The planets aligned this year for 2017, Mother’s Day falls on our twelfth wedding anniversary (insert slow golf clap).
I’ve not taken a poll, but I can imagine that what Valentine’s Day is to singles, Mother’s Day is to those struggling with infertility (or those without the presence of a biological mother). I currently have a punch card for both.
Twelve years of marriage Sunday, and with that, twelve years of infertility for my husband and myself.
This won’t be one of the those blogs that’s titled “Things Not to Say to People with Infertility” or “10 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About My Infertility”. As great as those articles are, I’m a firm believer that if I have information that I wish my friends knew…drum roll please…I tell them. Also, if you’re curious about the infertility journey ask a friend who faces it. It’s uncomfortable, but your friend will value the attempt to build empathy. Facts don’t build connection, hard conversations do.
No, this won’t be a passive aggressive attempt to right my friends thinking either. I have amazing friends who bring strength and much prayer to this area in my life.
My purpose of this blog is to open up about some mindsets that I believe hinders believers from entering into a deeper sense of community in regards to infertility, but could also be applied to many other situations.
So let’s start by talking about children and the Old Testament! Whoohoo!
In the Law of the Old Testament, we see that God gives clear direction to a nation who follows or disobeys His commandments. If you obey God, the results are prosperity, and if you disobey God then you will fall under a curse of unfruitfulness. Children were part of this explanation of blessings or curses. In other words, children were a sign that God was rewarding His people because of their obedience. There’s many scriptures pertaining to barren women in the Old Testament. Many scriptures where God intervenes and brings a “blessing” to their home where there was shame and a “curse”.
There was not the guidance of the Holy Spirit in each individual person as there is today, because Jesus had not fulfilled the law by coming to die and rise again. Then Jesus comes on the scene and changes everything. Not only does He fulfil the Law, but He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us, not just visit us! Awesome sauce. In this manner, our identity and relationship as humanity changes with God because He changes it through this radical love. We are now joined to Him.
For this reason, we have no additional examples of “barren women” after Jesus’ resurrection. Why? Surely there were barren women in Jesus’ day? What about the woman with the issue of blood? Well, scripture doesn’t tell us if she had children or not when she is healed. The context of her healing is that her bleeding stops, not the presence of conception afterward. Why is this important?
Children are no longer a reward from God or a sign of obedience. If you don’t believe this, you are living under the old covenant.
Yes, I’m sorry Duggar family, but it’s true.
This New Covenant identity in Christ (the gospel) supersedes any role we can carry out on this big blue planet. The role of a believer is not based on Earthly roles but in a Kingdom role.
This is why I take exception when people say their children are a sign that the Lord is blessing them. A sign that they’ve found favor in His eyes. This is error and a false application of scripture. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that they’re trying to express gratitude.
BUT…God’s favor now rests inside every believer. Mr Favor Himself lives in you. He is now the reward. No role or possession now signifies if we are in right standing with God. Jesus loves and blesses me with a $14 bank account balance as He does when I’m rollin in the dough. If you are using outward outcomes to validate external obedience to the word, you are living under the law.
We are now born again into a Kingdom family and no longer defined by marriage, children, what our ancestors did, etc. We individually have a relationship with the Lord. We are able to move in and out of roles as vehicles to serve, no longer are we locked into them in order to be considered Godly. So if you’re single, you can have a fulfilling life serving Jesus while expanding the Kingdom of God. We say this, but we don’t really mirror this as a church culture. When all of our efforts are solely put into strengthening natural families in our churches, we create an atmosphere where success is measured in terms of familiar role status. It can happen with anything really, any external circumstance, that we build the gospel around instead of seeing them as a means to carry the gospel.
Jesus was single and so was Paul. We have other examples in the NT of singles or couples without children rockin it for Jesus. Paul stated he resolved to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified; He was completely consumed with this new reality that God was in Christ reconciling the world back to Himself. Paul was obsessed, out of his mind, to naïve observers, with the new freedom that was available to humanity through Christ. The person of Christ was Paul’s reward, not external circumstances. So Paul was considered insane in the membrane because of His passion to see the Kingdom of God manifested, which was to proclaim and build the family of God.
Like my friend Pastor Dan Farrelly once said in a training about finding “the one in marriage”, “Marriage is not a destiny or reward but a choice.” He goes on by explaining that some leaders have used their own experience of finding “the one” instead of looking at scripture’s explanation. He believes that there are many possible “ones”. He explains that he had many people in his church who proclaimed they married “the one”, only to find them asking for an annulment shortly after. His point being that people can just look at one set of results that may have worked for one leader and use it as a general measurement for all. This is why it’s important to come back to scripture. Scripture speaks to the choice of marriage. And with that, there is the choice to pursue childbearing. And when you’ve done all you know to do and your results don’t match up with many of your peers, we look to the scripture. The scripture that says all barrenness (the Law’s definition) is taken care of by the cross.
Barrenness is no longer a sign of disapproval by God, as much as the presence of children is not a sign of approval by God.
Unbelieving Meth heads have babies all the time. Is God rewarding and blessing them? Nope. Humankind procreates. Some of us have a harder time than others.
As I care for a friend’s child I believe the Lord honors the sacrificial love I’m showing as much as if it were my own child. I’m not saying the load of responsibility is the same, but the heart to serve, which results in a heavenly reward is. Also, as I honor spiritual parents in my life there is a blessing that comes from that. I can be present and celebrate with my community. I’m not negating the fact that God’s blessing flows in families but if flows just as much in spiritual families. Those we choose to love out of no obligation is as meaningful and fulfilling in the Lord’s eye’s as to love our own family. One is not more important that the other.
If I have children in the natural, it will be because God healed our bodies through the work of Jesus’ death on the cross. My blessing will be the fruit of healing, nevertheless, if you view children as a reward for diligence, faith, righteousness, etc then you carry an old testament mindset of works. The risk in this mindset is that if something goes wrong in your marriage or family, you can falsely believe God is punishing you. A loss of a child is not because God is punishing you but because we are born into a fallen world. God will be with you in that loss but He did not ordain it.
God does have a timing for all of His promises. I believe we will have children but I understand that it may not occur through natural means. I’ve walked in the role of Mother for many years in many different circumstances. Why? Because the attributes that the Holy Spirit carries are those that He works through me.
I wish we could celebrate and speak about these attributes with each other more.
I’d say the past five years my trust and peace regarding children has grown even though we still are without children. I don’t agonize like I used to. I’ve learned that as I pour my life into loving whoever Jesus brings into my path and delve deeper into His love for me, I don’t feel this pressure to figure things out. Adoption in the future is a possibility but not an option for us now. Infertility treatments are a possibility but also not an option now because of finances.
So we wait with expectation of His guidance.
With all this being said, the most difficult part of being infertile for twelve years are not the many moments of crying over negative pregnancy tests, planning friend’s baby showers, watching another friend have their fifth baby, as gut wrenching as those things have been at times. The most difficult part of walking this road is that tension of living among Christians who believe they’ve been rewarded by God, when in actuality, they were born without barriers in a specific area. It then feels like a curse. Shame really wants to rear it’s head when an old testament mindset is present.
We stand believing God will fulfil our roles as parents in whatever way He wants to, however, it will not be as a reward for obedience. This will be because of His Grace. He paid the price for healing and provision. These are free gifts.
By grace through faith, not by works.
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect, and honesty.