GUEST BLOG: ANDY CHERRY
My good friend, Andy Cherry, wrote on his instagram last week a really special post. As I read through it, I couldn’t help but be thankful for such a thoughtful, honest, and inspiring friend. Andy and I have a quite unique and special bond and I couldn’t be more thankful for all the things I’ve learned from him and continue to learn from him. With that said, I pray that these words touch you as much as they did me when I first read them in his story. Thanks bro, love you dearly.
Today my son Abraham turns 7 weeks old. That’s seven weeks of being grateful when my sleep is interrupted, feeling thankful when I get peed on, and being filled with joy when he doesn’t want to stop crying.
Michelle and I prayed that God would bless us with a child for many years. There were times that it seemed that God wasn’t listening or that he simply didn’t care to respond. On the darkest days it was exceedingly difficult to not believe that God was holding out blessing on us because of some unconfessed sin or because of our lack of faith. I say this not for sympathy but because as a man and as a leader in the church I recognize my ability and my tendency to sweep mine and my family’s struggles under the rug. For three years Michelle were absolutely heartbroken on a monthly basis.
We tried to numb the pain by downplaying our desire to have a child. Even our closest friends and family members were of the impression that we were not all that interested in the idea of having kids and that we were fine with it being just the two of us. To some extent that was true. God has been gracious to me by giving me a wife as supportive, loyal, kind, and trustworthy as Michelle. If we were to have never conceived Abraham my cup of blessing would still be spilling over.
Still we waited, prayed, and cried that the Lord would provide us with a child. Piling the shame of our secret struggle on top of the pain we were feeling.
Then last spring Michelle and I began to feel an overwhelming sense of conviction that we needed to share our journey with those close to us. One by one we began to share with our family what was really going on with us. As you may expect us sharing this information was met with a combination of support and sadness. Those closest to us were disappointed. They were not disappointed in us, but rather disappointed in the fact that they were not able to provide support because we were keeping them in the dark about something so significant.
I remember last Mother’s Day. Always a painful day for us but this year felt especially raw. Our church was celebrating child dedications like we typically do on Mother’s Day. I had the bittersweet honour of standing behind friends of ours who were dedicating their first borns.
Several times throughout the service Michelle and I locked tearful eyes as we both navigated through a spectrum of emotions. Joy for our friends, pain for the struggle we were enduring, and shame for our pride.
On that Sunday I had an interaction with a congregant at our church that I’ll never forget. I was walking down the hall and locked eyes with a woman in our congregation that I recognized but with whom I had never spoken. In effort to be polite and to make a hopefully meaningful connection I asked “Is a Happy Mother’s Day in order?” not knowing her life situation and wanting to make sure I was being sensitive.
This woman who is middle aged very kindly told me that this was not a happy day for her. In addition to the fact that she had never had children of her own, her own mother had recently passed. In this moment I felt the unmistakeable prompting of the Holy Spirit. The Lord and I had a very brief and heated discussion about what I was to do. I was left with no confusion about the fact that I was to share Michelle and my struggle to conceive with her.
I asked if I could tell her something that few people knew and she said yes. I told her that my wife and I actually have been trying to have a child for a few years now and this day is incredibly challenging for us as well. There were not many words spoken between us after that but there didn’t need to be. She gave me a hug and said she would be praying for us. I didn’t doubt her sincerity for a moment.
As I walked away from this interaction and began to reflect on it’s incredible timing and significance I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for people who are unafraid and unashamed of their pain and gratitude for a God who uses all of our brokenness to show us the grace he can provide.
When I spoke with Michelle about this conversation later in the day we were both emboldened to take a step outside of our pride and begin to rely on those whom God had put in our path. We began to boldly ask those in our lives for prayer and support. The response we received was truly remarkable.
Not much more than a month later I got a call from Michelle while I was at work saying that she felt “different” and that she thought she may be pregnant. Having been through this many times our excitement was subdued to put it lightly and a bit incredulous if I’m being completely honest. Nevertheless, the next day we went to pick up a test. We took it home and when it read positive we immediately said surely this is the one test that’s busted and we went back to the store for another. We paid the extra $5 for the fancy test that doesn’t use lines or smiley faces but flat out says pregnant or not pregnant. Test two was positive as well. We looked at each other for what could have been either 30 seconds or 30 minutes. To this day I have no idea how long we stood there.
Michelle finally broke the silence and said “We’re having a baby”. Two words, a contraction and an article said more than any other sentence could. A decade of love, commitment, joy, pain, disappointment, and triumph encapsulated by one look and one sentence.
Before the weight of what that news meant fully sank in I think my entire life flashed before my eyes. Not in a “I think I’m going to die” way but in sort of montage at the end of a movie way. I recalled the mistakes, the mess ups, the celebrations, and the successes. I also thought of that moment with the woman in my church on Mother’s day. God’s voice telling me ever so clearly that I shouldn’t be ashamed of my pain and that I shouldn’t hide my struggle.
When I share my pain with others and my struggles with those in my community I allow God to begin to define me not by what I have done or what I’ve created but rather by his steady grace and unwavering kindness.
I think God wants that from each of us. I don’t need to act like everything is ok to gain the approval of those around me or even those I am leading. My honesty and transparency will do more to help others than letting anyone presumie that I am strong and have it all together. I hope I remember this truth next time when hopelessness seems a lot more tangible than faith. I hope Abraham sees this in me and his mom.
Grace & Peace