Not in vain, the tedious toil, On an unresponsive soil,
Travail, tears in secret shed, Over hopes that lay as dead.
All in vain, thy faint heart cries. Not in vain, thy Lord replies:
Nothing is to good to be; Then believe, believe to see.
Did thy labor turn to dust? Suff’ring – did it eat like rust
Till the blade that once was keen, As a blunted tool is seen?
Dust and rust thy life’s reward? Slay the thought; believe thy Lord!
When thy soul is in distress, Think upon His faithfulness.
Though there be not fig nor vine, In thy stall there be no kine,
Flock be cut off from the fold, Not a single lamb be told,
And thy olive berry fall Yielding no sweet oil at all,
Pulse-seed wither in the pod – Still do thou rejoice in God.
But consider, was it vain, All the travail on the plain?
For the bud is on the bough; It is green where thou didst plow.
Listen, tramp of little feet, Call of little lambs that bleat;
Hearken to it. Verily, Nothing is too good to be.
Many mothers apply this beautiful poem to the toil of motherhood.
I personally apply it to my toil in search of motherhood. A large part of me desperately wants to give up. It is too hard to keep trying to have children, keep losing them to early death, and now to have doctor after doctor give me news that this may well just be the story of my life (especially without some drastic interventions). “It is in vain,” I often hear my brain telling myself, “Give up now while you still have a chance and before the ridicule gets any heavier.”
But, like it or not, God has called us to a particular path — and apparently it just includes more drastic interventions than I ever dreamed would be necessary. God continues to give wisdom when we seek it: to us as we use our weak selves to ram down the doors of Heaven and beseech our Father with frequent & fervent prayers, to my parents who are helping us seek godly wisdom & wise counselors, specifically to my father who is most actively pounding down physical doors to attain the golden gift of wisdom. And since God is leading us, it is not in vain. Most certainly not. Whatever His purposes are, they are most definitely not vain.
And so this poem, in all its striking beauty and truth, brings me to hiccups of tears every time I read it.
My life is not in vain.
My womb is not in vain.
My childrens’ lives (no matter how short on earth) are not in vain.
Our prayers are not in vain.
Our desires are not in vain.
The research, the consultations, the tests are not in vain.
The medical treatments are not in vain.
Not a single shot, pill, blood draw, or infusion is in vain.
These myriads of “little deaths” that I am called to die for my family are not in vain.
And this, my friends, is good news for this tired, broken mama. Good news, indeed.