Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
“So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
“That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
“But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.Luke 15:11-24 The Message
In one sense, it would be easier to recognize the hunger in my belly;
to be so starved that I would even consider eating food from a pig trough. This would be undeniably obvious that I have left abundance for severe scarcity but we don’t experience spiritual hunger like this. It’s much more subtle and easily ignored.
My fertility journey has felt a lot like the story of The Prodigal Son. Living in God’s house has been lovely but I still have things I need to get done and it’s not happening here. So I ask for His blessing and go far away to pursue treatments only for me to lose all my money and hope in the process, returning beat up by the world. It’s difficult for me to maneuver around theology when it comes to my story. I have struggled with the purpose of prayer, God’s activity in the world, doubting His involvement in our lives. Christian deism makes more sense to me now than ever: A benevolent God who created the world but who utterly uninvolved in it. So then I question His presence in the first place:
how does one return to an empty house?
But then I have to ask IF it is occupied, how do I return first to believing the house is fully furnished with everything I need? These are just a few ways that have led me back to Him and I hope they will for you too.
Often times, we forget that our faith in God is a gift given to us by God Himself. I am guilty of taking that gift and turning it into some kind of investment, diluting myself into thinking that if I pour my efforts into it, I can make it grow into something I can freely withdrawal from as needed as I pleased. I have also heard this taught at church! We have no control over how our lives will effect our faith. I would have never guessed I’d experience infertility and that we would be entering year 7 of this battle in 2019. My faith has grown and shrunk more times I can count over this journey. So my ability to “put in” & trust that I can “get out” of my faith what I need is simply foolish; as if the gift could be ever separated from the Giver. When I put myself in the place of the Prodigal son, I am asking for a withdrawal, hoping I can invest it in the life I want, selfishly separating the gift from the One who gives it. If I am to return to the belief that first the house is full and that God is there, I must practice receiving what God has already given me: faith that helps me to see that it is. My the cry of our hearts be as the father who brought his child to Jesus to be healed:
I believe; help my unbelief!Mark 9:14-29
Notice that the Prodigal Son went to a “far away country”? What is it about our nature that wants to run far way? We make starting over an answer to X.Y.Z. but whatever it is we attempt to run from, is not easily left behind. It comes with us.
Practicing closeness with the One who was seemingly withholding something wonderful from me has been the most difficult of paths to walk. A discontent swells up inside and a reoccurring thought begins to taunt me: I can get this shit done on my own. Sound familiar? So I ask for His blessing (AKA a baby) and purchase my next fertility treatment. I do believe that God can be very much apart of the medical side of fertility treatments but when I leave His house in order to make it happen, I have drawn a dualistic boundary between God and the rest of the world (or at least the infertility world).
So how do you practice closeness? It’s simple: prayer. Just keep talking to Him. It’s the most intimate and vulnerable you’ll ever be on this earth with God. And more uncomfortable and perhaps frustrated or annoyed you may be, the better! That means, you’re close to your heart as much as He is to yours.
Another way to say this is, allow yourself to grieve. Grieve loss. Grieve sin: yours or another. Grieve distance: between you & God, between you & your own heart. Release the pain through the practice of grieving. We do not allow ourselves time to grieve when life throws us a curve ball (that is actually doused in gasoline and on fire)! Instead, we are conditioned to move forward so quickly, “Well, that didn’t work. What’s next?“. But how does grieving help us return to God? It disarms us. When we are willing to put our armor down for a moment and show our cards, we allow God to enter into those dark and painful places where otherwise he would not be invited. Think of grief as a door. Many of us are terrified to open it for reasons too numerous to count: What if we can’t close it again? What if I don’t like what I see? What if other’s judge me for what is behind these doors? What if I can’t move on? But it’s all speculation on our part. These doors to grief are locked by our fears. There is no practicality in keeping the doors of grief shut. There is no honor or convenience in keeping your pain under lock and key because grief will find its way out one way or another. So wouldn’t you rather choose when to open those doors? On your terms? And not on your husband in the car, on the way to church?!
A few ways I practice this is through journaling, meditation and exercise. Its purposeful that all three force me to connect to a certain intelligent center: Heart, head and body. I can’t tell you how many times I get teary when I start running or sitting down to journaling. In these quiet, intentional moments, I am not focused on moving to the next thing, I am simply practicing releasing myself to the present and allowing for whatever needs to surface to surface. It’s like I have set up a nice comfy chair, directly in front of my doors of grief, giving myself permission to simply sit and intentionally release whatever needs to be from that dark space.
We have all our ways of returning to God during a difficult season. Let’s encourage each other today! What is a one practice or way that helps you strengthen your faith in difficult times? Comment below!
Photo by Brandi Ibrao on Unsplash