One of the most powerful and healing weeks in the Awakenings program is the week that you name your baby. I had no concept of the significance and power that I would experience by simply inviting God in to that part of me. Not only did He know every detail about my baby, He knew every detail about me. I already knew that in head knowledge, my heart knowledge was about to get schooled.
Psalm 139:13-16 For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.
God whispered into my quiet early-morning journaling… “I did not desire or will your abortion story but I was there in that valley, knowing all that you went through. It wasn’t your desire to be there either – you just didn’t want to be a shame or pain to anyone anymore. I know. You went along and silently agreed so that you would look better. You might hide the abortion or deny it to yourself but you can’t hide from the impact. It is too severe. In that circumstance you are ground zero and need to heal the wounds from it.”
Thank God for His grace! In the pride of maintaining reputation, the decision was made by a parent that I would abort. The arrangements were made. I felt both as a puppet and totally numbed, simultaneously. Nothing mattered. I was already walking in shadows and feeling very alone. Circumstances had me empty enough to choose the arms of a quite unloving young man. And so, when all was said and done, I was utterly isolated. Neither my baby, my experience nor my wounds would be spoken of for years. They slept in my soul as wounds that would only be healed when gently stirred to awareness by God’s grace and by loving people that He sent to me. I found myself at the Awakenings study.
Now I didn’t know that I was hurting so much because of the loss. I just thought the manifestations of my abortion were natural parts of my personality, characteristics and inherited traits. When the week to name my baby arrived in the study, I felt kind of dumb. I had been raised to just let the past stay there. To not bring it up. Why or how I was going to name a child that I didn’t know the sex of and had denied the existence of for so long baffled me.
I struggled to believe that God could truly go to this part of my life and love me still. I guess I thought I deserved to feel bad. It was like a hidden idol – my pain – taken as plunder from the battles of my adolescence. In Joshua 7 there is a story about hiding things from God and the destruction that comes from that. Which is funny really, because God knew all about the things hidden in that story and He knows all about the things I hid from Him. And there is a beautiful use of what was initially a horrible end to that story in Joshua 7. That person, Achan, and his entire family were destroyed in Joshua. Their bodies were buried under stones and the place where it happened was called the Valley of Achor which means the valley of trouble! Hiding from God was commemorated by death.
But God knew that this valley of trouble would turn out for something beautiful! In Hosea He declares it: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” (2:14-15)
BINGO. God can make the deepest valleys of trouble into places where hope is opened up to us! Each, every single one, no exceptions to the details of the valley. He can and does open up hope for us.
That was also what God was giving me. He was turning my hidden into hope. I thought I could conceal my abortion and that way it wouldn’t hurt anyone any further – let the past stay in the past. I couldn’t see that hidden past was already hurting my marriage, my children, my friendships and my trust in God’s love for me! Every important thing was being touched.
During the naming your baby week of study I was sure I would go to the next meeting with a lot of unfilled blanks in my book. I was wrong. The directions were to pray for God to reveal things to you that you might not already know; things like your baby’s sex and name. I didn’t know much else but I knew that at least I could pray. And so that is what I did.
I woke very early the next morning with a word imprinted in my mind. A name! The word was “Dale.” Now, I knew this word, this name, had to be from God because Dale is a name that I probably would not choose if given the choice. Dale… I thought about it. Ok, so my baby must have been a boy. I crawled from my bed to write down the name.
God spoke. “Dale. What do you think that name means, daughter?” I googled. Dale is an English name that means “lives in the valley.” I felt a little condemned. I knew that my life had been dark but I didn’t want my life to be permanently declared in the depths through naming a lost child after it.
God spoke. “Yes, a valley is a dark place. Where have you heard valleys spoken of in my Word?” Psalm 23 came to mind right away. “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
The truth lay like a neon sign in the darkness of my fears. God had been there! He had been with me in the valley of my hidden sin. He was guiding me and defending me though I had chosen to stray. He wanted me to eternally know that truth, memorialized in the naming of my child, Dale.
I wondered if that was all. It was beautiful and I had the idea that a middle name might be even more beautiful. So I asked.
In the early morning hours of the next day another word was imprinted on my mind. “Yael.” Hmmmmm, I was lost. I thought I remembered a biblical character with that name. Again, I googled.
“Yael” means mountain goat. Now, if I didn’t exactly love the name Dale you can imagine my feelings at this point. I didn’t know how to pronounce that name let alone appreciate it. (It does NOT rhyme with Dale, thank goodness, but is pronounced more like Ya-elle.) “One who lives in the valley” and “mountain goat” didn’t seem to mix. But as I read further God spoke again and I saw as my heart softened to His words. Yael was a female character in the bible who had been passionate for God, cutthroat in her obedience and wise in her methods.
He was actually a she. Dale can be gender neutral, but Yael is clearly feminine. God shared the sex of my baby with me in perfect clarity. Dale Yael was the name God had held for my baby girl.
Yael literally means mountain goat, but also means “strength of God” or “God’s strength.” Jackpot. These mountain goats aren’t cute little animals at a petting zoo. No – they are a different type of mountain ibex that are skilled and beautifully enabled to maneuver the heights.
The gracious God of my strength spoke: In Psalm 18:32-33 it says “God – he clothes me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and sets me securely on the heights.”
The truth was apparent through this gorgeous baby name that I never would have dreamed up! God had been present with me in the valley, guiding and protecting me. God had enabled me to grow strong through this experience and had given me His strength, enabling me to walk securely on the heights. God assured me through Dale Yael that His love is constant. The Sovereignty of God infiltrates all of the experiences of a human life with a restorative grace that denies neither the depth of the sin nor the height of His love. God, through the highs and lows of life, has enabled me to walk confidently in His love!
None of it was wasted. Our omnipotent and omniscient Father loved me through it all and loved my lost daughter, Dale Yael, through it all. He wanted me to know that he was actually a she – a girl who was already with him eternally and whose God-given name would always remind me of His great, powerful love. I know she is with Him and that one day I will have the privilege of meeting her again. Until then and always, Jesus my God will be the God of both the hills and the valleys of my life.
If you missed the first part of this precious story, you can read it here.
Perhaps your story contains some of the same elements as this one . . . past decisions that lead to regret and hurt today. Your loss is real, and your pain can impact you in ways (and in years to come) that you never imagined.
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