Acceptance Is Critical

I love my life. Love it! I love being a husband to my amazing wife! I love being a father to my three kids! It is amazing, and it is nothing like I expected. You see, I’m one of those people who likes to make plans, and when I make those plans, I expect those plans to happen the way I planned them. Okay, you can stop laughing now—I am fully aware this is not how things work. Nevertheless, it took me a great deal of pain and heartache to figure this out.

Sarah and I got married in the fall of 2007. I was a youth and family pastor in the mountains of Colorado, and she was a middle-school teacher. Two months before our wedding I purchased a thousand-square-foot condo in Dillon, Colorado. The place needed work, but it was ours and it had amazing views. We were set! I thought we were going to put down roots and establish our lives in this beautiful place. Two months after our wedding we found out we were pregnant, and four months after that I found myself in conflict with the church leadership. We were at a crossroads: stay at a job where the leadership was controlling, but have a good salary and good benefits, or step out in faith and quit my job and go back to school to pursue a degree in counseling.

We obviously chose the path of school and counseling, and we decided to move two months before our first child was born. I went from a job paying nearly six figures to working as a shift manager at Chick-fil-A. Our house was still on the market, and our Realtor was confident we would make $80,000 to $100,000 in profit. Then the recession of 2008 hit, and we walked away with one thousand dollars, enough to pay for two semesters of books. My plans were not being fulfilled the way I had hoped. Fast-forward two years, and I was getting ready to graduate with my master’s in clinical mental health counseling. I was excited! No more Chick-fil-A—now I could go back to making real money by opening my own private practice. Three months in, we could barely put food on the table. Once again, my plans didn’t work out. All the while, we were attempting to get pregnant again and were running up against every barrier possible. I was becoming disillusioned and angry at God, the world, and others. Nothing was working out the way I had planned.

Fast-forward another two years, and I had found a stable job in Colorado Springs working for a community mental health facility. I was also working as a professor at my alma mater, Colorado Christian University. But we still couldn’t get pregnant, and my anger was starting to turn to bitterness toward God and the world. It was Easter, and we had just spent time with Sarah’s family in Texas. I left Sarah and Hannah with Sarah’s parents for an extended stay while I drove home to go back to work. This was a drive I had made hundreds of times as we went back and forth between Colorado and Texas. I vividly remember driving across northern New Mexico, with the sun rising behind me. There were thunderclouds in the sky up ahead, and as the sun came up, “sun doggies” (small rainbow spots), as we call them, popped up in the sky. As I drove farther and the sun rose higher, the sun doggies would appear and disappear in different places in the sky. As I drove, I got this deep sense in my heart that God was playing with me. This took me by surprise, because I had been very turned off to talking with God. I drove a little farther and heard this voice say, “Pray for a baby by Christmas.” In that moment it felt like an audible voice, and it freaked me out. I pulled over on the side of the four-lane New Mexico highway, got out of the car, and opened all the doors of my 2004 Honda Pilot. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t anyone stowing away in my trunk! I didn’t find anyone. I got back in the car and started to drive. Several miles down the road I said out loud, “Okay, Lord! If you want me to pray for a baby by Christmas, I will, but I don’t believe you are going to do it. Nothing else has worked out according to plan. Why would this?” It was a skeptical prayer, but I prayed nonetheless.

Two weeks went by, and I had almost forgotten that experience. Sarah and Hannah were home now, but I thought if I told Sarah what had happened, she might think I was going a bit bonkers because I was hearing voices, or I would get her hopes up and nothing would happen again. We had just moved from a small two-bedroom condo across the complex to a three-bedroom townhome. Boxes were everywhere as we were attempting to get settled. That particular morning, I woke up and found that I was the only one in bed. This was unusual because I was the morning person and Sarah was the one who always attempted to sleep in. A moment later, Sarah bolted into the room and jumped onto the bed with a pregnancy test.

“Look!” she exclaimed. “I’m pregnant!”

I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was dreaming. “What?” I said in disbelief.

“I’m pregnant!” she repeated.

I was dumbfounded. Could it be true? Could my experience two weeks earlier have prepped my heart and mind for what God had in store? We embraced, cried, and thanked God for his goodness. Elizabeth (Elle) was born on the twenty-sixth of December—a baby for Christmas!

I tell you this story for a couple of different reasons. First, I love to share it because it displays the goodness of God! Second, I share it because it taught me a lot about acceptance. I so desperately wanted to control the outcomes of my life and my future that I was unable to accept what was right in front of me. I was blind to what God was trying to give me, and even more blind to what God was trying to teach me. I wonder how much more I could have grown if I would have (or could have) accepted what God was giving me and teaching me in the moment. I wanted things to happen according to my plan and done my way. I was so blinded by my anger with God that I missed out on what he was trying to accomplish.

Adapted from The Path to Wholeness by Mark Mayfield. Copyright © 2023. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. 

Mark Mayfield
Mark Mayfield

Mark Mayfield is a former pastor, a board-certified licensed professional counselor (LPC), and the founder and CEO of Mayfield Counseling Centers. His most recent book is The Path to Wholeness: Managing Emotions, Finding Healing and Becoming Our Best Selves (NavPress).