These days, when I look into the mirror, I am noticing more and more gray hairs. They catch the light and glimmer like unwanted decorations on my head. My heart sinks at these reminders of advancing age. What keeps coming to mind is a phrase from a Michael Card song, “gray hair and babies leave no room for hope.” The song is about Abraham and Sarah having Isaac, but I have neither a husband nor a promise. I dream of being a mother. It is a desire that has been with me since childhood. I know that I can trust God, but my faith and trust in Him isn’t about believing that He will make my dream come true. Instead, it is centered on believing that He knows the desires of my heart, and He knows what is best for me.
Christmastime makes me feel my barrenness more deeply. Family is not what Christmas is supposed to be about, but it is what so many of our man-made traditions have made it about. While I try to set my heart on my Savior, everywhere I see and hear the reminders of what I am missing. Recently, a pastor I was listening to asked which part of the Christmas story was our favorite. He listed a few different parts of the Gospel narratives as suggestions, but he didn’t mention my favorite. What immediately came to my mind was the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. It is a New Testament story of ‘gray hair and babies.’ I love this couple who lived so long ago, and experienced a sadness that I can understand, in part.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
What has always struck me most about Zechariah and Elizabeth, is Luke’s description of them as righteous. If the shame and reproach of their childlessness had embittered them, they would not have been described as “walking blamelessly.” Anger and bitterness are such an easy option when life doesn’t go as you plan. But this couple managed to keep their disappointment and the opinions of others from hardening their hearts. I want to have that kind of faithful attitude. Elizabeth’s heart for God was further evidenced in her response to her pregnancy. We don’t know how everything happened, as far as Elizabeth realizing she was pregnant. Certainly, her mute husband had found a way to communicate to her everything the angel had said. Even before her pregnancy was noticeable to others, she would have known that her reproach was being taken away. You would think she would have been running out as soon as there was any noticeable “baby bump” that she could show to prove her condition. But there was no boasting or public show of triumph. She hid herself away for five months. And it seems that the purpose of this was focused on gratitude and devotion to God.
In 1 Samuel, Hannah made a covenant with God that if He would give her a son, she would give that son back to Him to serve Him. Elizabeth made no such bargain, yet it seems that she gave those first five months to God. Rather than being anxious to reveal herself, she patiently waited with God, knowing that the matter would be revealed at the right time. Her response shows the wisdom that comes with age, rather than the giddy indiscretion of youth. I hope that if God changes my circumstances, I will respond with grace similar to Elizabeth’s. All of my years of attending wedding and baby showers have given me a desire to celebrate life’s blessings quietly with my Savior. I don’t know if I could pull it off, but I am tired of hoopla!
And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:34b-35
I am not banking on any miracles. The sadness of lost dreams is with me, yet everything around me points to the fact that I am already blessed. When I hear people detailing their holiday plans filled with children and grandchildren, my family seems small. I think of how my parents have fewer grandchildren than children. I always thought that I would give them a son-in-law and share children with them. Instead, the single life affords me the time and energy to help them with whatever projects need done on their house. God knows best.
What is most important for me to remember, is to devote myself to God and seek His will for my life. At different times in my life, I have had people tell me that if I want to have a baby, I should just have a baby. It is similar to those who say that if I really wanted to be married, I could be. The word for this is compromise, and I refuse to. I follow Christ and not my own heart. That means that I have turned from walking my own path to walk His. I know that going against God’s design for how I should live will not make me happy. So, I need to put down the tweezers and forget about the gray hairs. Then, I need to figure out what God wants me to be working on and lean in. It doesn’t erase the desires of my heart, but it brings me joy, even amidst the inevitable sorrows of life.