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Embracing the Desert: Trusting That God is Good

This Lent, we’re inviting you to share your stories of walking through the desert with Jesus. (See intro here.) Want to share how you’ve embraced a desert of faith in your life? Email us at [email protected] with your story.

By Emily Ricci, Communications Coordinator

As promised, I wouldn't ask you all to share your stories without sharing mine!

If you looked in my Mass journal around this time last year, you would have seen an entry each week under prayer intentions for “HHHB,” which was code for happy, healthy, and holy baby.

My husband and I had been married about two and a half years and trying to have a baby for almost a year. Because of some medical history, I had been pretty convinced since my late teens that it would be a struggle, if not altogether impossible, for me to have children, so I had a pretty defeatist attitude about the whole thing. And each week, I’d write down my prayer intention in my journal at Mass, crying out to God and being a little more disheartened each time I wrote it and it wasn't answered.

Part of this desert for me was feeling like maybe infertility was going to be the one cross of my life. Because aside from that ache in my heart, my life was full: I have an incredible husband, I was working a job that I absolutely loved, and we had just bought my dream house. So I thought, maybe not having children is the thing that God is calling me to do to draw nearer to Him, to abandon to Him in faith. Maybe we’re called to adopt instead or start a ministry for couples suffering from infertility or even open our home to a woman in a crisis pregnancy. Maybe this is going to be “my thing” that I can offer up to God.

The problem was, I was finding it was pulling me further away from God despite my best efforts. I’d say overall that God and I have a pretty good relationship. My first memory of life is reading my children’s Bible cover-to-cover at 5 years old, I’ve been working for churches since I was 14, and I have a master’s degree in Theology. Pre-Covid, my favorite thing to do was go to Adoration after work and I could usually hear His voice pretty clearly there (not in a hearing-voices-in-my-head kind of way, but just in a good friend guiding me sort of way). But of course, as this trial heightened, I started to not hear or feel His presence at all. It just started to feel rote, dull, and very quiet, and I began to question His existence altogether and get angry at His silence. I could accept if the answer was no to having children; what I wasn’t fine with was feeling like He was ignoring me through the process and abandoning me altogether.

To compensate, I tried to do even more – upping my time in Adoration, starting a marketing committee at my church, and attending small groups and talks at least twice a week. But the more I tried to do, the more hollow everything became.

So by the beginning of Lent 2020, I was hanging on to faith by a thread, despite being more active than ever. And then Covid struck, and suddenly even my access to the Eucharist was gone.

I find it ironic that I emerged from the desert at a time when we were unable to access the sacraments. At a time with so much spiritual dryness, suddenly, it was as if God was reserving this light for me when I’d need it most. Because come the strangest Easter Sunday morning ever, I finally got that positive pregnancy test.

I’m writing this now one handed while my other arm cradles my nine-week-old. A few weeks ago, I got to sit in the same church where I’d prayed my heart out for a baby, holding that little miracle as she received the sacrament of Baptism and feeling the full force of God’s magnanimous love for her and for me.

But I’m not going to lie: Being postpartum during a pandemic following a traumatic birth experience has been challenging, and trust me, there are many days where I feel like maybe I’m not through the desert like I thought, but have rather just crossed into a new, different desert.

This time, though, I have decided to stop anticipating the deserts and simply walk through them. Before I got pregnant, I thought my lifelong desert was going to be infertility. Once I did get pregnant, I was so sure I was going to miscarry that it robbed me of my joy for the first three months. I’ve been so afraid of all of the blessings that God has given me, bracing myself for them to be taken away, that I’ve missed out on what trust is really all about. It’s not just about staying true in the bad times; it’s also about believing that God loves me enough to bless me. God was silent through that desert not because He wasn’t there for me, but because I wasn’t willing to believe what He was saying: trust that I am good.

So if you’re walking through a desert in your life right now, I pray that you know what I’ve come to realize: Maybe God’s silence isn’t really silence, but rather an opportunity to trust in His goodness even when He isn’t “saying” it.

If you’d be willing to share a desert you’ve embraced, email us at [email protected]

Comments

  • Jean A. Costa

    Emily, thank you for sharing your desert journey. Congratulations on the birth of your child. It warmed my heart to read of your blessing. Fear is the robber of joy, I know! May you walk forward feeling love and knowing God wants us to delight in His gifts. I’m working on that myself.