Diane Paces-Wiles. Diane is a member of Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, NC and a Project Pomegranate coordinator.
“They wandered in desolate wilderness;
they found no road to a city where they could live.
Hungry and thirsty,
their spirits failed.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them in a straight way
to find a city where they could live.
Let them give thanks to the LORD
for his gracious love
and his awesome deeds for mankind.
He has satisfied the one who thirsts,
filling the hungry with what is good.” Psalm 107: 4-9
I have often thought of infertility as a wilderness journey, an image that the Bible presents time and again. In the wilderness, God’s people are tested. Stories speak of harsh terrain, harrowing conditions, and a constant challenge to the faith that God will deliver them. The month-to-month struggle of infertility can certainly feel like that. The diaper aisle of the grocery store, the neighborhood playground, a friend’s baby shower: these can seem as treacherous as a trek through unforgiving desert landscape. We are consumed with doubt. We question why God has abandoned us. We wander in circles, uncertain of which direction to take. We cry out, begging God for deliverance. And we bargain, we definitely bargain, making promises to God we cannot keep.
And here’s a little secret about infertility: even when the journey is over, it’s not. While a long-awaited positive pregnancy test or finalized adoption is ecstasy for many, others of us experience a witch’s brew of anxiety, fear, and depression that outsiders cannot understand. Well-meaning friends and family offer words of celebration: “You’ve gotten what you’ve wanted, what you wished and prayed for!” True, but the road to this destination has been wearying. After countless tests and treatments, many enter into parenthood incredibly, inconceivably tired. Tired of stumbling through a journey that has no map and no guaranteed destination. Tired of momentary glimmers of promise realized as a shimmering mirage. To ask us to feel excitement is to ask us to hope, and for those who have endured years of grief and disappointment, that is a mighty task.
But I have come to understand the wilderness as more than a passageway through pain to the Promised Land. It is also a place of transformative power. Once you have walked it, you are changed. You are more cautious perhaps; less trusting that life will go according to your planned roadmap. But you are also wiser, clearer of purpose, and stronger than you realized you could be. Within the wilderness, truths are revealed and demons confronted.
As I reflect on my journey this Mothers’ Day, I find it has come to mean many things. Most importantly, it is a reminder that my children are not my own, but borrowed from the great and mysterious life force that is God. I also reflect on those who walked alongside me, and those who scouted ahead, making a fire to shine like a beacon in the night. And above all, I see this: though scarred and flawed, I withstood the trial; I survived.