Step right up! Get your ticket to the ride that will give you loads of resilience, perseverance, trust, faith and incredible intimacy with God! Can you hear that carnival voice? It’s beckoning you to queue up for an experience that will make your relationships stronger, your spiritual eyes wiser, and your heart open to whatever God has in store for you. It exudes excitement and sounds so inviting, doesn’t it?
Don’t we all want strong faith, with a hefty dose of integrity, and a measure of humility? The appeal of the lights and sounds that come along with a stronger spiritual self is so attractive, and I know most of us would rush to that line! But, come take a closer look at what that line actually entails through the eyes of four young men who ended up in it.
These gentlemen approached the line independently and at different times. As they did, they noticed there were in fact, two lines; one that was crowded and barely moving, and the other with single and fast pass riders sailing through it. They veered toward the faster line, but were told that there was no guarantee that they would get all the appealing stuff that the carnival promised. All that “better self” stuff. All that “God” stuff.
As attractive as that was, they came with their wives to ride the roller coaster; to experience the thrill and delight of its speed, rattling turns, and exhilarating dips. In mutual agreement they headed toward the fast pass line, but were mysteriously declined. Instead, they were directed to the slow line with no end in sight, and no wait-time posted. They could walk away, but they really wanted to experience the roller coaster…so taking hold of each other’s hands they entered.
Little do they know that they just joined the labyrinth experience of the infertility journey. While this journey is taken as a couple, we seldom hear what it’s like for a man to shuffle through that line. Their voices are somewhat muted; mostly of their own accord because there is nothing but endearing respect for the deeper journey their wives experience. As I spoke with them, all gave extreme deference to their lovely brides and the load they carry; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The journey is different, yes, but the work of God in the human spirit is the same. This is a witness to the faith-shaping journey these guys didn’t choose. A journey that included the “better self” stuff, and the “God” stuff, but also stuff that impacted their identity, pride, and traps of masculinity.
Their testimonies of faith will inspire anyone undergoing any struggle. They agreed to share their stories in order to glorify God and to help other men in this line. Their experiences are both common and unique, but their responses to God are what’s really extraordinary.
The most striking commonality is that the infertility journey is not uncommon. There are many guys that silently traverse this line without any tangible spiritual support, such as Christian devotionals, etc. Although, common to all the men was the resource of prayer and people that kept them tethered to God and to hope. This is as much a story about community as it is about these remarkable individuals. It’s a reminder that God didn’t design us to struggle alone.
Danny’s time in that line was approximately 5 years from start to finish. Most of the men divided their timeline by degrees of seriousness and stress. Those factors were measured by powerlessness and not knowing.
A self-confessed fixer and problem-solver, the hardest part for Danny was not being able to take away his wife’s pain. He, like all the other guys, were gripped by helplessness and had to figure out a new gait as they moved through the line.
A quiet guy with a servant heart, you will usually find Danny “doing” something. While he turned his focus on serving his wife, both physically and emotionally, internally he found God inviting him to do less; to stop, listen, and lean into Him. From that posture he was able to distinguish the difference between what God was actually calling him to do, as opposed to what he “thought” God would want him to do.
By leaning in Danny experienced God through other people. This led our quiet guy to open up in safe spaces when someone asked him how he was doing. He came to realize that if he didn’t let others in, God couldn’t work through them. Multiple times he recounted how his small group ministered to him. Specifically, when he faced the end of the “treatment rope” and his anger welled, he was able to turn to them for prayers of peace.
He told me it’s pretty easy to be a Christian when life is easy. Like any other struggle it was a test of his faith. He shared, “The cycle of hope and disappointment slaps you in the face with a reminder every month. You can start to close your heart off to the hope. The cycle either hardens your fears or your faith – you have to choose which one you let it solidify.” Danny chose faith and that trust deepened his dependence on God. He fully surrendered to what God had planned and depended on prayer and people to help sustain his hope.
When asked what he would tell his pre-journey self, He said, “Trust God and act on small nudges – even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.” And when asked what he would tell his pre-journey self about God he replied, “God is who He says He is. When He promised you His peace, He will give you it if you ask for it. You may not get what you want when you want it, but God in His plan for your life does know what’s best for you. If you trust that, He will acknowledge and reward that trust, not necessarily with a baby, but with a deeper faith and trust in Him.”
Danny opened himself up to God and others and tells other men in this line to lean into their relationship with their wives and to go the extra mile to love on her. He concluded that it’s not about fault, it’s about holding hands as you walk through the line together…you, her and Jesus.
