhere wrong or failed in some way.”
I remember heading out to my car as fast as possible while tears made their way to the edges of my eyes. I closed the door to my car and melted into sobs. My heart wanted to be a mom. I wanted to be married and have kids. My heart broke as the longing and frustration of wanting something so much but realizing the uncertainty of not knowing when or if I will ever get married and have kids. I had kind of thought about getting married and having kids…because that’s what you do…some day…years down the road. To be honest I’ve kind of always been hesitant about the whole mom and marriage thing. I wanted to work in an office or be a fashion designer in New York. Until a few years ago.
A few years ago God changed my heart on this. He had already changed my goals of working in a fancy office or in fashion in New York. Then He put the desire to be a mom on my heart. And the desire just kept growing. In that moment on that day it all hit me so hard. It was an ache that I felt in the core of my heart. In that moment, sitting in my car, in the parking lot, crumpled down in my seat so others couldn’t see me I broke down. I couldn’t speak words to God, but my heart spoke the words to Him. My heart spoke the question of, “why would you give me this desire only to possibly not have it fulfilled, and why now?” It cried out to God about feeling like I have so much love to give. And wanting to share God’s love and the wonder of His creation with little ones He blessed me with. My heart connected to the story of Hannah from the Bible that day. Hannah desperately wanted a child, but God had not blessed her with children and her heart broke deeply with that desire.
“My heart connected to the story of Hannah from the Bible that day. Hannah desperately wanted a child, but God had not blessed her with children and her heart broke deeply with that desire.”
‘Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord . As she was praying to the Lord , Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!” “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord . Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”’
1 Samuel 1:10,12-16 NLT
Maybe you can relate. Maybe it’s your desire to get married and/or have kids. Maybe it’s something else. But I think it is important that the Bible shows Hannah crying out to God so emotionally that Eli thought she was drunk. I think that shows us that it’s okay to pour our hearts out like that. I think it’s okay to pour that deep hurt in your heart out to Him even if it is in-audible sobs. And it is okay to express the longing of your heart to God. But you will live in misery if you stay in the sobbing and the heart break. Hannah’s story even goes on to show this.
‘Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord . “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.’
1 Samuel 1:10,17-18 NLT
Now if you’re like me when I first read this after that emotional Mother’s Day, you are probably thinking, “of course she went away and wasn’t sad anymore. Eli basically said God would answer her prayer. I don’t have that guarantee.” But at the same time Eli doesn’t specifically say that God will give her children. I think it’s the same with us. We know that God hears our prayers. We know that He loves families, and marriage, and children. But we also know that not everyone gets married, and that He encourages us in His Word that being single is also very important in glorifying Him and in furthering the gospel. We also know that more than giving us everything we want, He gives us what is best for us. And what will help us grow in our relationship with Him.
Crying out to God is good. Telling Him the desires of your heart is good. And expressing the pain in your heart to God is good. But at the end, you have to leave it in God’s hands. You have to trust that He sees your pain, your longing. You have to trust that He knows you and has your best in mind—a greater plan for you than you can maybe see. And maybe His answer is to wait. And maybe it will be a no or not in the way you imagined. But through it all, we have to remember that finding your peace, joy, and hope in your relationship with Christ is the most important thing. Growing that relationship to glorify Him is the reason why we are here. It is our focus and purpose. If God wants you to get married and have kids; then it will be because that is how you can grow in your relationship with Him and glorify Him. And if you remain single and/or never have kids; then it will be because that is how you can best glorify Him.
It’s a delicate balance of being content in God, and still recognizing that it’s okay to long to be a parent and to be married. It’s okay to pour those desires out to God, but at the end of that, rest in the contentment that if it is not His plan for you, you will be okay with that. Fight for that contentment if you have to.
So this year, this is where I am at. I’m learning to be confident and content in my relationship with God. I’m learning to be okay if it will always just be God and I until He calls me home. And I’m learning it’s okay to stay home from church this Mother’s Day if my heart just can’t take it. I’ll spend that time with my Creator, the One who made me, knows the longings of my heart, and cares deeply for me. I’ll cry out to Him, and I’ll seek comfort in His words spoken to me, and at the end the day, I will rest in contentment that He is far greater than anything I could desire.