I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.
“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"
The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”
Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?
What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?
There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.
Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.
I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:
“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”
To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house."
Today, Courtney Reissig shares her story on the blog.
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I wanted a baby. And like so many, I haven’t gotten everything I have ever wanted. I’m finally starting to appreciate that. Like the old Garth Brooks’ song croons, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” I have been the recipient of said gifts.
The Bible says it is good to desire children. Children are a blessing (Ps. 127:3). Jesus went so far as to make children part of his ministry (Matt. 19:13-14, Mark 10:14). Yet so many women must daily reconcile this strong, God-given desire with the sad reality of a negative pregnancy test. If children are so good, why is it so dang hard to have them sometimes? And many times, those who have them with relative ease don’t want the brood of children that comes to them so naturally.
I remember so clearly sitting in the office of a reproductive specialist as he looked at my husband and me and said with sarcastic clarity, “If you were 16 and on drugs, you would have 10 babies by now.” But we weren’t 16 or on drugs. We were in our late twenties and seemingly infertile. It was a case of devastating irony.
Those words stung. So did the words, “There is no heartbeat” that I have heard twice now. My road to motherhood has been marked with pain and confusion. But it has also been the source of my greatest blessing.
After Joseph spent years in captivity in a land not his own, he finally saw the realization of what God revealed to him as a teenager. But it was not without great cost. Surely, in the midst of false accusations, prison time, and general loneliness over his complete abandonment from his family it was hard to see that God was still there, let alone working in his seemingly cursed life. But he was. And while we aren’t given any insight to know if Joseph knew that in the midst of it all (though we know he remained faithful to God), we do know what he believed at the end of it. What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen. 50:20). The very suffering that threatened to undo him was the means for God to not only bless Joseph, but bless his entire family as well.
I can relate. For me, the very thing that caused me the greatest pain to date was what God used to bring me the greatest joy in him. By not giving me the desires of my heart he was changing my heart to treasure him more than anything this world (or my body) had to offer me. He filled the void left by an empty womb with fruitfulness and contentment I never could have conjured up on my own.
Failing to receive what I thought would give me the greatest earthly happiness was a blessing in disguise. God has brought me through a journey of shifting my desires to align with him. For however well-intentioned they may have started, they ultimately must fall in line with his good purposes for me.
I’ve heard it said that there are a million details happening behind the curtain of our lives, details that show us that every missed desire, every broken dream, every dashed hope really are working for our good. There are a myriad of things that keep us from seeing this reality, but that does not change that those details still exist.
So how did my story of desire end?
I didn’t get one baby. I got two. One miscarriage, two years of uncertainty, one surgery, and a lot of treatment, led to two unexpected little baby boys. But it was more than that. In those years of waiting I saw another desire emerge, one that was met with fulfillment and blessing. I wanted a baby and I got God instead.
In the wake of a delayed desire, God was giving me a better portion.
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Courtney Reissig is a wife, freelance writer, blogger, and teacher. She was born in California, grew up in Texas, and did a couple of stints in Michigan before finally graduating from Northwestern College (MN). After doing some graduate study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, she met her husband and fell in love, and they now make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can read more of her writing on her blog or follow her on Twitter @courtneyreissig.