Both Nate and his wife tour musically in different bands – that’s like getting separated in that line a lot more than other couples. Despite that added challenge they embarked on a journey that has given him more words, and yet leaves him speechless.
Nate entered the line in support mode – he was there for his wife; to comfort and care for her. All the guy’s hearts were in this place, yet none of them imagined the waves of raucous emotions that would assail their hearts. Feelings of confusion, helplessness, sadness, anxiousness, fearfulness, hopefulness, disappointment, inadequacy, frustration, brokenness, longing and much more, bore deeply into their souls and made lasting impressions.
Some realized that they needed to spend time in their emotions for as long as was necessary to move through them. Most handled them by talking and taking walks with their wives, or exercise. However, Nate confessed that early on he held his feelings in a lot, even though he knew it wasn’t the best way to deal with it. His mindset was to focus on the real, simple, controllable aspects of the journey and to be the calm presence.
His intentions were commendable, but Nate would eventually see that he, too, would need support outside of his marriage. This evolved out of the shared support of other men that were ahead of him in this line. In a manner he didn’t seek out, a series of relationships formed via the wives in the line. These relationships opened a door to new and lasting emotional and spiritual growth.
When asked about what advice he would give other men in this line he said, “I would encourage them to talk to other men about ‘your side’ of the journey and to actually share how you feel about it.” He has seen how the shadow of shame can cast its shadow in these circumstances. He’s convinced that talking with others is what helps shed that shame.
Since this journey Nate says that one of the ways he has changed is that he now deals with his emotions. He is better at talking about his feelings because at some point he realized he just had to. This enhanced communication and the freedom to express himself emotionally has blessed him, as well as his marriage.
His spiritual walk has also changed – it became stronger. He spends more time praying specifically, instead of generally. He has established a routine of prayer during his 4:30 am morning commute. He said it wasn’t ever a question of “Why isn’t this happening?” or “What’s wrong?” instead he prayed, “This is hard…You have a plan…I trust You, God.”
Through prayer Nate found the call to “be” instead of “do”, as well. Unable to fix anything and even in the face of perceived unfairness, he trusted God, and as a result became better at not giving up. He told me it was a trusting through it, as well as a timing thing; and Nate knows God’s timing is perfect.
When asked what he’d tell his pre-journey self, he said, “When it’s hard, trust that it will be worth it!” He’d also tell his pre-journey self that God’s promises are true and His goodness is beyond what you can imagine! Nate’s time in line was almost 4 years and when I asked what he needed God to hear from his heart, he said. “There are no words, just the purest form of thankfulness.”
The first of the four guys to get into this line was Alec. Years ahead of the others he wishes that he would have found a way to enjoy his time in the line. Instead, he said he was all about “the plan” because all he wanted to do was fix it.
He explained that infertility isn’t about just having a baby. There are 40 million small decisions that require quick agreement, and then walking out that plan. So, from one plan to the next, they’d work it. However, he learned that the plan itself could become an idol. In his heart he heard God tell him to re-prioritize what he worshipped. From that point on Alec leaned in and embraced God’s plan for his life, even though it left him in that crowded line.
Alec had incredible insight about spending time in the line. He recognized that society doesn’t value waiting, but he learned that the wait is more important to God than the outcome, because that’s where God does His work. It’s in this space that God was calling him to really listen and learn. And what he learned was that God didn’t require extra spiritual diligence with Bible studies and reading plans, God just wanted his surrender. It brings to mind I Samuel 15:22, Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice. All the guys eventually arrived at this truth.
Alec knows God is in control and trusts that God’s plan will always exceed the plans we fashion ourselves, because God works in it and in us. He says, “Discovering what God has for us is found in that waiting period.” God weaves goodness into everything, we just have to challenge ourselves to see it in and out of the wait.
When asked what he would tell his pre-journey self he said: “Surrender the want. Learn in the wait. Trust in the end. God’s plan is far greater, with or without a baby.” I asked him what he’d want to tell God about this journey and he said, “I’m here to be used by you, God. For whatever your plan is.”
END OF THE LINE
Of our four guys, Danny, Nate and Alec made it through the line and have become fathers.
- For Danny, it was important that the journey not become his identity, but rather part of his faith story where God showed up supernaturally in their 3% odds.
- For Nate it’s been the biggest privilege to pray a child into existence. He knows he didn’t do that alone, everyone’s prayers counted and their son is a gift to the faith lives of all who desperately prayed for him.
