Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor…
Enlarge your place of tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated. ” Isaiah 54
Barrenness. What a painful and frustrating condition. Yet this verse tells those who are barren to rejoice–“Sing, O barren woman–shout for joy!” It even takes it a step further and tells them to make room by enlarging their tent and not holding back or being afraid of suffering shame or fearful of disgrace.
I have read this verse a hundred times, yet this week when I stumbled upon it, I became nervous and terrified, yet excited as I felt challenged to do something far outside my comfort zone–far beyond my current level of faith.
If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you might be wondering what could stretch my faith any further. Especially when on the 17th of every month, I make a fool of myself by celebrating and rejoicing over a child that hasn’t even been conceived yet. I am notorious among my friends and family for thinking, speaking, and acting as if my barrenness is no more. However, this week, after reading the above verses, I realized I am holding back.
It’s easy and innocent enough for me to purchase the small items of diapers, cute onesies, blankets, and pacifiers each month because it’s safe. It once stretched my faith and made me uncomfortable, but now it’s just as easy as buying a gallon of milk or stick of gum at the local grocery store. But doing the bigger things? Buying the big-ticket items? The ones that would cause me to “enlarge my place of tent”–now that goes far beyond my comfort zone and current level of faith.
In fact, just last week, a friend of mine approached me at church and said she keeps hearing the word, “prepare.” As soon as she spoke the word, my legs felt like wet noodles, and my stomach became queasy as the next word I heard was “nursery.” She didn’t say it, but that is what was spoken in my heart. I have fought the idea for days. I wrestled with it in my mind. Reasoned why it doesn’t make sense to do this now, this early. Planning a nursery is one thing (which I also haven’t done), but actually following through with the plans is crazy–even for me.
Just the mere thought of being humiliated when others come over and see that I have a completed nursery prepared, but no baby in sight makes me sweat, has my heart skip a few beats, and my breathing becomes irregular. I shamefully and foolishly think that if I were pursuing adoption or fertility treatments, then it wouldn’t look so “odd,” and I wouldn’t be so afraid to take that leap into the unknown. I know; where is my faith now, right? But I can’t see the benefit of putting the cart before the horse–at least not now, not yet. It’s too risky.
But that’s when I think of Noah.
Many would say he put the cart before the horse when he built a boat the size of a football field in preparation for a flood despite never before seeing a drop of rain. This task couldn’t have been easy for him physically, let alone spiritually or emotionally. Can you imagine the looks he must have received and the comments from people as they passed by him hammering the nails into the sides of this massive 450-foot long-boat?
“Hey, Noah! What are you doing?! There isn’t even a cloud in the sky!”
“Noah! The whole town thinks you are crazy!”
“Stop embarrassing yourself with all your nonsense and foolish talk of rain!”
“You don’t even know what a sprinkle looks like, so how could you claim a flood?”
“You should be in a straitjacket!”
“Hey, Noah! You are delusional! There isn’t even a chance for rain!”
“Do you want the number for a good shrink?”
I can’t imagine the level of anxiety and fear Noah must felt over being humiliated if the rain didn’t come, let alone enough to cause a giant flood. Despite his fear and the constant persecution from non-believers, he was steadfast in his obedience to God and continued to prepare. In the end, he wasn’t the foolish one. All of his “crazy” faith-filled thinking, speaking, and acting ended up saving his family.
I want to be like Noah–completely obedient despite the fears, never holding back, and so crazy in my faith. Therefore, in celebration of Josiah Day, I’m not just going to rejoice by putting on my monthly party hat, blowing on my noisemaker, and throwing up the confetti. I’m moving on to verse two and enlarging my place of tent.
Yep, that’s right–I’ve decided to put the cart before the horse and build my
ark nursery. I’m pulling out all the stops and looking ridiculously crazy and risking humiliation (even persecution) as I head to the big city today to hammer in my first nail, so to speak. I will price out our favorite cribs, dressers, gliders, and other “big-ticket–enlarging my tent” nursery essentials and purchase them in the upcoming weeks. Am I scared? You betcha! Am I nervous? Like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. But am I excited? Absolutely! I am also praying that the horse isn’t too far behind the cart.
Happy Josiah Day!
Would you like to hear an interesting and fun fact? The Bible says in Genesis that the floodwaters came on the 17th day and then rested on a mountain top five months later, also on the 17th day. I am really starting to love the number 17.
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