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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Praying for the “Have’s” When You’re a “Have-Not”

Hi Friends,

I'd like to share an article that I wrote for Radiant Magazine that many people are finding useful as they encounter situations where others have a type of life situation that they're longing for and yet don't have. This article is about infertility, but the principles are applicable to any have/have-not situation. I hope you'll find it useful too. So, here you go:

On the Infertility Journey
Praying for the “Have’s” When You’re a “Have-Not”

by Marlo Schalesky

Babies. Everywhere. In TV commercials, in strollers at the mall, in the arms of the woman in front of me at church, on the cover of my favorite magazine. It was enough to make me scream. Not that I didn’t like babies. I loved them -- so much so that my husband and I had been trying for years to have one of our own. But instead, all we got were endless trips to the infertility clinic, tests, procedures, more tests, and more procedures followed by phone calls from the nurse that too often began with “I’m sorry, but . . .”

I’d gotten another of those calls just that afternoon. So, as the sun began to slip behind the horizon, all I really wanted to do was forget – forget about cradles and bibs, diapers and rattles, everything that had to do with the baby I couldn’t seem to have. And the best way to do that was to drown my sorrows in a vat of salsa at my favorite Mexican restaurant.

But life conspired against me. There we were, seated at a table for two with gentle music drifting from the intercom overhead. A candle flickered merrily on the table before me. And best of all, we were the only customers in the whole place.

Then, it happened. The hostess led another couple to a table directly across from me. And of course, sitting on the table between the husband and wife, was a car seat holding a brand new baby. I couldn’t believe it. This was God’s fault.

“Well, it’s official,” my husband, Bryan, murmured. “God wants you to face this.”

I grimaced. “I don’t want to.”

“You don’t have a choice.”

I turned toward him. “Okay then, how do I find peace in a world filled with children not my own?”

The baby’s sharp cry interrupted our conversation. I turned to see her face bunch up as another wail rose from her tiny frame. A moment later, her mother looked as if she, too, were going to burst into tears. The woman turned to her husband and whispered, “I told you this would never work. We can’t go anywhere anymore.” She slammed down her menu, grabbed the baby’s car seat, and rushed toward the door. Her husband watched her go, then slowly set down his own menu, shook his head, and followed.

Bryan sighed. “It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “It’s absurd. You and I,” I tapped my finger on the table then pointed at Bryan, “understand better than anyone what a miracle a child is. Yet people like that, people who have no idea how blessed they are, have children when we don’t.”

“That’s not exactly what I meant. I didn’t mean we should be sad for us.”

“Who, then?”

“I was sad for them.”

“What?!” My eyebrows lifted toward the ceiling.

Bryan remained calm. “Don’t you think it’s sad that those people have a baby, but they don’t seem to be enjoying her, at least not right now. We should pray for them.”

“Pray for THEM???” My voice raised an octave as a hundred objections flew through my mind. I was the one who needed prayer. I was the one hurting. I was the one denied the miracle that they enjoyed. I was the one that Bryan should feel sorry for! I, I, I…the pattern of my thoughts struck me and left me breathless. I was thinking only of myself, my own pain, my own loss. And come to think of it, it was the same every time I saw a baby, or a child. Now, in a flash of understanding, I saw that this habit had done nothing but increase my pain.

What if, just for a change, the sight of a baby caused my vision to turn outward instead? What if I took Bryan’s advice and prayed for the parents of the children I saw? What if I prayed for the kids themselves?

Crazy! But I decided to try it anyway. “Okay, let’s do it.”

He smiled and I began, pushing the words through a throat that seemed suddenly too tight. “Lord, please help those parents to rely on You as they raise their baby. Help them know what a miracle a baby is and enjoy every minute with her, even when she’s crying. Strengthen them and give them wisdom in the days and years ahead. And bless the child, Lord.” I paused, unable to go on.
Bryan took up the prayer. “May she grow up to know You and love You. Amen.” His hand reached across the table to squeeze mine. “I think we’ve found your answer, or at least part of it.”

A faint smile fluttered across my face. “Maybe we have.”

From that day on, every time I saw a baby or a child, every time I again felt that painful tightening of grief in my chest, I stopped and offered a prayer for the child and parents. Sometimes the prayer was only a sentence long, and other times it lasted a few minutes, but I always asked for God’s grace and love to fill the family for whom I prayed.

So, while struggles such as infertility naturally lead me to pray for myself, my circumstances, and the perceived solution to my difficulties, I’ve also discovered that these struggles allow me a unique and significant opportunity to pray for others who have what I desire. For me, infertility has been a hard and heart-wrenching road, a path I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Therefore, it makes sense that I should thank God whenever I see others who have not had to endure this trial too. Further, because infertility has taught me the blessing and beauty of a new baby, it’s also given me a unique ability to pray with depth for families with small children. As I’ve done so, God has shown me how to change my prayer life so my prayers focus less on me and more on others. Now, when a mother passes with her stroller, or a dad holds his new baby at church, or a couple sits across from me with their carseat, their presence becomes less of a reminder of my pain and more of a opportunity to bless another.

The same is true for other difficult life journeys. A single person who desires to be married can pray for friends in significant relationships. Who else better understands the value of being in a close relationship than one who is desiring that? Those in troubled marriages, can pray for marriages that seem strong. Those who have lost a job can pray for others who still have theirs. Been through divorce? Pray for others that they won’t have to go through that same heartache.

Praying for the “haves” when you’re a “have-not” can be hard. But I’ve found that it helps to keep bitterness from settling in my soul. It helps to fight jealousy and despair. It helps me to love others and be less focused on myself. And I hope that it makes me more like Jesus. And that is even more precious than the baby I longed for.

For more helps for the infertility journey, check out the resources page on my website: http://www.marloschalesky.com/html/resources.html

And also check out my fiction and nonfiction books on this subject:
If Tomorrow Never Comes: http://www.marloschalesky.com/html/fiction.html
Empty Womb, Aching Heart: http://www.marloschalesky.com/html/nonfiction.html