Surrendering to divine priorities.
by Crystal Kupper
Please be wrong, I begged the pregnancy test. It’s too early!
It was my twenty-second birthday, and this was the last present I wanted. Panic flooded my mind: What about the graduate school application I had been completing minutes earlier? What would my husband think? Was I being punished for some wrongdoing? What about the marathon I was scheduled to run in six weeks? And most powerfully, Lord, not now!
Love for children
I didn’t hate children; I was deeply passionate about them. Growing up in a foster family stirred a love for abused babies early on. My family took in methamphetamine-addicted, fetal alcohol infants who were often hard to place, but I loved them as if they were my own biological brothers or sisters. I was fiercely protective of every one of them and cried for days when some were adopted out to other families.
I was only around eight years old when I decided to be a foster parent myself one day and open up several orphanages overseas while I was at it. I dutifully wrote both these goals on The List.
The List was a much-referenced journal page I created as a six-year-old. It contained everything I wanted to achieve, such as ride an elephant and swim with dolphins. As I grew, so did The List. I tacked on more goals both trivial and serious: Learn to drive a stick shift; run a marathon; meet a president; sing the national anthem at an NBA game; win a radio call-in contest.
Only 22 items had been accomplished, with over 80 to go. I knew nothing else would get checked off now. Being a foster sister taught me firsthand how much work babies required.
I knew my husband Nickolas would be happy. Ecstatic, actually. He had dreamed out loud since our honeymoon of having babies as soon as possible. It was my idea to put off pregnancy; I had serious career and life plans and wanted to concentrate on The List.
Of course he’ll be happy, I fumed while I got dressed for my job. He won’t have to do 95 percent of the work! As a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, he was probably deploying again soon. I was seriously bitter. I didn’t want to be a single mother with a husband overseas and a screaming child at home.
As I hopped into the car, the radio roared to life. “Be the fifteenth caller, and win a CD!” the DJ blared.
Because of its existence on The List, I constantly tried to win a radio call-in contest. Thankful for the distraction, I punched the number into my cell phone. The DJ cheerfully informed me that I won!
Hanging up the phone, I smiled. I knew it was silly, but I’d always wanted to do that!
Unexpectedly, God spoke to me. See what I can still do? He whispered. I know the plans I have for you, and I will help you accomplish yours.
In response, I promptly told Him to be quiet.
The next few weeks saw me rotating among panic, self-pity, and anger. My mother, a phenomenal stay-at-home mom, had always said a woman’s greatest fulfillment was having children. Over the years, I saw her peace in the midst of a household storm. Nothing gave her more fulfillment than shepherding a flock of babies into adulthood, even with midnight feedings and cranky adolescents. What I perceived to be the perfect female attitude in her added a gigantic load of guilt to my already jumbled feelings.
What is wrong with me? I wondered on my long training runs, my feet pounding the pavement. Aren’t I supposed to want babies? Am I that horrible of a wife? What kind of a female freak feels like this?
Resentment and guilt
I stopped on the side of the road to throw up, inwardly resenting the interruption pregnancy brought to my training, then immediately feeling guilty for the selfishness. I thought of my friend June, and the guilt intensified. She and her husband had been trying to conceive for nearly nine years, with no results. All she wanted was what I was going through, yet I couldn’t conjure up one maternal feeling of happiness — only panic and dread.
I so badly wanted to want this pregnancy. I loved Jesus with all my heart and desired to do the right thing. But my emotions assaulted me like a riptide, and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Was I supposed to act joyous, even when I wasn’t? Should I stuff everything inside, or would that be denying who I was? I didn’t know.
As I expected, Nick’s eyes shone when he found out he would soon be a father. Yet he sensed I wasn’t happy. “You’ll be a great mother, Crystal,” he reassured me. “Remember, God did plan this pregnancy.”
I knew he was right. Whenever resentment crept in, I’d repeat my favorite verse determinedly: “’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). That verse had always given comfort, knowing God was a planner like me.
Remembering His tender birthday message and my hideous retort, I cringed and asked God for forgiveness. I knew He gave it, yet I still clutched irrational anger at Him for not letting me plan my own life.
Running my life
At ten weeks pregnant, I ran my first marathon, crossing number 24 off The List. If you can run 80 miles weeks pregnant, you can do anything, I told myself.
But not without Me, God added. I gulped, intensely aware of my pride. Did I really trust Jesus as my Savior? Did I truly believe He was all-powerful, perfect, and limitless? Of course, I asserted. As I downed a post-race banana, He spoke again. Then why am I in charge of your soul but not your plans for motherhood? His gentle reprimand hurt much worse than my sore hamstrings.
I wish I could report that I fell in love at my first ultrasound, as I was so desperately hoping I would. I want to say my doubts instantly dissolved when I first held my baby boy, Jack. I would love to describe the first months of my beautiful son’s life as a Hallmark card.
But I can’t. Being a mother was unglamorous, exhausting, and challenging beyond belief.
Nick soon deployed, leaving me with an infant and still working a part-time job. With so many hours alone with Jack, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, I wondered what God’s purpose was. I had definitely planned on having biological kids one day; I had only wanted to save the world’s starving and abused children first. I guess that dream’s out the window for now, I thought.
Unexpectedly, however, there were glimpses of heaven. I saw God in my son. I sensed the wonder over newborn perfection as all the parent-child biblical metaphors magically clicked. I fervently prayed for wisdom like never before, studying the Bible with purpose. I felt a new kinship with my husband across the miles as we both studied to become better parents.
And painfully, Jack stripped my layers of selfishness and self-control away. After all, getting “Insomniac Jack” to sleep wasn’t possible without divine intervention! With no physical beauty, graduate degree, or any other life accomplishment to hide behind, I saw myself for who I really was: a prideful creature, desperately useless without God’s grace. I came to the end of myself and the beginning of Him.
Even today, I struggle with the god of Self. I swear to attack The List with renewed fervor, and inevitably Jack, with his goofy personality and crazy antics, will draw my attention back. Thankfully my son is teaching me life lessons I could never get otherwise, and I’m having a lot of fun in his classroom.
I’m not giving up my dreams because I believe God gave me an ambitious drive for a purpose. But I am learning His List is infinitely longer than mine, yet eternally significant. I look forward to the next adventure He has planned, with Nick at my side and Jack as our sidekick.
About the Author
Crystal Kupper has written for Focus on the Family, Brio, Young Salvationist, Mature Years, and other publications. She lives in Salem, OR.