Sweeten Up Your Bitterness!
MORE THAN HIS PROMISES
Sara was one of three children growing up in Ohio with parents who were very involved in her life. At 15, Sara went to a Young Life camp where she experienced her first personal encounter with God. During and after college, Sara was fully involved in Young Life ministry which is where she met Nate. In 2001, they were married and expected to start a family. A few years later, Sara and Nate needed a place to stay for six months while waiting to move into their new house. They stayed with a family who lived on a farm and had adopted children from Russia. Sara and Nate felt like the Lord showed them adoption was in their future. Soon Sara discovered she could not have children. “God was bringing a glory out of this barrenness and a greater hunger for Him out of our longing,” she says.
In 2009, they began the adoption process of Eden, then three and a half, and her brother Caleb, then one and a half, from Ethiopia. The process unexpectedly hit a paper roadblock. One day in church, Sara was worshipping the Lord. Tears were streaming down her face. “My paper pregnancy (apparently now also barren) had fostered a fermentation within my heart,” says Sara. “I was looking at life through the lenses of being overlooked by God.” While her eyes were closed, Sara saw the word “family” across her eyelids. The Lord whispered to her, “If you never have a family, will you still love Me?” Sara walked out of church and had no answer for God’s question. “God’s question had less to do with the content – having a family – and more to do with His nature,” she says. It took her three days to respond. Somehow, a response came from Sara that she didn’t expect. Yes! She began to see God as her opportunity, not her dead end. “I suddenly wanted Him more than His promises,” she says. Two years after adopting Eden and Caleb, Sara and Nate adopted Hope and Lily from Uganda in 2011.
WINTER AND SPRING
One day, Sara received news that her father had cancer. Ten months after his diagnosis, he died. “The year I first met God as Father was the year my father died,” says Sara. She had a loving earthly father and couldn’t conceptualize the love of God the Father. Though her heart mourned the loss of her father, at the same time she received the understanding of God as a tender Father. So the shift in her thinking about the Father-love of God began – something which was elusive to her all of her life.
Nate was running his own business and made a simple bookkeeping mistake in catorgizing funds. Then one day, he stumbled on the error and the mountain of red on which his business had been built. When Nate told Sara that their finances were bad, she thought, Now we’ve hit rock bottom. It can’t get any worse than this. It was Sara’s turn to remind Nate that they were blessed, not cursed. Every single dark day in their marriage was an invitation to discover God’s love. God was faithful even during this difficult time. They whittled down their adoption nest egg until their bank balances were almost to zero. Then, unexpected checks came that covered a few months’ expenses. Somehow their bills got paid month after month. Nate’s business slowly crept out of the red. “God was working every angle to change our knowledge about who He is,” says Sara. “We realized that our lives aren’t a series of rewards for doing things right. They are strung-together surprises that continue to speak more of who He is than who we aren’t.”
Sara says regardless of what our external circumstances look like, pain is an invitation from God. “It forces us to go internal to know more about Him,” she says. “God says, I want to meet you in pain. Pain is the avenue of intimacy with me.” In 2013, Sara found out she was pregnant. “This is not about holding out and God will give you what you want,” she says. “That whole time of barrenness we prayed that God would heal my body, not so we would get the answer but that He would keep our hearts alive.” She gave birth to Bo, now 10 months.