I want to share a story. It’s about me actually. But a me from so long ago, that sometimes I can’t even believe it was me…
It’s been ten years this summer since I graduated from college. I don’t really remember much about living in college dorms, or freezing through sub-zero Chicago winters, or eating sub-par cafeteria food day after day. But there is one part of college I still remember quite vividly. I used to wear flowers in my hair every day. Every. Single. Day.
I’m not even sure exactly how it began, but I quickly became the “flower girl” of Moody. It probably started simply: I found a flower along the side of the road, picked it, and put it in my hair. I really love flowers, so I’m betting that was the natural progression of things. But then…it started to become a part of my identity. Once that happened it was a very serious thing between God and me, and I began to actually pray that He would bring a flower my way every day.
And once you start praying to God about something…it’s hard to go back to trying to get that something any other way.
Soon, I found myself praying for flowers each morning, and watching in surprise as God continued to provide through freezing Chicago winters…for four years of my life. I had only two rules. 1. I couldn’t buy them for myself or steal them from the someone’s garden. and 2. I just needed one at some point in the day. Many a time I would set off on a morning run, flowerless for that day.
And yet, God provided in the most interesting ways. One time I was actually on a run, praying for flowers, and there, sitting on top of a garbage can, was a huge bouquet of perfectly lovely peach gladiolus that someone had thrown away. Another time, I found a hundred dazzling pink orchids in my mailbox one morning. And one time, while on summer project in Ocean City, I came back from a morning run and found a huge bouquet of flowers with a note that said, “Dear Princess, I made these for you. Love, Abba.”
Looking back on it now, the whole thing seems kind of crazy. The only place I would take flowers from was my parent’s garden. But even then, I spent every single summer of college away on mission trips, and my parents lived states away from where I went to college, so I wasn’t exactly running home to steal flowers every morning. I now realize what an incredible thing it was for God to provide for me every single day in such a simple and yet specific way. Those daily flowers became a profound reminder to me of God’s continued provision in my life.
Why am I saying all of this? Well, here I am again, longing and praying and waiting for the same God to provide in a very specific way. Because here I am again, longing for something only God could give to me. Only this time, it isn’t a daily journey with God…it’s a nine month wait. Only this time it isn’t a simple thing like flowers…it’s the deepest longing of my heart. Only this time it isn’t in the sweet, simple season of college…it’s in the middle of the season of the deepest loss, and heartache of my entire life.
Will God ever give us another baby? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that it feels incredibly vulnerable to pray for something that means so much to me. And it feels even more vulnerable to blog about something I have absolutely no control over getting. To blog about something that hasn’t happened yet…rather than something that has. This is a very personal, private journey, and once you put your life out there in cyber space, you open yourself up to some very unkind people who say some incredibly hurtful things about the most fragile part of your life.
I’d rather be writing about things that have happened already. But in my real life…the only life we can really live out of anyways…this is what is actually happening. What actually happened to us is that a precious, tiny life…who we hadn’t asked for, or prayed for, or planned on…was suddenly given to us. And then, equally suddenly, that longed for little one was devastatingly taken away. The God who had made Charlie’s life, and sustained Charlie’s life, and had given us Charlie’s life…took him away. And then, He gave us another precious life…and took that one back too. I know it’s simple words, but the magnitude of Job’s heart cry rings in our own hearts every day, “The LORD gives, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
He does give. And He does take away. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that He will stop giving. He may. I am deeply aware that as God, He reserves the right to give and to take away at any time, and in any way. He reserves the right to be God, and to do as He choses for His purposes and glory. But it is still the longing of our hearts that He might again someday give us another baby who will outlive our own lives. And so we ask. And hope. And wait. But that’s as far as it goes.
Because…God is not a vending machine. He isn’t someone we humans can simply go to with our money (Read: good works, piety, endless prayers asked in unwavering faith). And we can’t just press the “baby in nine months” or the “married by thirty” or the “house of our dreams” vending machine buttons and get exactly what we want, when we want it. And on the occasions when what we want seems to be getting “stuck,” or to be taking longer than we’d like, we can’t just pound on the vending machine with our angry fists, and yell louder to get the desires of our heart for which we are “asking.”
That’s not the gospel. That’s the prosperity gospel. And yet, we pray like that sometimes. We make our demands and pound against the machine, and are truly, legitimately shocked when God does something unexpected in our lives. It’s interesting how often the picture Jesus gives us of His sovereign provision in the real Gospels…is His provision on behalf of particularly helpless created things. Sparrows (“Consider the birds of the air…”), flowers (“Consider the lilies of the field…”) and children (“Which of you, if your child ask for bread…”). It seems as if Jesus is trying to tell us that, though He doesn’t have to, God loves to provide for the needy. And let’s face it, we’re all the needy. The things we long for the most, are the things that ultimately only God can give.
And He reserves the right to give, or to not give them. This is so very hard for me. But it’s my reality. It’s our reality. At some point, every single one of even our prayers to God to “sustain” our lives, and keep us on this planet, are going to be met with a loving “No.” We’re so helpless we can’t even keep ourselves alive. This…is our reality as frail, needy human beings. In the end, we’re not so very different than sparrows and lilies.
So, why am I saying all of this? Well, because I, like most of you, stand here today as a frail human being who longs for something only God can give to me. I long for a baby who outlives me. And that’s why it feels so vulnerable to say this out loud in the dangerous world of cyber space. I’d rather write about it after God gives me the longings of my heart. But He may chose not to do that. Ever. And even if He does, it will be nine months at least. So, all I can do is ask and pray and blog and wait.
Humbly. On the God who feeds the birds each night while we are sleeping. On the God who spins beautiful clothes for the lilies…who really do seem to be wearing fresh clothes each new morning.
Humbly. On the God who miraculously provided flowers for my hair every single day of college, and who, so much more importantly, gave me five beautiful babies. Five babies…I did not deserve or earn with my good works, great faith, or unwavering prayer life. Five babies…who were simply given to me, by a gracious and loving Father who gives beyond anything any of us wretched sinners deserve in this life.
It’s amazing how quickly we can forget the miracles He has already done in our lives. I hardly ever think about the fact that for four years, and in several cities and continents, God provided fresh flowers for my hair every single day. The only reason I even thought about it today is because of a Mumford and Sons song I’ve been listening to lately on repeat.
Ironically, the song is about death. How death is so full. And we humans are so very frail and small.
But it’s also about life. Our one true hope in this life. And the God who gives the whole package…
And now I cling to what I knew
I saw exactly what was true
But oh no more.
That’s why I hold,
That’s why I hold with all I have.
That’s why I hold.
And I won’t die alone and be left there.
Well I guess I’ll just go home,
Oh God knows where.
Because death is just so full and man so small.
Well I’m scared of what’s behind and what’s before.
And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
Clinging to the God I know…until the time when, finally, there’s no more heartbreak. No more fears. No more tears.