In the immortal words of the Jedi-master: "Don't try. Do."

starwars.wikia.com Reams of paper line my office floor, information that needs to be transformed into a book.

A hopeful life change that looked promising is not happening.

I'm still hoping to find a regular spot to serve in ministry.

We are still in the same house we've been in since we married six years ago, though we've always said we would move.

And instead of filling the house with children, we've filled it with books. (Which kind of are my children, but that's for another post.) 

I can no longer say that we're in transition and believe myself because—you guys—we are still in this same space. Physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, it feels like we're staring at the same four walls. And so these emotions just spilled out the other day as my husband and I were talking. "I get so tired of trying sometimes," I said, in a moment of brutal honesty. To which he quipped: "In the words of Yoda: Don't try. Do!" 

Seriously?!? It was at this point that I wished I had watched Star Wars with my nephew.

I am so glad that God didn't create us to be successful, however you might define the word. He created me to be a reflection of him, to represent his interests of love and justice, to spread the news that Jesus is King and that he has love enough for all of us, every one. And his definition of success doesn't involve large-scale numbers and a bigger house; it doesn't require me to have children (even if I do desire them); it doesn't at all depend on whether I am leading or teaching publicly, using my gifts in a way that is noticed by others.

It hinges only on faithfulness. Showing up. Not trying, but actually doing something.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. -Matthew 25:34-36

As I look back over disappointments even in the last few weeks, the times that shine brightest are these:

  • Moving a friend experiencing homelessness into an apartment and witnessing her gratitude for shelter, bologna in the fridge, and a pillow and a blanket so she might sleep on the floor. Hearing that she slept soundly because she finally felt safe. And even more joy: I get to bring an old television with DVD player to her tonight and let her borrow some movies.
  • My husband and I visiting someone in the hospital, sharing, caring, and praying over him, for God's help and blessing in his life.
  • Sharing an in-depth conversation with a Brazilian student with whom we are trying to teach English. Answering his questions from a place of honesty and generosity, talking with him about the reality of racism and that I long to experience and model reconciliation.

In each and every situation, it felt like we were just showing up. Offering grace. Listening. Being present. Bearing witness to the love of Jesus in us and for us. It is likely the days will come when I will be ministering, writing, speaking and teaching in different ways. But just for today, I'm called to show up where I can and start doing something, anything I can, to inhabit this space. I want to swap trying for trusting and start doing.

Do you feel the same? What would it look like if you stopped trying and started doing something for the Kingdom today? (And...what is your favorite Yoda quote?)

Barren guilt by association

Welcome to barren Mondays, the place where our places of greatest barrenness—physically, emotionally or spiritually—provide fertile ground for the beauty of the Kingdom to break through. Two weeks ago my post titled  "Where does every infertile woman get a child?" revealed my grief in finding that in the Bible, the infertile woman always appears to get a child. This week, I discover the one exception. And in the next and final installment, I reveal how I am surprised to finally find comfort in the first chapters of Genesis.

***

Last week's post included this prayer, a cry of lament: Seriously, Lord, the women you trumpet as barren and dried up, depressed and despairing, the ones with no fruit on the vine, always get a baby in your Book? Seriously? And this is supposed to bring me comfort how? Could not one of them remain barren, could not one of them find a way to joy beyond childlessness, could not one of them be the poster child for a kind of spiritual fertility that makes the dried-up womb bearable somehow, redeem-able somehow?

After my initial discovery that every well-known barren woman in the Bible ended up with a baby (In Hannah's case, six of them!), I made another less-than-pleasing discovery. There was indeed a woman declared permanently barren in the Bible: Michal, the "obstinate" first wife of King David. 

Do you see where this is going?

2 Samuel 6:16, 20, 23, NRSV As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart . . . David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!” . . . And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.

(Note: 2 Samuel 21:8 is used by some to say she did indeed have children, but today's translations believe this reference was to her sister, Merab.)

David, the "man after God's own heart" was mistreated by his first wife, or so the story goes. I had always placed Michal in the category of Scripture's "bad girls of the Bible," believing from early Sunday School lessons that she dampened the praise David willingly offered to God, and obviously paid for it. She is the villain; David is the hero. End of story. So she gets no baby.

In this scenario, barrenness *appears* to be a punishment from God, making a barren woman like me feel a sort of "guilt by association."

If Michal is barren because she did something wrong, than I am barren because I've done something wrong, too. It is not hard to see how one might draw this conclusion, considering that every other woman in the Bible who mourned her barrenness received a baby!

Unless...we have misread our Bibles. (Say it isn't so!)

A closer look at the above passage has me asking, Where does it say God punished Michal by making her barren?

It does not. Perhaps instead of casting stones at Michal, we ought to look at the desperateness of her situation:

As for Michal, who can guess her emotions? She had loved David dearly during the short time she had been his wife in the rustic simplicity of her father's court. But to discover, on her arrival at Hebron, that she was only one of a number of wives in the royal harem would have been a bitter pill to swallow and cause her to wonder whether her return was an affair of the heart or a matter of politics. To have the daughter of Saul as wife would undoubtedly be a point in David's favor when he appealed to the men to change their allegiance. - The IVP Women's Bible Commentary

Oh, dear. This woman, whose name means "who is like God?" seems to have been played like a royal pawn between her father and her husband. She has returned to find David dancing after her father Saul had given her marriage for political favor to another until David demanded her back. She may not have been so opposed to David's dancing before the Lord as she was to being treated like a pawn rather than a person.

And here is where reality bites: it's quite possible that "Michal the daughter of Saul had no children until the day of her death" because a) David refused to be with her again; hey, he had options; and b) David wanted the lineage of Saul extinguished that he might gain favor with the people. Who is the victim in the story, then? Is it David—or Michal?

Let me just say it outright: polygamy never ends well in the Old Testament. 

As I've read the story of Michal through to its conclusion, my attitude on her barrenness has changed from one of anger at feeling lumped in with the Bible's well-known "praise-basher" to a wistful sadness. I wish her story would have played out differently, I wish she would have been treated as an image-bearer of the living God, I wish she would have had the agency and options in her life that I take for granted.

Michal and I are still in the same boat, of course, as far as childlessness goes. But I have the power of a resurrected Savior in front of me, surrounding me, promising me that there is new life in Christ, no matter how dried up the womb. For this, I find it hard to express my thanks. But I will try; yes, I will try.

How about you? How has reading someone's story helped you through a time of physical, emotional or spiritual barrenness?