I scrubbed crusty orange vomit from the white carpet stairs. How had I gotten to the place where I didn’t even have time to clean this up before it dried? For four years, two little boys had filled up my time and heart. I hadn’t exactly been desperate for another child.
Two boys seemed like a nice, even number. They could be each other’s best friend forever, making messes and getting each other into trouble.
My nose wrinkled at the acrid smell wafting through the stairwell.
Both boys had been born via unplanned C-section, and that was enough surgery for me. The world had enough troubles of its own without adding more middle-class consumers. That’s what I told God.
Then He spoke back.
One day I walked across the parking lot to the gym, and He whispered to my heart: let me give you a daughter.
The whisper was so clear, I stopped for a minute and looked around.
My heart pounded. I love my boys very much and would never trade them for girls (particularly during puberty!). But deep down, I think all women have a deep desire for a daughter; to pass on our learning, to be our friend in the twilight years, to share our traditions and our female experience.
I talked about it with my husband and we agreed that we would try again. Soon enough, the pink line was telling me to expect my little girl in under a year.
I didn’t share this experience with the boys, but the eldest knew it was going to be a sister. Isabel, he named her.
She would carry the name of my sister, killed in a car accident at 18. Here was redemption, restoration for the years the locusts had eaten.
Cubbie’s every prayer was full of thanks for his little sister, and we all rejoiced.
I skipped into my 20-week ultrasound appointment. These are the appointments where they guard their words very carefully until you sign a waiver saying that you have chosen to know the sex of the baby.
Minutes into my appointment, the tech started referring to my baby as “he”. My heart missed a few beats. My mind fogged. She chuckled self-consciously when she realized what she was doing, and asked if I wanted to know.
Yes. I held my breath as I waited for her to tell me that she always referred to the unborn ones as “he”.
No. The baby was a boy. Very obviously a boy. She was very, very certain.
I held it in until I got back into my van. I tried to drive home, but I had to pull into the Winners parking lot. In a parking lot frequented by girl-moms shopping for dresses and cute shoes, I raged.
I wept tears of shame at being duped, pounding my hands on the steering wheel out of frustration at being betrayed by the One who never betrays. Heartbroken at the loss of a dream given to me by the Dreamgiver. This was to be our last child, and it wasn’t the one God had promised.
No little girl to bear the name and face of the sister I lost a decade ago. No daughter with whom to share traditions and experiences. No pink. No sister for my boys. No Isabel Stephanie.
When I told our eldest son about the verdict, we fell to the kitchen floor, both of us weeping for the loss of that dream. A promise unfulfilled.
My mindset shifted.
I decided that I must have heard wrong; that was the only way I could reconcile the God I loved with what had happened.
I had been blessed with another incredible and healthy baby boy, and I had simply imagined the promise. I would be thankful for my gifts.
And I truly was thankful, at peace, and excited about our third son.
But I still had a wound in my heart. Deep down, under the layer of nonchalance, I felt like I had been tricked by God. To be tricked by a God who professes that He is the embodiment of LOVE is an awful thing to bear. The wound festered.
The promise was spoken. Again.
Someday, in a most surprising way, we would have a daughter.Those words were salve on the wound. They didn’t heal it, but they cleaned it up so healing could happen.
One afternoon, long after our precious third son was born and after I had recovered from the crusty vomit incident, I sat down with “Making it Home” by Emily T. Wierenga.
And there it was, the phrase that I struggled to keep at bay.
Tricked by God.
But Emily had a reminder that I desperately needed:
“God does not play tricks on us. You can trust him. He does allow us to walk through fires and floods and earthquakes and famines, yes, but he is right there with us, going through all of it at our side, because he cares.
He will never leave you or forsake you. He delights in you, sings over you, and desires to quiet you with his love. And we can say with confidence – we, a throng of women on bended knee – ‘I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)”
Could it be true? I wasn’t a crazy person hearing voices, and I also hadn’t been tricked.
The wound in my heart began to heal. I could still trust him.
Your disappointments might be far deeper than gender disappointment. You may have lost a spouse to cancer even though you believed in his healing. You may have given birth to a child that will never speak, or hear, or be able to give hugs.
Disappointment with God is a current that can run cold and deep.
But in the midst, can we hold onto these three enduring truths?
- God does not play dirty tricks on us.
- God does not play dirty tricks on us, because he loves us, and love doesn’t play dirty tricks.
- My inability to sense God’s love has no bearing on its existence. God’s love is there, whether I feel it or not.
I still wrestle with the incongruence of the promise. But I will choose to believe the promise that God has given me.
I will hold onto it until the years steal my memory or until I see its fulfillment.
There will be a daughter.
Maybe she will come into our family through adoption. Maybe God will give me leave to bear her myself. (Hopefully not when I’m 45!) Or maybe, in a fathomless place in the future, the wife of my third beloved son will be the daughter of my heart.
Like Abraham believing a promise for descendants in his old age, I will choose to believe in the impossible. Even if I have to choose it every day for a lifetime.
* * *
If you are a Christian parent today, you may also find yourself trying to reconcile the promises of God with a world that thinks you are crazy. But you are not alone. I have created a manifesto for Christian parents, which you can download here when you sign up for my weekly e-letter!
(and I must add, in case my son ever reads this, that you are so incredibly precious, and I wouldn’t trade you for a million daughters. You are not a mistake. I choose you and love you to the end of the universe…and back.)