“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Proverbs 13:12
Heartsick. There are some days that even this doesn’t feel like an accurate description of what hope deferred feels like. I wonder if maybe King Solomon meant, “Hope deferred makes your heart feel like it’s just been ripped out and trampled on by a whole herd of wild animals.” Sounds a little less poetic, though.
If you’ve been following along these last several months, you know about our journey with infertility over the last almost two years. It’s a tender topic and quite honestly I hate writing about it — it makes me feel like I’m having open heart surgery in front of a bunch of strangers, or living inside of that nightmare where you go to school without your pants on.
God is doing a deep, deep work in me here, though. So here I am again, open wounds exposed and feeling like I could bleed out at any moment. And somehow, it’s helping heal all of us.
Last week I went in for a hysterosalpingogram — a pretty routine test done to have a look at my tubes and make sure there isn’t anything abnormal going on. So there I was, laying on a table in a hospital gown, tubes in all sorts of places that tubes are not supposed to be. There’s doctors and nurses and screens displaying a picture of my insides as they all discuss what they’re seeing.
I try my best to hold back tears as I just keep thinking, “This is not how I saw this story unfolding in my head.”
When you start dreaming about building a family, you don’t usually write months that turn into years of disappointment into your ideal version of the story. You leave the fertility specialists off the cast list, and you certainly don’t write in the discomfort of foreign objects roaming about in your body while several strangers look on.
I dreamed of this going so differently — of surprise positive pregnancy tests and the excitement of new life on the way — the stuff that movies are made of. Or, if I’m honest, the stuff that all my friends and family members lives seem to be made of. I look at friends who are having babies, some of them on to their second and third, and I wonder if I’ll ever know what that feels like.
In the midst of so many circumstances outside of my control, I’ve caught myself trying to protect my heart a lot recently. If I just don’t think about it, it won’t hurt. If I can just stay busy, I won’t sit around and be sad. I fill my time with things I can control — a finished to-do list at work, a clean house, a week’s worth of meals planned, a new workout regimen — all things I can dictate the outcome of.
And you know what’s happening all at the same time? Bitterness and resentment are growing like weeds in the garden of my soul, because hope deferred has left a gaping hole in my heart that I’ve tried to fill back up on my own.
Just a couple of nights ago, needing some space and desperate to hear God, I went for a drive alone. I cried out, from the very bottom of myself, asking God how on earth He was going to sustain me if I keep walking in this wilderness.
I felt like He so gently replied, “You have to be willing to get your hopes up, and you have to stop trying to be your own shelter.”
I realized in that moment that I had filled the chasm left in my heart by disappointment with everything except for more hope. I had pitched a tent made of pride and independence to try to keep the wind and the rain from hitting me. But maybe the wind and rain are meant to wash away the dirt of the wilderness that’s tried to cling to me along the way.
Maybe that wind and rain is exactly what’s consecrating my heart to prepare it for the wonder that’s to come. (Joshua 3:5)
So today, I’m walking boldly back out into that wilderness. And I’m doing it by letting down walls and letting hard days be hard days — allowing God and His Church to carry me instead of taking cover beneath independence. I’m throwing off the ceilings of doubt and not fearing getting my hopes up.
I’m dreaming, unashamedly and without hesitation, of the new life we’ve been fighting for these last 20 months. I’m letting my heart long for the moment we celebrate a positive test. I’m dreaming of tiny feet inside of tiny shoes that I’ve been holding as I pray for the tiny human I long to meet. I’m dreaming of sweet snuggles and first words, of the blue eyes and big smiles that our babies are bound to have. I’m dreaming of who they will grow up to be, and the weight of glory they’ll carry.
I’m getting my hopes up, and I think you should too.
Maybe you’re longing for a spouse, and years of hope deferred has left you feeling empty. Maybe you’ve watched as friend after friend gets the promotion you’ve been believing for. Maybe you’re still fighting illness that you thought for sure would be gone by now. Maybe you’re wounded from a broken relationship or a death and your heart feels like it may never be back in one piece.
Whatever your story, your wilderness is real and your weariness is weighty. I see you over there, peeking with one eye out of the tent you made to shield yourself like I did. And I think it’s time we lose the tents, link arms and just keep walking.
Here’s to getting our hopes up, and to facing the wind and the rain together, because it just might be the way out of this wilderness. We can’t let our disappointment keep stealing our dreams.