I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Some of my friends always knew they wanted to be teachers, doctors, or lawyers. But not me.
One thing that I have always known, however, is that I want a family of my own.
My longing to find a partner to build a life and face the joys and challenges of parenting together has only grown stronger with time. Yet this partner has felt ever more elusive.
Copyright: photosky99 / 123RF Stock Photo
In my early twenties, my prayers about relationships focused on patience and faith:
Father, help me to be patient, to trust there is someone you have for me.
Father, I’m confused. I thought I saw you in this. There was so much good and potential in this relationship, so I’m not sure why it’s falling apart. Help me to trust that you have something more.
In my mid-twenties, my prayers turned to impatience and doubt:
Father, help me to have peace. Others getting married or having kids doesn’t mean I’m falling behind in life. You have me right where you want me…right?
Father, I need your help. I am impatient and restless. You know this is my heart’s deepest longing. I want to want you more than this, for you to be enough. But it’s just so hard.
And, in my late twenties, I spoke to God out of despondency more than anything else:
Father, this hurts too much. I’m tired of sitting in the tension of knowing we were not made to be alone and that you should be enough. I know you’re there and yet I feel so lonely.
Father, are you listening? I cannot take this ache. I’ve been praying all this time for patience, for trust, for my desire for you to be bigger than anything. But maybe what you’ve been waiting for me to do is surrender. To let go of this dream. Maybe there’s a different path you have for me. If so, can you help me to know that? Can you change my heart?
With that last prayer, I thought I’d turned a corner. I remember meeting with a mentor and thinking she would be so proud of me.
“You prayed what?!” she yelped.
Not the response I was expecting.
My mentor reminded me of all the ways I have talked about my longing for family. How I have said that I seem wired for it in so many ways that it has to be God. She asked me if I believed that was still true.
“Well, yes, but...”
She interrupted me. “If you really think that’s how God made you, then why would you ask him to change that or take it away?” She challenged me to instead ask God what he might have for me in this season.
Father, help me to see where you are right now.
Praying this has made me realize how hard it is for me to stay present to the moment. I spend a lot of time fixated on the past, determined to learn from my mistakes. And I spend a lot of time wondering (or worrying) about the future—what it holds for me and how my current choices could shape or hinder my path there.
My eyes are always on where I’ve been or where I’m going. So is my view of God. I can see where he has been faithful to me in the past and cling to the promises of his coming kingdom. But what about the here and now?
So here I am at the age of thirty, and I’m learning, slowly, to be more tuned in—beginning with this past Mother’s Day.
This holiday can be torture for me. And this year had the potential to be extra hard, with many friends celebrating their first baby.
That same weekend, I found myself in two unique spaces. One was worship practice for The River’s women of color conference. The experience of sitting with three other women, all of us from different ethnic backgrounds, and singing praises in English and Spanish was poignant and beautiful.
The next morning I attended a women’s event at my childhood church in Oakland. A group of more than fifty women from various ethnicities and life stages had gathered. A buzz of camaraderie filled the room over breakfast, and most heads nodded in agreement as a panel shared about barriers to vulnerability and true connection.
In both of these spaces, I felt God’s heart for each of his beloved daughters. I was struck by the beauty of our diversity and the reminder that he loves us all the same. I sensed God weaving these two moments together to remind me that my value is not dependent on fulfilling the role of daughter, sister, leader, follower, wife, mother, or friend. It is dependent on him.
So, on Mother’s Day, when I heard some version of “You’re like an honorary mom to so many kids” from a variety of people, I could actually appreciate those words for what they truly were. Some years, when I am fixated on what I do not have, I hear those words as pity or as salt in my wounds. But this year, I was able to receive the significant encouragement and gratitude in those words.
Who I am in the lives of my friends’ kids and the kids I babysit for matters. It may not change or replace the longing for my own someday, but God is using me here and now, just as I am, to make a difference.
Father, help me to see where you are, and what you have for me, right now.
Deborah Woo has been attending The River since 2014. She is a Bay Area native who grew up attending First Covenant Church Oakland, and has a bachelor's in psychology from Azusa Pacific University. Deborah moved to San Jose to work for the nonprofit City Year, where she spent six years providing interventions and after-school programming for students in East San Jose, and professional development for AmeriCorps volunteers.
She is working on an organizational leadership masters degree through Northeastern University online and joined The River staff team as children's ministry assistant in fall 2016. She finds great joy in seeing the world and faith through the eyes of the youngest members of our wonderful community.