Picture is of a photograph © by Anne Geddes
This is not going to be a light-hearted post. So if you're looking for something fluffy, funny or impersonal, please click past this one. This week marked the 9th anniversary of a decision I made that changed my life forever. One of those decisions that you can't go back and change your mind--no matter what happens and what you learn after the fact that might have led you to make the opposite decision.
"Empty Arms" is my story...it is also the story of Hannah, my favorite biblical character. This post will be my story; the next post (above this) will be Hannah's. The beginning of the "Empty Arms" story is when I originally wrote it a baby dedication Sunday several years ago...going through part of the grieving process that I might not ever be one of those couples who brings their precious baby in front of the church to dedicate him/her to the Lord.
Then later that year in a semester at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), the Old Testament Survey prof, Dr Ron Allen, lectured on I Samuel chapters 1 and 2. While I had heard the story of Hannah so many times, that time he told it, Dr Allen brought to life for me the story of Hannah and her desperate prayer for a child. As I listened, the Lord quietly whispered to my heart that “Empty Arms” had many similarities to Hannah’s anguished pleas. Since November 3, 2000 when I choose as a 27-year-old to have a (medically necessary) hysterectomy, my appreciation of Hannah’s story has grown significantly. While there is no doubt in my mind that the Lord has designed me to be a wife and mother, I know now that if there are children that are mine, they will not be from my body. The Lord has given me a dream of a precious baby girl that I will name Hannah Hope. She might be Asian, or might be Romanian—she could be red, brown, yellow, black or white! Her name is Hannah because I will have waited SO LONG for her. Her name is hope because the Lord gives me hope when He rekindles that dream within me.
This decision to have a hysterectomy obviously had life-altering implications. I had always dreamed of being a mother naturally, of some day (when the Lord provided the husband) giving birth to a wonderful miracle of life. I still desperately wanted to be a mother. However, since 1993 (when my endometriosis was discovered), I had sacrificed many things (in hindsight too many things) in order to save my ability to bear children. A best friend, a fiancé, and quality of life were among the most noticeable. But by far, the most devastating thing I sacrificed in order to save my childbearing ability was my dependence on my Shepherd. It was as if I was telling the Lord, “You can take anything and everything, except this.” Holding on to ANYTHING, be it a righteous, godly desire or not—is failing to depend on Christ for everything.
I know that my Shepherd knows the path I’ve chosen, and more than I desire to hold a baby, I do long to be cradled within His strong loving arms. I can honestly say today, more than 9 years after my surgery, He continues to heal and restore me in my brokenness. I still go through mourning periods, but the Lord has provided a wonderful way to fill my arms--for now. I keep babies in the nursery at church every week. Every time I hold a baby, I try to remember that it is not outside of the Lord's power (even at the age I am now) to give me my own child someday.
My Prayer of Desperation
Abba, God my Father
I come before your throne
Though I love you will all my heart, Lord,
There’s times I feel so very alone.
My empty arms are aching
For a precious little one
You know my heart, my Shepherd
And you know what I have done.
If I’d known then what I know now,
I’d have never made that choice,
But in your loving mercy
Through my pain I heard your voice.
Each time I see a baby, Lord
There’s sorrow in my heart
When I let my emotions take over,
I’m nearly torn apart.
Yet you’ve been patiently teaching me
To hold tight to your mighty hand;
As much as I long to hold my baby,
You long to hold me—oh, I scarce can understand!
My empty arms are hurting
But in the midst of the pain, I see
That only you are able
To fill this void inside of me.
So though my heart is fragile
And my flesh is only weak
Help me Lord to trust you—
It’s your heart only that I seek.
When I cling to my cares and troubles, my Jesus
I hinder your work in me
It’s only when I surrender my stubborn will
That you can begin to use me graciously.
So though my arms are empty
I praise you for your grace
In your sovereign time you’ll fill them, Lord—
Until then, I seek your face.
About a year after "Empty Arms" was written, I was at a DTS Women's retreat. The speaker, Gail Seidel, spoke about Naman's slave girl.Naman’s little slave girl was used greatly by God. She was in the midst of awful circumstances—as a slave she had no rights. Yet God used her in the life of Naman to bring him to faith in Yahweh. What this song means to me is that ALL children are a gift from the Lord who He desires to use greatly. Our children are not ours—they belong to God first; He has “loaned” them to us to instill in them the truths and values and love and character that will best make Him look great and get the most glory. Praise the Lord for the gift of a child’s smile, the softness of a baby’s skin and the joy they bring any time you’re in their presence!
A Song of Adopting Love
This little child, used by you
Greater things no one could do!
You plucked her up, out, and here—for me!
This precious life now yours, set free!
What a gift you’ve give your servant
My whole life up till now
My heart beat for you, Lord,
I knew you could—somehow!
This child, precious child--my arms enfold her sweetness, my lips caress her smile
Is there any reason you blessed this simple servant
With love so rich, so free?
No, my Lord Almighty—
It’s all you, NONE of me!
My life now has such purpose
My head now raised, I see
That all along you’ve loved me, so I’m here on bended knee.
She’s yours Lord and yours only—I give her up to Thee!
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” Ps. 37:4 NIV
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Eph. 3:20-21 NIV