In my bible study, we've been studying the tabernacle and God's instructions to the nation of Israel on every tiny detail of constructing it. And the imagery in studying this has been awesome. The tabernacle, then, was the dwelling place of God. Since the cross, we are now a dwelling place of God. We have the honor of housing His Spirit.
"And who has also put His seal on us, and given us His Spirit in our hearts..." 2 Corinthians 1:22
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1
I learned that second verse in my 20's. I always thought it to be talking about physically, as in keeping yourself pure before marriage. It has a new meaning to me today, after hearing it in bible study last night. I think this verse reminds me that my body is a holy place, a place to reflect worship--no matter what is happening in my body, no matter what it does or doesn't do. All of me should reflect the Lord, and all parts of my life. In the last few weeks, I have been struggling with the reality of my body just not working correctly in the area of making, and sustaining/carrying babies. For different reasons, it all came up again in my mind...what I had been through, and how different my experience was compared to most of the people around me. I think it's part of the grieving/mourning process to revisit this often. And believe me, it's not something I keep wanting to revisit! But because of my experience, I don't think the same as I once did about any of it. It has been tough battling through my thoughts some days. And being a mother, and having friends who are all mothers, has meant conversations are often about pregnancy, birth plans, baby milestones, etc. Some days those topics are not sensitive to me. Some days they are, and I try to "tune" out certain parts of the conversation. Some days, those topics are suffocating and like tiny daggers to my heart, and I can't even stick around to try to tune them out.
So many things in motherhood stand as badges of honor for some strange reason. Pride is that reason I guess. And idolatry. I have so much boasting to do in the LORD when it comes to how I became a mother. But I don't tend to see it that way. I tend to see all the deficiencies in how I became a mother. It's like I wish I could boast in how I had 2 big healthy twin boys, rather than boasting in how the Lord tenderly taught and loved me through the early birth of my twin boys and the loss of one of them? How through the life of the one who lived, against the odds, and the healing he experienced through God's power encouraged and strengthened the faith of many people. I want to trade that? Really?? I mean it doesn't make sense. It's a trap I fall into. Like how the nation of Israel wanted to exchange their miracle-making, parting-the-red seas, providing-food-from-heaven God for a life-less, very limited god made of gold. The story God chose for me has so much more for me to be proud of and the best part is, NONE of it is a result of me or anything I did. The trap I fall in to is wanting to experience that "normal" miracle of the childbirth experience. I actually want to trade my extraordinary miracle birth experience with "normal". Really, it doesn't make sense at all. I mean God shows His glory through either experience. But I KNOW my relationship with Him is different, better, and deeper because of what He chose for me. And that is better. I do believe, however, there is a sense of pride you feel in having your plans turn out just as you wanted. And that's part of this struggle too, for me, is accepting over and over again that His plans were better than mine.
I think that sense of pride goes hand in hand with the lie I believe often, and many do I think, that we had something to do with anything in our lives that was a blessing, was easy, or has gone so perfectly. That those things happened that way because of us. Probably not. I believe that's the common grace of God. None of us "deserve" any of that. Well behaved children. Healthy babies at birth. Babies who sleep well. Athletic kids. Good jobs. Nice houses and cars. All things we tend to claim. Now we do play roles in that, for sure, but I think it's terribly easy to find affirmation and identity in those things, and to glorify yourself in those achievements. It can be easy to idolize those things. So whether it's been easy or a lack of easy--it all points to God. Whether it's 3 babies in 3 years or none after trying 3 years, it points to Him. Whether it's husbands having amazing careers or being jobless, it points to Him. Regardless of the scenario, God can use it and refine us by it.
I also think I've struggled with being so hurt by the whole getting pregnant, having healthy babies thing because since I can't do that well, I think and believe that my body is not sufficient. Not good enough, and that it's up to me, and I fail at that. This is hard to accept! I don't know how else to say that. The book Ache for a Child by Debra Bridwell, she says "He created us in His image with many of His attributes. It should come as no surprise that we share His desire to create. It's no wonder we can feel jarred and confused when we are unable to fulfill it." But, the truth is, it was never up to me. And, it was never in my control. I should not seek nor get any credit for creating and sustaining a life inside me. I know the root of this struggle is I never truly stopped idolizing that. That's the ugly, bottom line truth. So, I have been praying for God to change my heart- again. For Him to show me Truth, remind me He's better and that I can and should only boast in Him, for perspective, and most importantly, grace for others. It's exhausting to keep dealing with the same ugly emotions again and again. I get so frustrated with that. I mean, Asher is 14 mo old. Shouldn't I be over the trauma of Asher's early birth and the loss of Titus and the fact that I don't ovulate well? The answer, I think, is no. I don't know that I'll ever be totally "over" it. But healed? I hope so. I haven't been good about asking God to continually heal my heart. I've been arrogant to think "I'm done with that." I have had many moments where I have felt healed. But, I can easily forget it's a process. This former teacher likes to check things off the list and move on! Then, something I heard at bible study last night was really the icing on the cake as far as what Truth God has been trying to tell me, over and over again, since I began my struggle to becoming a mother.
Jen Wilkins is teaching the Exodus bible study I'm doing. She is very gifted in speaking, teaching, and communicating with women. You can check out her blog here. Here is the quote from last night's teaching that blew my heart up:
"You are the tabernacle, and if we live long enough, this tent of a body will loose the ability to do things it could once do. What if my body reached a point where all it could do is what it should have been doing all along- giving glory to God, and no longer being able to chase after lesser things? The tabernacle had specific instructions for it's design. It was perfectly made. The bible says 'how lovely is Your dwelling place'. May every stretch mark, wrinkle, every thing that is not working, point to the glory of God because the Lord has made his dwelling in us."
So, can I think of this body of mine as lovely? This body that fails to do the one thing it was first designed to? Can I accept I was perfectly made? I often thought of those statements as referring to insecurities about physical appearance. It is a new idea to me to think of it in light of how my body doesn't conceive or carry babies well. Does that point to the glory of God? Can crazy cycles, no periods, miscarriages, an incompetent cervix, and pre-term birth point to the glory of God? (Deep breath/sigh) ABSOLUTELY. If I choose to see that and do that. What about your body frustrates you? Getting older? Everything getting looser? New health issues? Extra weight? Stretch marks? The same is true. Perfectly made. Lovely. A dwelling place, a house of worship reflecting the Lord--with all it's imperfections, pointing to the Lord.
The fact that Asher came from me, came dangerously early, and that we lost 3 babies in the process of trying to have one points to the glory of God -- a million times more than one uneventful pregnancy with a healthy baby would have. Oh I need SO much grace for my forgetfulness and stubborness! I am also like Israel in Exodus. They were quick to forget what God had done. They quickly idolized lesser things. Pretty easy to judge people who start worshipping a golden calf right? We think, that's so dumb! However, the things that subtly slip into our minds that we worship are just as dumb. Just as ridiculous as that golden calf in comparison to an all-knowing, infinitely gracious God, the gifts He's given, and all He has to offer. How many times can I learn this and forget this? How long will it take to shatter the idol of getting pregnant easily and having full term babies? I guess as long as I choose to believe that's better than God. I'm thankful for His grace as I continuously wrestle with it all. I'm thankful He sticks with me as I have high moments of conquering that idol, and then low moments of letting it rule me all over again. I'm thankful for the Truth that says He has made you and I perfect. Just as He planned. He didn't make any mistakes.
No mistakes here. This little guy and his story were perfectly planned. His creation, birth, and healing point to God alone.