Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
I sat at a restaurant table just a few months after the call listening to the chatter and laughter of 25 women. We came together to celebrate the impending birth of a mutual friend’s baby.
The tables were decorated with blue baby confetti, and bottles of sparkling apple cider were festooned with blue ribbons. Our friend was lovely even as she tried to hide the fatigue and discomfort that are an inevitable reality at 36 weeks pregnant. She beamed at the representation of love surrounding her. It was a beautiful sight. Generations of women, all of whom shared that precious gift of birth, sitting in little clusters eating and eagerly sharing their hopes for an easy delivery and a healthy baby.
And suddenly, I was transported back to 2003 and another evening filled with love and women circling around a pregnant sister in her final weeks before delivery.
I was so excited to be pregnant. We lost a baby between Ginny and Asher and my doctor decided to put me on a gentle dose of progesterone along with more regular check-ups to check on the baby’s development. So, when I sat in the middle of that room, with my belly swollen and occasionally rippling with movement, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect moment. My friends and family took turns lavishing me with gifts and sentiments. But most importantly, they prayed for me. Some chose to lay their hands gently on me – my shoulders, back, and even belly with the baby squirming inside me. They prayed for God to bless me, bless the child growing inside me, and bless Savannah and Ginny as we prepared to bring home that baby.
They also prayed, again and again in different voices and with different words, that our child would grow to be an honest, kind, trustworthy person of God who would ultimately share the love of Christ with the next generation.
We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. But Joseph and I longed for a son. We loved our girls, but we were excited by the idea of sharing our life with a boy. Someone to grow into a man under the love and leadership of Joseph. Someone to bring blue into our home. Someone to carry on our name and continue to bring redemption to the Reynolds line.
And then I was holding him. That sweet baby we named Asher.
I was suddenly brought out of my reverie by my friend’s sister-in-law offering her newborn to me. “Teeli, would you like to hold Evan?” I must have stared at her like she was speaking a foreign language. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I somehow excused myself from her kind gesture. Thankfully, Evan’s grandmother was sitting just to my side and quickly took the opportunity to dote on this tiny bundle of perfection. I was barely holding back my tears.
Then my friend’s mom asked everyone to quiet down so that we could pray. Pray for her daughter and this baby to be brought forth into a world broken from sin and darkness and evil. She asked that we pray for God to use the life of this boy in His plan to redeem a world lost in selfishness and hopelessness. She began praying and women moved to circle around this mother. They laid their hands on her shoulders, her back, and some even gently placed their hands on her swollen belly with her baby boy snuggled inside that place of deep mystery. They prayed for God’s blessing upon her, her child, and her three older children. Then they prayed for the heart of Christ to rest upon him and mark his steps from the first one to the last. In many different voices and in many different ways, they all prayed that he would grow to be an honest, kind, trustworthy man of God who would ultimately share the love of Christ with the next generation.
With the final amen, I quickly excused myself, citing an imaginary headache, and dashed out the door. I barely made it to my car before the sobs were coming fast. By the time I arrived home, my voice was hoarse from screaming my cries into that night.
All the moments holding Asher and nursing him to sleep flooded into my memory. His tiny, first steps and then his almost impossible desires to run the very next moment were crowding my thoughts. I could see his sleeping face awakening from sedation after a minor hospitalization when he was one. I could remember the eager smile, crooked with teeth pointed in all the wrong directions, when he hit his first baseball at a game. My mind raced through the moments when he brought me a bouquet of flowers from the weed patch next door – so proud that he was giving his momma something special. And then, just as quickly, I was swept up in remembering his look of terror when he came into our room covered in sweat from a nightmare.
And all that time, I was believing God that He was doing a work of blessing and purpose in our son. A work that we had prayed for and had prayed for us. A work that would continue to heal the generational wounds brought about by families of origin that didn’t make good choices. A work that would bring about redemption in a broken world.
Not a work that would break us.
Was I wrong to believe? Was I a fool to think that God listened to those prayers? What was the point of praying if this is how Asher’s life was going to turn out? I still don’t know the answers to those questions. But I must hope. I must believe that we are simply in the middle of the story. That this is not a tale of disillusionment. I must hold fast to the writer’s words in Proverbs 13:12 and remind myself that God knows this heartache, and He has not forgotten me.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.