It stayed at the bottom of the drawer for the longest time, buried under 20-or-so others.
Well, never by my son anyway. It was my nephew’s, and my sis-in-law graciously passed it on to us along with a box of other hand-me-downs. I’m always thrilled to get clothes from them, and this t-shirt was no exception. “He’ll wear it soon,” I thought. I was so excited for when he would.
I stuck it underneath all his other shirts though. It wasn’t time yet.
In March, I found out I was pregnant. Saw that + sign just days before I was scheduled to go visit my parents in North Carolina. Pulled out that long-awaited t-shirt and stuck it in the suitcase as I packed. I planned to have Isaac wear it the day after we arrived. To wait for my parents to notice and react. I was beside myself with excitement.
I started bleeding the night before we were supposed to leave for NC.
My pregnancy announcement looked very different than I’d planned. More like, “Mom and Dad, I’m pregnant but I think I’m miscarrying.”
Isaac never wore the shirt. It stayed in our suitcase.
Fast forward a week. I arrived home from NC. Unpacked the suitcase. The shirt went back in Isaac’s dresser with all the others.
And as I unpacked, I sensed this loving challenge from the Father: “Dana, don’t bury it. Don’t bury your hope.”
I wanted to put it in the bottom of the drawer. I didn’t want to notice it every day when I picked out clothes for my boy. Didn’t want the constant reminder of this massive longing, still unfulfilled.
But I obeyed the nudge. The shirt stayed near the top of the stacks.
In the last couple of weeks, 2 birth moms have chosen other families. Our adoption wait continues.
Again, the desire to bury the shirt underneath all the others. Out of sight, out of mind. And again, the choice to keep it near the top.
This Path Is SO Not Safe
Sunday at church, our pastor mentioned Hannah, from the Old Testament. How she waited and prayed and cried out to God continually for a son. For years. How she so acutely felt the longing for a child, that Eli, the temple priest, thought she was drunk as she poured out her heart to the Lord.
How she chose to hold her desires before God with an open heart. Chose not to allow bitterness to creep in.
Hannah had some serious courage.
It takes courage to allow an unmet longing to lie open before the Lord (Psalm 38:9). It takes courage to allow yourself to continue to feel the weight of your desires. To ache. To long. To weep. To wait. To hold out hope for what seems like an eternity.
Heart and hands shaking, I walked to the front of our sanctuary Sunday morning and shared what I feel is an invitation from the Lord to us who wait, to us whose God-given dreams have yet to become reality:
There is a unique intimacy with Jesus to be found here.
Allowing the depths of our longings to lie open before Him is a profound expression of trust in our God. Trust that He is holding our hearts, collecting our tears, gently sustaining us as we wait. Trust that He will catch and hold and tenderly mend all our broken pieces. That He will really, deeply be Enough for our hearts.
Shutting down our longings is much less risky. Numbness can feel like a safe zone. Feeling our longings is scary. We’re terrified the pain might be more than we can bear up under. Yet choosing the “safe” path means missing out on deepened trust. Missing out on knowing Him in the depth of intimate friendship that He so wants to extend to us in the place of our aching.
When we choose the safe path, a piece of our heart dies. Numbing ourselves to pain means numbing ourselves to joy, to love, to trust.
But the pain and risk of allowing our longings to lie open, raw before Him, become the open door that allows His comfort to come in and tenderly embrace our hearts.
The Sweetest Thing in the World
Why does God invite us to hold out hope for dreams that He might never choose to fulfill? I’d like to believe that when a dream aligns with God’s heart, He always promises to bring it to fruition if we wait long enough. But that’s not true.
He doesn’t always fulfill our dreams, or meet our expectations. Yet He asks us to hope.
And He works all things, all things, together for our good (Romans 8:28).
In the waiting, the longing, He is after our good. In inviting us to hope for dreams that may never come to fruition, He is after our good.
“How can this be? All things for my good? ALL THINGS? REALLY Lord!?” It’s the cry of my heart sometimes, in the moments when I wonder if part of me will be crushed by the pain of unfulfilled hope. Of continual disappointment.
But intimately knowing His nearness in our heart’s most tender places? It really IS our ultimate good.
And not in an “I know this must be what’s best for me so I’m just going to suck it up and choose to believe that it’s God’s will for me somehow” kind of way, either.
Friend, His comfort in the ache of those raw, unmet longings becomes the sweetest thing in the world.
It really does.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
Truly. Sweetly. Deeper than words. I am.
So the shirt will stay near the top of my son’s dresser drawer.
And hope will stay at the forefront of my heart.
By His sustaining grace, I will refuse to let it be buried.
To quote Brennan Manning in his book Ruthless Trust:
“To live without risk is to risk not living.”
I want a fully alive heart. And I want to know the depths of His heart. So I’ll say no to the safe path.
How about you?
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~~~A Brief Note~~~
One of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) EVER authors passed away last week. Brennan Manning wrote Abba’s Child and Ruthless Trust – 2 books that have wrecked me over the years, in a very good way. Abba’s Child in particular radically changed my life back in 2005. I’ve read it multiple times since.
A friend of my husband’s and mine wrote a great blog post highlighting and honoring Brennan’s life/writings. Very worth your read. I’m personally planning to read more of Brennan’s writings in the near future.
Anyway, here’s that blog post by our friend Josh. Have a look.
I’ll leave you with one more Brennan Manning quote, this one from Abba’s Child:
“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion. God’s love for you and His choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.”
This is my blessing for you all today. May you define yourself radically as one beloved by your Father. Because oh, how you are.