- And Alec ended up walking through the line more than once. He walked away with eyes to see that maybe God had a greater plan for his two sons and daughter which required the wait.
They all went from hyper-focus to higher-focus and are allowing the journey to change how they are as parents. Faithful, humbled, surrendered and compassionate are just a few gifts these dads are modeling for their children.
Still making his way through the line, Blake and his wife actively choose to walk closely together. He tells me it’s a choice that takes effort because they realize this challenge could drive a wedge of resentment between them. Each couple had medical circumstances that created their challenge, but as Blake puts it, “It’s not something you get to apologize for. It’s not a mistake that someone made.” Blameless and loving is how they walk through the line.
Unfairness has been a burden that touched many of the couples as well. Blake and his wife work in social work and see people who don’t want their children. Nate mentioned the show 16 and Pregnant which brought to light that aching unfairness as well. When I asked Blake how you make sense of it all, he said, “Things don’t make sense – that’s the part that’s most difficult to reconcile. It’s not fair. The only way it can make sense is that glory is brought to God through our story. Whether we have a kid or not, we are committed that the joy and love in our life will be the same. It wouldn’t be faith if I got what I wanted right away. It would be easy faith, not hard faith.” He punctuated this point with, “What we feel is unfair is not equal to God’s trustworthiness.”
Let’s talk about hard faith. Blake learned that, “Faith is not easy – it’s a challenge. Faith in spite of unfairness is true faith. Faith in knowing what the outcome is (or will be) is not faith. Faith is knowing that God is good even when everything is going in the wrong direction.”
Pride was a regular character in each guys faith journey. It took on many forms. It’s relationship with sadness and brokenness is something Blake touched on. “In the beginning it was uncomfortable being prayed for. It felt like I was needy.” After 3 years in this line he now invites others to pray for him, with him and over him. Being open in that way has challenged him to be humbler and to spot other sneaky areas of pride.
I asked Blake what he would tell himself at the beginning of this journey. He said, “There’s so much value in the struggle. There are still blessings in the hard days, in what you will learn, and in the relationships you will have. The support you get from friends and family will change your life and you will be strengthened in dramatic ways.”
When asked what he would tell his pre-journey self about God, he said, “God is enough. Regardless of support and community, God is enough. Having a child will not make me complete, a great marriage won’t make me complete, I am only complete in Christ.” Blake wants God to know that He’s just so thankful and that his thankfulness is not dependent on receiving a child. Blake declares God trustworthy, and wants Him to know that he and his wife see Him in everything; in their incredible community, in each other, in their sadness and in their joy.
ALL THE GUYS
These guys may have entered the line on their feet, but they all ended on their knees. Their hopes to be fathers was a sacred offering to God for whatever God’s plan was for them. They laid their father identities down and held firm to being sons of God, and followers of Christ, first and foremost. Their faith was grown by force – it wasn’t growth by choice. But they all agree that they, and their marriages, wouldn’t be as strong if they would have had a baby on the first try. They have all seen God in ways that only loss and difficulty create, and they are resoundingly better for it.
They got the “better self” stuff: more compassion, empathy, resilience, communication, perseverance, self-awareness, and emotional perception. As well as the “God” stuff. Danny got God’s enduring peace that came through people, prayer, songs, and Scripture. Nate’s newfound perseverance has helped him with his learning curve as a dad. Alec has exercised his waiting skills on more than one occasion and has been blown away by God at every turn. And Blake stands in defiant joy, honoring God, and loving his wife.
Not everyone in this line will leave with a child. Not everyone’s faith or marriage will survive the monthly bouts of disappointment. Our guys didn’t know how anyone could wait in this line without Jesus. Their longsuffering gave them eyes to see more of Christ, and what they saw, they loved.
They saw the richness that comes in the wait, the spiritual intimacy that shapes us, and the surrender that strengthens our hold on an unfair world. At some point we all experience trials, challenges and suffering. Perhaps, instead of begrudging them, we recognize the riches that accompany them and take the time to reverently collect them.
Danny, Nate, Alec and Blake did just that. They show us who God is, what He can do and how much He wants to carry us through the line. His goodness, His trustworthiness, His care, His plan, His comfort, His joy, and His love have no boundaries. Mercifully, and most importantly, God is in every line. All we have to do is step right up to Him!
We all have trials. As a Christian Life Coach, I can help you move from where you are to where God wants you to be. If you’d like to get unstuck, then let’s chat. I’d love to support and encourage you!
If you are not currently a subscriber to my mailing list, sign up today and receive this month’s coaching resource that helps you dig deeper!