The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord — Job 1:21
Six years ago this month, I grieved. I felt horribly selfish. But I wept, full of emptiness. Angry, sad, mournful. I grieved. The Lord had taken away.
After a year of suffering physical pain, of waiting for the tincture of time to work its healing powers, of crying and praying and begging, I had a hysterectomy.
All my life, all I wanted was to be a momma. There were other things – a teacher, a counselor, a missionary, a writer . . . But none of those things felt as much me as being a momma. I was maternal. The most maternal person I’ve ever met! And that’s including my own mother! One boy had told me when I was only 19. I was born to be a mother. I knew it in my bones, in the fiber of my being.
After two baby girls, I could think of no good reason not to keep having babies. As many as God wanted to place within me. Any reason my mind could conjure for not having babies seemed selfish. Not enough money for more babies AND a large home and nice clothes and eating out at restaurants and taking vacations to far-away places and new cars and, and, and . . . Then give me more babies. More people to love, to raise for making a difference in the world. All the rest was just stuff. Not enough time and energy for more babies AND pursuing other things I wanted to do . . . Then the other things would wait until babies were grown. No other pursuit would be as important as the legacy of lives raised for the Kingdom. Six or eight or ten people raised in love and grace and light would make a much greater impact than my one life anyway.
And so, confident that this was God’s calling for me, I carried baby boy after baby boy in my womb. Giving birth to their skinny bodies. Cradling them, nursing them, nuzzling them, loving them. Breathing in the smell of freshly-bathed baby, pouring sippy cups full of watered-down juice, folding endless piles of laundry, playing I-Spy and CandyLand, putting socks back on little boy feet for the twentieth time in one day – I was satisfied in my calling.
And then after only six babies. Only six. My uterus said ENOUGH! My sweet, sweet doctor took my hand and encouraged me to wait, to give time a chance to heal me. He believed my womb would remember where it was supposed to be and gradually pull back up into place. In the meantime, I would lie down every couple of hours, propping up my feet, hoping gravity would help put things where they belonged. Standing too long brought me to tears. The pain, the pressure, was too much.
Finally, it became obvious that time was not healing this. It was getting worse. The more I prayed for healing, the worse my pain became, the shorter I could stand without lying down. I struggled to mother the six children I had because of my constant pain, the interruption of lying down and praying for gravity to help. I sat in my doctor’s office discussing solutions. As it became clear that the best solution for me was a hysterectomy, my doctor held my hand and gave me tissues. I wept. Sobbed. Right there in his office. Broken-hearted.
A couple months earlier, I had stood among a large crowd of women singing Blessed be Your Name when I’m found in the desert place. Though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be Your Name . . . You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say Lord, Blessed be Your Name. With tears streaming down my face, I wanted to mean it. I tried to mean it.
I did not understand. I thought this was my CALLING! I loved having babies! I had been pregnant and/or nursing for so long. This was who I was! I had gladly, GLADLY!, said yes when I believed God had wanted me to accept as many babies as He wanted to give me, whenever He wanted to give them to me. I was still so young. Only 34. This wasn’t what I had expected. This wasn’t the plan. Not MY plan anyway.
I threw myself before the Lord. Like Jeremiah, like David, I fell to my knees and wept and begged God not to turn a deaf ear to me. I lay all my longings before Him. I lamented. I knew I was selfish, greedy. I had six relatively healthy children. I had never mourned the loss of any babies. I was blessed with much. Yet I wanted more. I was angry with God for teasing me with a calling and then yanking it away. I was a snotty, mascara-smudged mess of a temper tantrum. For months.
And God was big enough to handle it. He is big enough to handle me. At my worst. At my weakest. At my most faith-less.
Two years later, of course, I stood beside my husband’s ICU bed listening to the alarming heart monitor at each irregular beat, wondering if he’d survive the night. And then the next year, I watched as his implanted lifesaver shocked his heart back into rhythm and I stood by his hospital bed again, wondering if those goodbyes would be our last. And I knew that managing all of that with a newborn or while being pregnant would be too much. Just far too much. God had known what was to come. God had known the hard, hard times ahead. And the hysterectomy, ending the season of carrying and delivering and nursing babies, was GRACE.
He gives and takes away. And it is all, every bit of it, for our good. Eventually. Blessed be His Name.