In middle school, I tried out for cheerleading. It should come to no surprise to you that I cheered the wrong words during the final tryout and did not make the squad. As I watched my newly-crowned cheerleader friends shriek and bounce around the school, soaring instantly in popularity, I felt left behind.
In high school, I wanted a boyfriend. As in wanted a boyfriend so much that I wrote bad poetry and tried delivering it to a boy in a manner that appeared accidental. That plan was not successful. As I watched other girls walk down the hall with their boyfriends or meet them in the parking lot after school, I felt left behind.
In college, I felt called to ministry – the kind of ministry that required a husband, because I felt called to be a minister’s wife (the type of minister didn’t matter too much to me). As I watched other girls squeal with delight in the dining hall, flashing their new diamonds around, I felt left behind.
In my mid-twenties, most of the people I knew were either married or almost married. As I purchased shower gifts and bridesmaid dresses, I felt left behind.
That shifted a couple of years ago. I remember admiring a group of ladies at my church. From afar, I watched them with their husbands and precious children, looking forward to the day Joseph and I would start our family. Interestingly, I assumed they were all at least 10 years older than me. It wasn’t that they looked older than me; it was just that they seemed to be an entire stage of life ahead of me. Certainly they were 10 years older than me, right?
Some of them were only a couple of years older than me, and they had children going into middle school.
Wait. Pretty much the same age as me and they already had kids going into middle school? What did that say about me?
Oh. I must have been behind again.
Oh, the anxiety that flooded my heart. Discontentment fought to steal my joy daily, and it won most days. My longing to be a mother escalated rapidly.
All because I thought my timing was off. All because I thought I was behind where I should be based on one group of ladies I sort of knew.
Over the past four weeks, I’ve been enjoying the Storyline reading plan my church started. I finished reading Genesis today.
Do you know who I found in Genesis? Two women who felt like they were behind the curve when it came to becoming mothers.
The first was Sarah. When she was sixty-five, God called her husband, Abraham, to follow Him to the land He would show him (see Genesis 12). God’s call to Abraham included a promise of offspring. Even in the very moment God called Abraham, Sarah was a bit outside the prime age for birthing babies.
I wonder how many months Sarah hoped she would become a mother, how many months she felt the disappointment once again, how often she heard the sweet coo of a friend’s baby and felt left behind.
Knowing just a sliver of how that must have felt for Sarah (and the depths of my own depravity without Christ), I try not to judge her too harshly for what she did next.
Eleven years after God called Abraham, eleven years after God made a promise that included Abraham’s offspring, eleven years after Sarah set out with Abraham to the land God would show them, Sarah decided to take things into her own hands.
In Genesis 15, God promised Abraham that his very own son would be his heir. In Genesis 16, Sarah decided that God must have meant that Abraham would become a father through someone other than her, and she gave her servant, Hagar, to Abraham to have a baby for him.
Not so surprisingly, things did not play out for Sarah as she hoped. I think she thought she was doing the right thing. I think she thought she was helping God. I think she thought she would love the baby (or at least like the baby) Abraham and Hagar would have. I think she thought everything would be OK.
Then everything unfolded, and she felt awful. She resented Hagar and Ishmael, likely Abraham as well.
Thankfully, God redeemed the situation, and He still fulfilled His promise and gave Abraham and Sarah the baby He promised them: Isaac (Genesis 21). Isaac was born 14 years after Ishmael, 25 years after God called Abraham. If I had been 90 and still didn’t have a child, I wouldn’t have just felt behind; I would have given up hope.
Isaac grew up and married Rebekah, and they had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob fell in love with Rachel (and all the Christian girls swooned collectively). Her father was running some strange two for one special, so he married Rachel and her sister Leah. Oh, my. The baby race that happened in Genesis 29-30 is one of the reasons I know the Bible is true. Who would have made that story up and included it in the Bible?
Rachel was married to a man who was willing to work a total of 14 years in exchange for her hand in marriage (7 years before the wedding and 7 years after). *swoon* Naturally, she expected to become a mother right away. After all, Leah did (Genesis 29). God had other plans, though.
Rachel was jealous to the point of despair. “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!'” (Genesis 30:1, ESV).
Following family tradition, Rachel gave her servant to Jacob. Then she watched her servant have babies. She watched her sister’s servant have babies. She even watched her sister have more babies.
Finally, God opened Rachel’s womb, and she had Joseph. Again, God redeemed the situation. He had great plans for Joseph – saving a nation kind of plans.
I share these stories because I connected with them. I connected with the longing Sarah and Rachel felt to become mothers. I even connected with the temptation to take things into my own hands.
Don’t worry. I didn’t follow the Sarah and Rachel Plan for Having Babies in Your Own Timing.
I did, however, feel tempted to rush ahead of God’s plan, to push Joseph toward adoption before he was ready.
My feelings of being left behind started to trump my trust in God’s timing, and that was a dangerous place to dwell.
I think I’m in a dangerous place now, too. Yes, we’ve stepped out in faith and answered God’s call to adopt. Yes, we’re so excited to be on this journey. Yes, we are PUMPED about becoming parents.
I know there is going to be a whole lot of waiting up ahead. There will be days that will bring me to tears. I will grow frustrated with the process (and maybe the people …).
There will be moments when I will want to rush ahead of God. I will want to take matters into my own hands. I will want control.
Please pray for me in the months (years?) ahead of us. I want to trust God’s perfect timing, even if each month that passes makes me feel one more step behind.
In those moments when you can tell that I feel like I’ve fallen behind, remind me that I’m not. Remind me that I can’t be, because God’s already written this story, and He didn’t make any mistakes.