He has Tim Keller to thank. It was in May 2009 that I read a transcript of one of Keller's sermons, called “The Girl Nobody Wanted”--a sermon about Leah (audio version available here). Most of you are familiar with the story from Genesis 29: Leah, the unwanted wife of Jacob, begins having sons. And as Keller explains:
Every time she says, "Now my husband will love me." "Now my husband will love me." "Now my husband will love me." And then it says she conceived again, and then she gave birth to a son and she said, "This time I will praise the Lord." Finally, no talk about her husband. What had happened? Through this suffering she stopped turning to her husband, she stopped looking to her children, she stopped looking to anything else and she said I'm going to praise the Lord. And at that moment she got her life back.
...If there's anybody in this building right now that feels like somebody else has ruined my life, look at Leah. Leah gets her life back. She doesn't have to be bitter. She doesn't have to hate. She doesn't have to deceive back. She says, "This time I will praise the Lord." I won't look to anything else to give me what only Jesus Christ can be for me. I will not add anything to Jesus Christ as a requirement for being happy. Do that, and you'll get your life back.
Keller's words struck me deeply that afternoon. I was still very much struggling in motherhood; in fact, only weeks before, I had written my painfully honest blog series about it. I saw myself in Leah; I saw the idolatry of my heart and the call to praise.
Perhaps motherhood was an idol for me; certainly, comfort and ease were (are) towering idols. After reading the sermon, I wrote in my journal on May 16, 2009:
Father, I am starting to realize, after reading Tim Keller's sermon “The Girl Nobody Wanted” on Genesis 29, that perhaps I need to repent of an idolatry I did not realize—the idolatry of motherhood.
How much of my misery is because I put my hope in motherhood? Have I subconsciously thought that becoming a mother would make me valuable, give my life meaning and purpose? And so in Your grace You have torn down those idols incredibly quickly, leaving me disillusioned as I discover that motherhood is nothing like I expected, that I cannot be the mother I vainly believed I would easily be. And instead of bringing me joy and being a delightful road of growing and cherishing and thriving...You have allowed motherhood to be for me a hard road of anguish and sacrifice and disappointment [and failure]—because jealously, You cannot allow me to hope in motherhood, to find joy and identity and meaning and life through being a mother. Those things come only from You.
And so I look at Leah, who [unlike me] had every reason to be absolutely miserable, who surely felt like her life had been ruined, and I see how she got her life back in spite of crushing pain and disappointment.
...I can choose to say with Leah, “This time I will praise the Lord.”
Forgive me, Father, for...adding [so many] things to Jesus Christ as a requirement for being happy. ...I want to live, Lord. Grant me the grace to praise You, to look to and hope in You alone.
Steve and I weren't yet trying to have another baby. I was definitely not ready. But I had the distinct sense that afternoon that we would have another boy—so that we could name him Judah (or rather, Jude—same meaning, but I liked the shortened version better). So that every time I saw my son, every time I called his name, I would be reminded: “This time, I will praise the Lord.”