My mother got married at a young age, and she brought a simple dream to that marriage: she wanted to raise four kids. That was pretty much it. Yet six years into marriage, there were no children.
For six years, she repeatedly pleaded for God’s mercy, for Him to grant her a child. But in six years, the only child she conceived died in a painful miscarriage.
One night, in May of 1967, she watched the original Cheaper by the Dozen on television, not long after she had braved another childless Mother’s Day. After the movie was over, she retreated to her bedroom and began heaving with sobs, weeping for the child it appeared she would never have. Even so, with tears streaming down her face, she somehow had the composure to offer to God what she now calls her “prayer of relinquishment.”
“Father,” she said, “if You want me to have a baby, I very much want one; but if You don’t want me to have a baby, then I don’t ever want one.” And that’s all she said. She then genuinely let it go, never expecting to get pregnant, not needing to get pregnant.
We are all waiting on something. There are tons of eligible bachelorettes in Washington, D.C. who are simply waiting to be asked on a date. There are highly qualified people who have been wasting away in unemployment, waiting to get just one interview. There are parents who are waiting for their special needs child to say one word.
While we naturally find ourselves waiting on any number of things, Scripture actually leads us away from waiting on a change of circumstances. We are instead directed to “wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14).
If you’re like me, that verse may look and sound right, but it doesn’t always register in my heart when I am in the thick of waiting for some needed life change. I think being told to wait is especially hard to digest when our request is being made to God, who has told us, “Ask, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 11:9).
“Really?” we wonder. “So am I doing something wrong? If I do a better job of letting go, will I then get the thing for which I’ve asked?” Probably not. As my Uncle Jim says, “God doesn’t play games with us.” Sometimes I sort of wish He did, so there could be a way to collect enough points to gain what I want and bypass the waiting.
For a while now, I’ve been quietly and privately waiting for God to provide for me in one particular area of my life. Rather than try to figure out the formula for resolving this request (believe me, I’ve tried), I’m now simply aiming for following in my mom’s footsteps.
She tells me that when she prayed that prayer of relinquishment, she really did give up on having a baby. In fact, the next month, when certain signs would have led most women to think they were pregnant, she was so completely out of that mindset that she figured something was wrong with her. No, nothing was wrong. She was pregnant with my sister, Lawrie, who would eventually be the oldest of the four children my mom had given up on having.
As I’ve cried out to God for a change over which I seem to have no control, I keep reminding myself of my mom’s story. Doing so has helped me to stop waiting for the thing for which I’ve asked, and has led me instead to wait on Him.
I’m beginning – just beginning – to see that waiting on Him isn’t a burdensome journey. No, waiting on God is actually the destination, the point of this whole thing. And in Him, I’m discovering more love, more joy, and more peace in the midst of the wait; though to be quite frank, if God wants to go ahead and grant my long-running request, I’m still very much open to that. I guess waiting is, by its nature, a work in progress.