There's a box in my room. A recipe box. Blue. Translucent. Etched in cheap silver metal. And it hasn't been opened in over six months.
When I bought the box my heart was filled with dreams. Overflowing with hope for the future and faith in a God of miracles, I lovingly wrote the names of my loved ones on index cards and tucked them away there for safe-keeping. My secret prayers.
The box symbolized a season of new faith in God's Word, God's love, and the power of prayer. Challenged to believe in a God Who could and would meet all of my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus, I hand-selected private prayers for each of the people I love most in this world.
For a month I faithfully prayed for God to help my boys love to read. I joyfully pleaded with Him to provide us with a car (after I wrecked the one we had). I wholeheartedly believed in His ability to bring healing to my loved ones and provide for their needs. And I petitioned Him to breathe life, and health, and peace into the heart of the tiny baby I carried next to my heart that no one really seemed to be excited about but us.
In early September of 2011 we went in to the OB's office for a regular seven-week maternity check-up. I had been feeling much worse with this pregnancy than with either of the two before it. I was drained, and nauseas as we waited to be seen, and remember telling my OB that the morning sickness just felt worse this time. He joked and said it was probably because I had two other small children to take care of. I thought he was probably right.
We made our way to the ultrasound room and prepared to meet our newest addition for the first time. However, it was apparent to me within the first few moments that something was wrong. After several twists of the wand and pushes of the button, the sonographer, a friend of ours, turned to me with tears in her eyes and broke the news: this baby was no longer with us.
On September 20, 2011, our third child slipped from my womb into eternity with God, and I haven't opened my prayer box since.
Closing the Lid
The day we lost our baby, I closed the lid on my dreams and locked away my secret prayers for him inside of a cheap blue recipe box. My closest friends and my precious husband took good care of me, and God continued to provide for my needs, even answering the desire of my heart to miscarry naturally. There were constant signs of His love and care for us during that season of loss, but a part of my heart closed that day with the box. I put away my dream of having three boys, embraced all of the good God had already given me, and closed the lid.
I appeared to be managing the grief well to those around me. But the depth of my prayer life took a hit, and a pervasive cynicism crept into my heart, replacing my faith in the God who could move mountains. I was shaken, and no longer sure God would come when I called.
I imagine Mary must have felt a bit like that when Jesus finally came to her after Lazarus's death. They'd sent word to Jesus four days prior that their brother was sick and needed the Savior's attention. But he hadn't come. By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus's body had already started to rot, and in Mary's eyes, all hope for his life was gone. This Mary who had once so eagerly embraced Jesus, just maybe found herself feeling abandoned by the Man she once believed could do anything. We read about it in John 11.
"So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house." ~John 11:20
Mary, the one Jesus once praised for sitting at His feet. Mary, the one who neglected serving to share in the Master's teaching. Mary, the one who opened her heart to Jesus so deeply, now sat unmoved by His presence.
I believe it was because she no longer trusted Him with her heart. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible states that Mary "was so overwhelmed with sorrow that she did not care to stir, choosing rather to indulge her sorrow, and to sit poring upon her affliction, and saying, I do well to mourn."
I Do Well to Mourn
Mary had lost heart. And while scripture doesn't give us an inside look at exactly what she felt, it's easy to deduce that she felt abandoned, alone, and angry with her Jesus. I felt each of those emotions in the wake of my miscarriage. I still believed that God was good, but I closed off the place of radical belief in His desire to be good to me. I quit dreaming. Quit hoping. And just sat still, basking in what goodness He had already given, refusing to dream that He might give it again.
My radical faith had gone in mourning.
I've written about the losses my family endured during a particular season many times. In a span of just six years I lost two favorite uncles, my grandfather, a favorite aunt, and a friend. The miscarriage seemed to be the icing on the cake.
Maybe the lid to my prayer box had been slowly closing all that time, and the miscarriage locked it. After living a fairly uneventful life, losing six people in six years nearly did me in. Add to that the disciplines of daily life, homeschooling two rambunctious boys also born in that season of loss, and dealing with the stress of a husband who works shift-work, and you get an ugly but clear picture of all that lurked beneath the surface of my heart just waiting for whatever it took to put me over the edge.
It was a difficult, but necessary place for me to dwell, and losing so much in such a short span of time forced me to ask the tough questions about life. I looked deeply at the cross, and wondered again, "If God never answered another prayer for me, if He never met another need, would His gift of Jesus and my salvation be enough?"
I answered hard questions, like why anyone would want to serve a God who allows their pain, and decided that even if I felt like giving up on my faith I couldn't, because I had come to know and believe that Jesus was the Christ and had the words of life. If I wanted life at all, it would have to come through His hands. . .the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Question: Have you ever doubted God? Ever found yourself so hurt by life that you quit dreaming? Quit hoping for answers to your prayers?
Follow the rest of the story?
Brooke McGlothlin is a a writer, word-prayer, photo-maker, and boy-raiser who knows that if God doesn’t show up, nothing happens. She's the mom of two young boys who leave her desperate for God’s grace, and is married to the man she’s had a crush on since the third grade. She’s the Editor and Co-founder of the MOB Society (FOR moms of boys, BY moms of boys), author of Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most, Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess, and creator of the 21 Days of Prayer for Sons. You can find her writing at her personal blog, Surprised By Life.