Jun 02, 2014
Our guest blogger, Brian Rhodes, served as the pastor of fine arts and worship at the Dillon Church of God for 10 years, has been involved in full-time ministry for 15 years, and is currently working on writing his first book. He is married to his college sweetheart and has two children adopted through BCS.
We have all heard the adage, “You are a product of your environment.” While this may not necessarily be a true statement for everyone, it rings true in my life. I was extremely blessed to have grown up in a loving Christian home with strong moral values. Without realizing it, I began patterning my life, my actions, my reactions and more by what I experienced. One very important lesson I learned early is that things don’t always turn out the way we expect or desire. Yet even knowing this fact does not always prepare you for the curve balls life may throw at you.
I grew up in a two-parent, two-child household, watching my dad leave for work every day while my mom stayed at home and took care of my brother and me in addition to babysitting the children of friends and family members. Even years later, when we tragically lost my mother and my father remarried, it seemed that formula of “family” remained the same. Interestingly enough, my stepmother also kept children in our home.
Though I only had one biological sibling, I enjoyed the company of other, mostly younger, children in my life. I believe that in those moments a seed was planted that would grow to become my ever-longing desire to have children of my own.
Being the “big brother,” much was expected of me, and I gladly rose to the occasion. I realized the many similarities between being a father and being the big-brother-protector. Those similarities became the connecting factor in becoming a parent. Even during my years of dating and looking for “her,” I was always keenly aware I was looking for the mother of my children, and I had no shame in my search for such.
God placed one of His most beautiful creatures, both inside and out, in my path during my college years. We would later marry in a wonderful, beautiful ceremony on a hot summer day in July 2002. My wife was fully aware my desire for a family, thanks to our numerous conversations about it. Upon reaching our one-year anniversary, together we decided that it was time to start “trying.”
For many months we would become excited about a possible pregnancy only to be disappointed by yet another negative pregnancy test. Our hopes were constantly crushed. As a man, such news felt like a punch to the gut month after month. I continued to question God, yet as a minister, I knew I was to trust and believe in Him, and He would “work all things for my good.” In those moments, our situation felt like a cruel joke.
After about 18 months or so, we began the medical process of finding out where the issue existed. I was under the impression that infertility was predominately “the wife’s issue.” Yet early in the process we realized that “our” problem was really “my” problem. Although my wife never made me feel anything but loved and accepted, my own self-esteem and confidence hit rock bottom. We were immediately referred to a fertility specialist.
Even in the midst of my embarrassment, being in a specialist’s office gave me some hope. I still had faith that I would have biological children. I had always been strongly drawn to the idea of adoption, but I never expected to walk that road so soon.
Through all of our ups and downs, I specifically remember concentrating on the story of Hannah from the Bible. Though I am a man, I could feel her pain and related to her on a very real level. I would find myself privately pouring out my heart to God while feeling anguish about the issues related to our infertility, much like Hannah.
Although not literally, I felt taunted at every turn with my inability produce a “seed.” It seemed that all of our friends, family, and countless others where experiencing the joy of childbirth while we sat on the sidelines as observers. I cannot speak for my wife but, in those moments, I personally felt forgotten by God.
With the doctor’s help, we muddled through our options and decided to attempt IVF. Because of my issues, I needed to be operated on first for my “retrieval” followed by my wife’s procedure to harvest her eggs. What happened next was probably what I consider one of the darkest moments and/or days of my life.
I can still picture the doctor as she entered the room after my surgery. With a frown on her face and a statement directed at me she said, “I’m sorry, there was nothing to be retrieved. The road ends here.”
There we were, left to pick up the pieces and leave…with nothing.
It felt like all of the stories I had heard others tell about a miscarriage. I felt as if we were being punished—or worse—my wife was being punished because of something I had done. All the pills, shots, and more…were all for nothing. My heart was breaking, and all I wanted to do was scream, “Why, God? WHY?”
As a minister, it was my job to help others find and/or achieve their own healing, but in that moment, I felt alone. I had counseled countless others, so I knew all the biblical answers. I was fully aware of the passages of Scripture that bring encouragement but, truthfully, seemingly nothing but the object of my desires could have brought me solace.
Although my wife was by my side and our families were in the waiting room, I was so alone. Even worse, I was the cause for someone else’s pain. The woman whom I loved was now seemingly unable to fulfill her own desire to become a mother.
In the days ahead, the devil tormented me in ways I was unaware he was even capable of doing. Looking back, my heart and mind shudder to think about the darkness I experienced. I felt alone, but I really wasn’t. God had been walking beside me the entire time.
The “author and finisher” of my faith had never left me. He was only doing what He had set out to do all along—lead me down the path He had chosen for me. At that time I could not focus on anything but my own preconceived expectations. God was only doing what I had asked and allowed Him to do many years prior—to guide and direct my life…
...As a young man when I gave my life to God, I did not understand that I was surrendering my complete identity to take on His. My trials were now to become His triumphs. My shortcomings would now become a testimony for Him, which seemed awkward by most worldly standards. I was learning that, through His eyes, my life was somewhat of a beautiful mess to Him.
In hindsight, I realize that I had to experience the heartache of infertility for God to do that work not only in my heart but also in my mind. He was doing surgery on me in those moments, and I was none the wiser.
As the Great Physician, God was removing some flawed ideals and mindsets I had allowed to take root in my heart. I assumed I knew it all when, in actuality, I knew nothing. It would be years later, but my wife and I did receive our bundles of joy.
Through adoption my wife and I now have two beautiful children, a daughter and son, whom we love with all our hearts. Though my initial desire for a family was seemingly pure, I now realize that my children were never truly given to me for my own purposes—in fact, quite the opposite.
Just as in Hannah’s story, my children were created to be God’s. They were “beautifully and wonderfully made” for His purpose. God’s timetable was unseen to either of us, yet He worked out every specific detail and blessed us with our own Samuel-type testimony.
The road of infertility was not an easy one to travel but, in the words of Maya Angelou, “Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”
Our journey has now led me to share with you God’s goodness. I pray that when you finish reading this article, you will feel encouraged, knowing that He is working out the details.
In the words of Hannah:
“For this child[ren] I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him [them] to the Lord; as long as he [they] liveth he [they] shall be lent to the Lord…” 1 Samuel 1:27-28 KJV
We live in a hurting world, and many of us may have experienced more than our fair share of that hurt. It is my prayer that you discover that “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”
• Remember, today and forever, God is your hope. He specifically states in his Word, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
• Regardless of the circumstances around you, be assured that God has never left or forsaken you.
• It may not seem like it, but “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
• Surrender to God’s purpose today, and when it comes to your hurts, “count it all joy” because He sees the bigger picture.
• Don’t give up on God’s promises for/to you. Your “Samuel” testimony may be right around the corner. You may want to charge in like a bull in a china shop, yet God reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV).
For more information or resources on infertility or pregnancy loss, or to subscribe to the Stepping Stones newsletter, visit Bethany.org/SteppingStones.
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Bethany Christian Services is a leading global family preservation and child welfare agency.