Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Practicing Theology - Mother's Day and barrenness

Update (05/09/07): Imagine my delight (and surprise!) to see that Girl Talk has posted THIS today titled "Infertility and Mother's Day"! I'm always delighted to see other Xian women addressing this topic and encouraging their sisters in the midst of this trial--may God receive all the glory!

This Mother's Day will be only my fifth one as a mother. While I will do as I have always done, I will honor my own mother and remind her how much she is loved and how much I appreciate everything she has done and sacrificed for me, I will also reflect on nineteen earlier Mother's Days when I approached the holiday with much caution and often avoidance.

Please don't jump to the conclusion that I took every opportunity for a "pity-party" while I was childless--I didn't. God kindly granted me the grace to attend and enjoy just about every baby shower I've ever been invited to attend! He also gave me the grace to assist a dear friend during the early hours of labor with her first child--after two miscarriages. So, it is clear to those who know me that while my own heart ached for children, I was not avoiding or "punishing" others who the Lord had graciously and sovereignly blessed.

No, I approach this holiday with caution because of the unwitting pain we in the Church sometimes cause our barren sisters-in-Christ. In many churches this Sunday there will be a literal parade of mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and maybe even great-great-grandmothers. And as obedient and loving Xians we will welcome these people--some of whom rarely attend a house of worship--and proceed to hold them up before the congregation. They'll be asked to stand, or asked how far away they live, how many children they have, how many grandchildren they have, who has the largest family with them, etc.

And if you watch carefully in the pews, you're likely to see at least one, maybe two or three young, and some "not so young", women wipe a tear or two from the corner of her eye--maybe even get up and leave the sanctuary for a brief time. Her husband will likely remain seated--knowing that she'll regain her composure soon and return, but he's found that he's all but helpless during times like these. She'll put on a brave face and cling to God's promises to be her all in all, and she'll remind herself of His complete sovereignty, and how His plans are for her good, but the damage will have been done--the Body of Christ has unwittingly wounded a fellow-believer.

I hope you won't think I'm being harsh or overly dramatic. Although I am no longer childless, I am still very much barren--according to God's sovereign will, for His good purpose--my heart still aches for fellow-sisters. Sisters who often suffer quietly while many around them are held in high honor for something that has come very "naturally" to them, but has been impossible to others--according to God's plan.

So, this Mother's Day, if you know of a childless couple in your congregation I encourage you to call them, send them an email, or talk to them face-to-face. Do as I've done since I'm no longer childless--I seek out the childless couples and ask them if Mother's Day and Father's Day are particularly difficult for them. If it is, I assure them of my prayers for God to work His perfect will in them as they wait on Him.

Sidenote: You may find THIS video to be of interest, it's called "Empty Arms". It doesn't appear to be written from a Xian perspective--no hope or trust in God's plan or purposes--but nonetheless very accurately expresses the emotions of many childless couples.


jen elslager said...

An excellent reminder to be sensitive to our brothers and sisters...

4given said...

Thank you for sharing your heart in this matter. When I became pregnant with my first son I was so carelessly excited because I got pregnant after one "try". I joked with a dear friend and said, "I guess I am one of those fertile Mertyls." Not having any idea that she and her husband, who was the best man at our wedding, had been trying to have a child for 5 years. They never shared their struggle with us. Kept it just between themselves. We just thought, as did their folks, that they were waiting to have one.

After I said that, she broke down and cried. Ugh. I learned so much that day about being careful about boasting... really about boasting in general. There has never been a time in which boasting, even in jest, has been fruitful... except if it is boasting in the Lord of course.

I appreciate your reminder.xwegmjvh

Diane said...

Connie, that was an excellent post. I had forgotten that this is yet another thing we have in common. I didn't have my first child until I was three weeks shy of 35 years old. That was by God's sovereign will, and we had been married 3 1/2 years before she was born. I longed to have a baby, and every Mother's Day just broke my heart because all I had ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother. Five years, and three weeks later, God blessed us with another daughter, two days after I turned 40.

I don't think others comprehend how difficult Mother's Day can be for those who are barren due to God's will.

I do have three little bears on my blog, representing three children. I am the stepmother of a wonderful, 29 year old son, so that will clear that up if you were confused.x

Kim said...

Thank you for that persepctive...I will be more sensitive to those around me that could be hurting this Sunday.


4given said...

Girl Talk has posted a similar article to yours called "Infertility and Mother's Day"

THank you for the reminder dear sister.

Connie said...

jen and kim: Thanks for your kind and humble response to this post--I do think the pain/wounds inflicted are most often "unwittingly".

So please, don't "walk on egg shells" around childless Sisters--just be aware, available to listen, and PRAY fervently that God's purpose will be accomplished in them! :-)

Connie said...

diane: Thank you for your comments! I love to hear how the Lord shows mercy to the childless and opens the womb--another clear reminder of His power and His purposes!

Connie said...

4given: thanks for letting me know you had submitted some comments--I don't know why they got diverted and I was not alerted to "approve" them! Nevertheless, thanks for commenting!

Please don't think you were "carelessly excited"--a new mother should be excited! You had NO idea what your friend was struggling with--many of us do keep it very quiet early on. Yet, when/if we become preg. WE shout it from the roof tops! :-)

I had a dear friend (who also had struggled with infertility) call me on my 7th wedding anniversary and told me she was pregnant! Yes, it caused a bit of a sting, but I could not "rob her" of her joy no matter what--I cried AFTER I got off the phone. :-)

I do appreciate your thoughts on boasting--even our "good-natured" boasting must be tempered.

Marcian said...

Amen. All is according to His sovereign will. That brings so much comfort. I'm not even married yet, but know that I may have difficulty conceiving, and look forward to a chance to adopt one day. But yes, everything He does in us and through us is for His glory. In my singleness I've learned the value of taking my eyes off myself and my situation and placing them on Him, my TRUE and ONLY hope of happiness.

Anonymous said...

Connie, what a poignant story. Thank you for this.

Also, when you get a chance, please come read my adoption story.

Rebekah said...

What a good post. We have a family member and his wife who are struggling with this issue, and she has told me how difficult mother's day is for her. Though we have had three children, I've also had three miscarriages, and I've had awfully insensitive things said to me that I've had to swallow back tears and smile and try to assume the person didn't really mean it the way it sounded or didn't mean to hurt.

I really don't like these made up holidays, anyway - Valentines' Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day - my husband and I call them "Hallmark" holidays. We ought to honor those people in our lives all the time and shouldn't need a reminder from the card companies, and I get annoyed with the mother's day stuff at church for much the same reasons you've mentioned. Also, Sunday worship really should be focused on Who we worship - let the Mother's Day celebrations happen at home. Sorry if that seems grouchy.

Connie said...

rebekah: Seems we all get lots of opportunities to "think the best", don't we? :-)

I too have concerns about how the church tends to hyper-focus on man-made holidays--not just Mother's Day. I wonder about men who were unable/disqualified to serve in the military and feel the sting of that every "patriotic" holiday--there are many other such examples.

Church is where our focus should be on God--not man and/or his interests. I appreciate your thoughts, thanks for stepping out there with me! If you're "grouchy", you're not alone! :-)