I still remember about 15 years ago, I was at a conference for women working cross-culturally, helping to facilitate one of the discussion groups. I do not even remember the theme of the conference because in my group there were two ladies going through menopause. And they were struggling. Their issues dominated the conversation and the whole group was forced to listen to their difficulties. Here I was, in my early 30s, with no idea how to help these ladies, trying desperately to steer this group back to the topic.
Praise the Lord, one of the other group members had (unfortunately) gone through early-onset menopause at age 32, so she was able to give good sound advice to those ladies about how to handle that stage of life. I was rescued! I look back now and realize that those suffering ladies created in me a dread about going through menopause. I didn’t want to go through what they were going through. But at the same time, my rescuer’s advice gave me hope that she had gone through it and made it. I could too!
I am a single and have been on the field for over 20 years, and every time I struggle with my desire to have children, I wonder if I need to be proactive in finding a husband or maybe try adoption or something that will fulfil that longing. And then, each time, I feel the Lord’s renewed calling to be where I am, doing what I am doing—to seek Him first, and He will fulfil the desires of my heart.
I think about age 40 was when I started realizing that I might go through menopause and lose my ability to have children, without having any children of my own. It was exactly at that stage that I heard a fantastic talk by another single cross-cultural worker which helped me to find balance. She used the quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “You can live a fulfilled life in spite of unfulfilled wishes”. Because she was German and was translating it herself, she translated the word “wishes” as “dreams” and that really struck a chord with me: You can live a fulfilled life with unfulfilled dreams. I heard the Lord whisper to me “Live the life that I have given you, find what fulfils you and do not keep living in the longing.”
After that time, I have found fulfilment and even my own “children” through the work I do in our local children’s home and with the children in our humanitarian aid projects and then also in leadership in my organization. But it is not always easy. There are days I walk around the local park and see people with their children and wonder what it would have been like to be a mother.
On those days, it is so important to remember that my desires are there to point me back to God. Ultimately, my yearnings are all meant to draw me closer to Him. I need to use them as a prompt to feel His presence with me right then and there, reminding me of His calling on my life to be in the place that I am, doing what I am doing. My inheritance is not here on this earth, and I look forward to the day that I will see all the people the Lord gave me to “mother” in this world. I cannot wait to spend time with them all, standing around the throne, worshiping Him together.
I am now in the full throws of (peri)menopause and looking back I see that the conference discussion group shaped my attitude towards it all. I both dreaded it but knew that I would get through it. The dread has subsided a bit as I do not seem to have the major drawbacks of hot flushes and mood swings (well, I tell myself that!). I have not escaped all the effects of it, and so trusting that I will eventually get through has helped tremendously.
If I was to give advice now to those two ladies in my group, I would tell them what I tell myself: that this too shall pass. You will get through it. He is with you in your journey and the secret is to find fulfilment in what you are doing right now. And if you do have longings and desires, use your yearnings as prompts to look for the Lord’s presence so He can remind you of His calling on your life. You got this!
How is the Father helping you live a fulfilled life with unfulfilled longings or dreams? If you are a single who has gone or is going through menopause, what advice would you give?