When God Removes Your Shelter
I haven’t written in a while, mostly because I don’t know what to write. I still have moments and days when the reality of the hardship I have been through rears its ugly head and I feel the pain all over again - the pain of struggling to get pregnant when it happens to others so easily, the pain of losing four babies before ever getting to meet them. But most days I’m blissfully happy - even though I feel like I’m in some kind of limbo. I’m happy to be pregnant, so happy, but anxious to deliver this baby, bring her home, and feel a little bit “safer.”
I’m not sure how much to write about what because I know that many of my readers are sweet women who are struggling through infertility or recurrent miscarriages or have recently lost a baby. I’m sure they aren’t too interested in ready my pregnancy updates or seeing pictures of an almost complete nursery. So I just haven’t written much at all.
But today I came across this story in my devotions and it was so meaningful to me. I could picture myself in this story. And I wanted to share it.
(Side note: If you don’t have a copy of Streams In The Desert you should get one! I have an app on my iPad but you can buy the book or get an ebook version of it. It offers a short devotional each day to remind us of the streams God places in our path even when we are in the desert, feeling alone. Please get a copy of this book! The following story is an excerpt from the September 30th entry.)
“There once was a little plant that was small and whose growth was stunted, for it lived under the shade of a giant oak tree. The little plant valued the shade that covered it and highly regarded the quiet rest that its noble friend provided. Yet there was a greater blessing prepared for this little plant.
One day a woodsman entered the forest with a sharp ax and felled the giant oak. The little plant began to weep, crying out, “My shelter has been taken away. Now every fierce wind will blow on me, and every storm will seek to uproot me!”
The guardian angel of the little plant responded, “No! Now the sun will shine and showers will fall on you more abundantly than ever before. Now your stunted form will spring up into loveliness, and your flowers, which could never have grown to full perfection in the shade, will laugh in the sunshine. And people in amazement will say, ‘Look how that plant has grown! How gloriously beautiful it has become by removing that which was its shade and delight!’”
And so it was with me. I have always been kind of naive in the sense that I expect the best. I assume that things will go easily for me. When something I have expected to happen doesn’t, I am surprised and wonder what is going on. That’s how it was when it came to the family I had planned out for myself. When I lost my very first baby, I was confused, but then God gave us our daughter very soon afterwards. At first, the first loss seemed like a hiccup - a mistake. It was painful and sad, but I moved on quickly.
Then, the months and months of trying for another child happened. As each month passed I grew more worried. I asked God what He was doing and why He wasn’t giving me a child. Was it wrong for me to want a child? Of course not! But God had a greater plan that I couldn’t see. He was removing my shelter. And like the little plant, I didn’t understand. The months turned into a two-year journey in pain and sorrow. Diagnosed fertility issues, the words “secondary infertility,” a second ectopic pregnancy and surgery, a fallopian tube removed, and all of this followed by back-to-back miscarriages. I felt that it was more than I could bear.
I cried and begged God to return my shelter. But over time God showed me the way the shelter had been inhibiting my growth. You see, when I was sheltered it was easy to be selfish. My focus was on myself. I couldn’t really see much more than my own little corner of the world. I lived inside myself. Sure, I tried to be a “good person” and I was faithful to my church and to the Lord. But I couldn’t see very far and I wasn’t growing much.
Something I have said and thought many times in the last few months is how much more I like myself now than I did two and three years ago. Oh goodness, I still have a long way to go, but I also have plenty of room to do the growing that I still need to do. When God removed my shelter, it was hard, it was painful, I felt every drop of rain and every gust of wind. The bad news was my lightning, the losses were my thunder, and I was terrified. But God showed me that if I would just stand tall and keep trusting Him, I could grow through all of this. I could become better.
Looking back, I think, What if I had just fallen over and given up? I have seen people do that. The first gust of wind that blows causes them to just quit trying. Nursing an almost-dead plant back to life is nearly impossible. But if, instead of lying down, you choose to stand firm and trust God to help you survive the storm, you’ll learn that with each gust of wind that you withstand, you become a little stronger. With each drop of rain that falls, you grow taller. And if you keep trusting in God’s plan, even when it seems to make no sense and you are hurting, eventually the sun will come out and your flowers will bloom.
Do you know what I think the purpose of those flowers is? To glorify God. Maybe your smile at the end of a trial is one of your flowers. Maybe you have been able to be a blessing to someone else because now you understand what they are going through. That’s another flower. Maybe your attitude is better now than it was before your difficult time - another flower. I look at this pregnancy and realize that it is a beautiful flower that God spent more than two years preparing. And I have learned to treasure this gift in a way I could never have even comprehended before, because of what God has allowed in my life.
If I could go back and somehow magically change my story, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t have said that a year ago or even six months ago. I was hurting and heartbroken. I couldn’t see where my story was leading me. But I really do like this new version of me so much better. And I know that God had a purpose in my suffering and that He had a purpose for each of the babies that He claimed so early. And now I am able to rejoice in the Lord and in His will for my life!
If you are going through a stormy time in your life, I urge you to stand fast and trust the Lord. Know that He has something different for you than you had planned for yourself - a better blessing. Becoming bitter and angry will not help, rather it will take you backwards and create even more pain and trouble in your life. You can’t see the end of this storm, but God can, and if you hold fast to Him and keep moving forward, He will guide you to a more beautiful story than you could have imagined. Claim your better blessing; don’t waste your pain!