There was once a girl who had a big stone in her tummy. The stone was Sadness. Sometimes it was hard and heavy and dragged her right down. Other times it was gooey and gravy-like and sloshed around inside making her feel sick. Sometimes it was a coloured silk handkerchief, the sort that magicians use, and she could stuff it into her fist and it would seem to disappear.
She very rarely talked about the Sadness. It was far too big to talk about, and she was certain it would crush her. When she did mention it, she talked in a detached way, as if about someone else’s life. She was very good at putting the Sadness away in a carefully crafted box that locked in several ways. Mostly, this worked very well, and she could experience much joy and happiness elsewhere in her life. But occasionally the box itself turned to gravy, or to stone. Or she pulled at the corner of one of the pretty silk handkerchiefs and the lot of them came streaming out of her closed fist, just like a magician.
The girl could not be a mother in the conventional way. This was the Sadness. The girl had desperately wanted to be a mother her entire life. As a child she cared greatly for her many dolls, and was a proficient nappy changer of her beloved Tiny Tears and later, her Timmy Tears. The girl had always known she would one day be a mother, and she very much looked forward to that day. She’d planned motherhood and dreamed of her future children and excitedly filled her personal library with children’s books in preparation. Peter Rabbit was waiting to be read.
Life didn’t turn out much like the girl expected, but in many ways she had been blessed with treasures beyond her imagining. She was much-loved by her family and friends and her wonderful husband. She was also much-loved by God.
When it came to God and the Sadness, she found herself on shifting sands. She sometimes said and thought things that perhaps saddened God Himself. She was just trying to make sense of the Sadness and what part God played, but her words didn’t describe the God she knew. For example:
She sometimes wondered if she’d been so blessed in so many other ways that she’d used up her allocation. Perhaps God wasn’t calling her to motherhood, and was calling her to something else instead, not as well. Maybe she should be content with her life and just be grateful. But then she also knew that God was lavish in His generosity and gave in abundance. He wasn’t an either/or God.
So that wasn’t it.
She sometimes wondered if she wasn’t praying properly. In truth she found it very hard to pray for herself at all. She often just clung on to the fact God knew her innermost thoughts so she could be saved the pain of saying the words. But everyone told her that prayer was about relationship and if she couldn’t talk to God about it, what kind of relationship was that? She heavily relied on other people to pray about her situation. God would hear.
So that wasn’t it.
And sometimes, she completely lost the plot. She questioned whether God could really make her a mother at all. She questioned His might and power and miracles. Or rather she questioned if any of them could be for her. She was faced with statistics, medical advice, sperm counts, fertility procedures, and medicine and treatment that would cost more than half her annual earnings. Could God fix it? How could God fix it? But then she sang songs about a God who could move mountains.
So that wasn’t it.
Very occasionally the sadness sometimes overwhelmed her. This happened the first, second, third and fourth times she visited and held her baby God-daughter. The parents were very understanding and let her cry. She had to cry. The baby cried too. They’d have to work on their relationship. Nobody wants a hysterical God-mother.
She was sometimes overwhelmed by other relatives’ and friends’ babies on Facebook. She desperately wanted to share their joy but the heavy stone was sometimes too much.
She was sometimes overwhelmed while watching films or TV shows. It seemed the whole world was announcing pregnancies and births.
She felt very frustrated when people pointed out examples in the Bible of women overcoming infertility and having babies (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Manoah’s wife). She found these stories, and the stories of people she vaguely knew having successful rounds of IVF which led to multiple births, completely unhelpful. These things had happened to other people. In her more selfish moments she thought “I don’t care about their stories, I care about mine.”
Sadly, the Sadness wasn’t something she was very good at explaining to or sharing with her husband. They very rarely discussed the Sadness. Maybe he had his own Sadness. She didn’t know. Maybe this was for the best because she couldn’t deal with her own and his. But maybe this wasn’t for the best. Sometimes she was too Sad to work it out.
And then one day, she was on a retreat, which was actually about something completely different, but she was asked if she wanted prayer ministry, which she did. And in that moment she shared a vision with the women who were praying for her. It was her first and only vision. She wasn’t the vision-type.
In the vision she was standing on hard earth, in a vast open plane, like a desert. And a few meters away was a lion. The lion wasn’t attacking her. It was just with her. Wherever she walked the lion would match her steps, but would keep its distance, as if there were barbed wire between them. But there wasn’t. She knew she’d have to fight the lion or it would never leave her. Nearby was a set of old fashioned armour, the type knights wear, and a sword. But she knew in her heart that the moment she dashed towards the armour and picked up the sword, the lion would be on her and would kill her. She would never get there in time.
The lion was the Sadness that she couldn’t bear to face. She always knew it was there but she wasn’t strong enough to fight it. She’d die of Sadness first. She told this to the women on the retreat. There were a lot of tears. Then one of the women asked if she’d read 1 Peter. She hadn’t. She really ought to study her Bible more. The woman found the passage and read it to her:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
This frightened the girl because, to her knowledge, she’d never read that passage. And also it comforted her.
And then the woman reminded the girl about Aslan representing Jesus in the Chronicles of Narnia, and Jesus being the Lion of the tribe of Judah in Revelation. She explained that the girl had her own lion too. What a thing, to have your own lion, to have God at your side. She also explained the armour in the vision, and read out a verse from Ephesians:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Whilst the Sadness has neither diminished nor been faced, she at least has Hope. And tries to regularly remind herself that,