May 19, 2011

An 8-year-old Promise

How fitting that I should read Psalm 78 this morning! The psalm lists examples of God's faithfulness to the Israelites from Jacob to Abraham to David as a reminder to  His children to trust, believe, and be thankful.

Today is my oldest son's 8th birthday. This boy has been a gift and a blessing to our family. He has also been a vessel for my growth; through him, I have learned about God's sovereignty and faithfulness. I am a big list maker so today provides an opportunity for me to reflect on and create a detailed list of how God has shown Himself strong in Will's life and in mine. This day also gives me an opportunity to tell others about Him, that I have tasted and seen that God is good.

In light of Psalm 78 and the day we're celebrating today, I want to share a story with you that I wrote a while back about Will to remind you that, no matter where you are or what you're doing or how life is going for you, God is faithful and you can trust Him. It's kind of long so grab a cup of coffee and get cozy.

I felt confident that when Kyle and I started trying to have a baby a few years after we were married, I would instantly get pregnant, the baby would be perfect and adored by all, and, after giving birth, my body would transform perfectly back to normal in a matter of days. In fact, I thought I just might even lose a few pounds and weigh less than when I got pregnant. The nursery would be magazine-worthy. Nursing would go by the book. I could practically phone in my order: “God, I’d like a boy. Let him be tall and good at sports. Amen.”

At this point in our lives, Kyle served as a college pastor at a church in College Station, Texas. In August of 2002, we took a group of our college students to Glorieta, New Mexico for a retreat with thousands of other college kids.  We listened to John Piper speak, worshiped with MercyMe each morning and evening, played volleyball, and went hiking in the afternoons. One evening, cool enough that the side doors of the sanctuary were opened and the mountain air flowed through, as the band played for a while after the message I began to pray, asking God for a baby. As much as I could plan, I knew He created life so I expressed my eagerness and anxiousness for Him to act, to give us the gift of a child.

As I prayed that evening, I felt God speaking to my heart, not in audible words, but in a sort of weight or impression that came suddenly and clearly: He was going to give us a child. I quickly sat down on the pew and scribbled in my journal His exact words imprinted on my heart: “You’re going to have a baby and this child will be a sign of my love for you.”

I often roll my eyes when, in the Bible, God speaks directly to His people and they immediately begin questioning or backpedaling or doubting, but that’s just what I did in that moment. I assumed that I probably just made it all up because I longed for a baby. So I did what Gideon did when God gave him clear directions. I said, “God, if it’s you, please give me a sign.” I wasn’t sure what confirmation I should be looking for. Gideon had used a fleece on the ground, but I didn’t have a sheepskin handy. 

Maybe a pregnancy test would magically appear in my hands with two solid pink lines.

I looked down at my stomach just in case I was already showing.


I looked over at my husband hoping God had told him too.


Then the band started in on the next worship song, which just so happened to be a song God had used on many occasions to speak words of peace and encouragement to me. Immediately, a sense of God’s nearness washed over me. Was that confirmation? It certainly felt like it, but I remained unconvinced.

I laid out the fleece again. By this time, the tears were flowing, which meant my nose was flowing too, so I excused myself and ran to the restroom. After being in the middle of a jam session, the quietness of the stale, pink-tiled restroom sobered me. Instead of going back to my seat, I stood just outside, enjoying the cool air as the music spilled through the open doors. As soon as I turned my eyes skyward to pray, I saw a shooting star fall toward the mountains. I’m no mystic, but the Lord impressed on my heart that this was His final answer. He had indulged my doubt and, after seeing that final sign, uncertainty slipped away. Besides, I figured asking one more time was pushing it.

God had promised me a baby! I told Kyle about my experience and, together, we cautiously waited, for lack of better words, for the fruit of our labor. Within the month, the final confirmation came in the form of a positive pregnancy test. God had made good on His promise. But of course He did. It’s just like Him to do that.

Soon after that baby, whom we named Will, turned 3, he was diagnosed with autism. That news changed our entire lives. Just a few years had passed since the sweet whisper promised the coming of a baby, a baby we would name Will. As we stepped into the unending depths that is grief, even further from my mind were the words that had followed God’s impression on my heart. They were hidden, almost lost, in my heart, covered by layers of confusion, anger, and pain: “This baby will be a sign of my love for you.”

That promise, that baby, that three-year-old, is now 8 years old. We have walked a difficult road with him, but now the path is smooth and joyful. He is a wonder and a delight. And God’s promise has come true: Will has been a sign of God’s love to me. Oh how faithful He is!

Happy Birthday, Will!