A version of this article was originally published at She Loves Magazine in 2017.
I never expected the word barren to label my life.
I was a vibrant person. I am an introvert to be sure, but I wasn’t shy or backward. I loved life and loved living it. By the time I was in my early twenties I had traveled from Haiti to Alaska to Brazil. I had ministered in orphanages and in homes, in schools and in churches.
When I married, I expected to settle in and raise a family.
Instead of bearing babies, I dipped down-down into depression and fear and this vast emptiness of infertility and loss.
Infertility is a crushing load to carry through life, and for a season I couldn’t even crawl under the weight of it. It held me; it pinned me down with the starkness of shattered dreams and hopes.
I can still feel that empty-hollowness when I stop and think. It was the empty-hollowness that sent me to my knees before God, desperate to live and breathe again. It was the barrenness of my soul that sent me desperate into the Scriptures, searching for something to save my life from this agony.
And I found Him. The God who was right beside me, who had never left me. He was there in the Old Testament, in the wilderness, walking beside the Israelite people. He was the manna, new every day. He was the water from the rock. The bitter waters that turned sweet. The light, the Word, the cloud.
There I was in a wilderness, pounding my fists into the ground. I was angry at God for forcing me to walk a road that I couldn’t survive, screaming, “I will starve in this desert. I will die of thirst in this barren wasteland!” And all the while, He was standing beside me, whispering, speaking, shouting, “You have to walk this road, but I AM with you.”
The I AM. Jesus. The Bread of Life. The Living Water. Everything I needed to survive.
When I finally lifted my head and stumbled to my feet, I found that while my body was barren, my life wasn’t barren at all.
Little ones filled my home and my heart. Not the babies I had once dreamed of, but children nonetheless. Little boys whose mama needed to work long hours came to my home day after day. Teenagers with rough home lives came to the farm to learn to how to drive a tractor and plant corn seed and listen to the truths my husband taught them. Nieces and nephews ran to my lap, to my table, to my heart.
And eventually we began the long, aching road of adoption. They weren’t the babies I had once dreamed of, but two eight-year-old children.
I had never dreamed the word barren would apply to me, and my children never dreamed the word orphan would apply to them.
Now miraculously and beautifully, neither word applies to any of us any more.
I see God’s hand stretching through my life. When I saw a wilderness of only heartache, God saw a place to carve streams into. Streams of life-giving water that would produce bounty and beauty in the middle of loss and sorrow.
Wherever we are, whatever we face, we can know this truth: Jesus is right there. He’s beside us. He’s never leaving, never forsaking. And in Him, through Him, we may find everything we need. It may look different than what we expect, but it will be life-breathing.
And it is His life that was always meant to save ours.