When you have no children and you want them, you tend to notice (and covet) the children of others everywhere. Walking down the streets of Chicago, I’ve seen crack addicts use their kids as selling points for donations from passersby. We’d hear of every tragic family relationship—women tossing children in dumpsters for one—and wonder if even Social Services had better judgment than God when it came to deciding who gets a child.
These feelings were only compounded by books that suggested that childlessness was a curse from God. In one face-to-face confrontation, someone suggested that we were disobeying God’s mandate to be fruitful and multiply. Is it really the best policy to accuse a struggling young couple, who have been told they have fertility problems, and who have suffered shots, pokings and proddings, that they are the sinful ones?
While we were under that sort of scrutiny, I’m not sure we treated ourselves any better. I only have one brother and he is not married, so I felt a certain burden to carry on the family name. For Mindy it was different. She is the oldest of five children raised on a farm. She more than expected that same life for herself, wanting a large home-schooled family like her mother. And being first born, she felt it was her duty to set that example. God satisfied neither of us in our plans.
For a long while, every comment, no matter the intention, stood out to us.
“You look tired Brandon,” said a friend one day.
“I’m spending some long nights working on my Masters thesis,” I replied.
“You think you’re tired now, just wait until you have children.” He slapped me on the back and walked off with a chuckle.
Wait until I have children? I heard that line several times, as if no one was ever exhausted unless they had children. But I knew that it was just one of those things people say and mean no more than when they say, “some weather we’re having here.” He had no idea we had issues with infertility. The real problem was that I couldn’t stop thinking about children. Children had become an idol.
For years we lived our lives in anticipation of that child. We put many opportunities to serve God on hold, after all, the next treatment could change everything. Mindy worked every year, but never worked on a career. She simply took the next available job in whatever city we lived. I worked on my career, but my vision of being a husband never fully considered Mindy’s overall satisfaction with life.
It is often assumed by those with my theological background that much of the identity of a woman should be found in her children. But when there are no children, who is she? Added to that, I believed that I eventually had to finish my schooling and become the sole provider for a spouse whose identity was mostly to be found in children. It was my duty, I thought. But now things were different and being a husband for me no longer included children, it was only the two of us.
Now understanding it as a gender issue, we had to reassess our identities in Christ. In doing so, I discovered that we lived under many false assumptions. We lived as if we were under “Plan B.” Plan A was interrupted by infertility, or so we felt. We believed we were to suffer under Plan B until God saw it fit to give us children. What we did had little significance for our future, it was what we were doing “in the meantime.”
We needed a course correction. We needed to understand that Plan B, was not Plan B, it was Plan A. Our infertility was not a problem, it was God’s way of guiding our lives through Plan A—the real Plan A. There was no Plan B. God intended us to take what we were experiencing and redirect our energies toward serving him fruitfully. We were to end our wallowing and give our attention to the service of the gospel. Our identities were not to be found in our procreation.
Mindy found the freedom to explore her gifts—which are without a doubt in writing and editing—and in discoveries like these we found fruitfulness in new ways. Children could no longer be our idols. That which was a source of despair, became an opportunity for service and a special journey. We were no longer to waste our infertility.
John Piper’s article, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”—the obvious inspiration for the title of this post—reminds us that God brings these things into our lives to redirect our energies in service to him. Written at the news of his prostate cancer, there are some points that resonate with me and concur with the lessons I’ve learned. To paraphrase Piper, we waste our infertility if we “do not believe it is designed for us by God.” We waste our infertility if we “believe it is a curse and not a gift.” We waste our infertility if we “spend too much time reading about infertility and not enough time reading about God.” And we definitely waste our infertility when we “fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.” This last point is only now hitting home with me; after all, infertility problems aren’t the kind of conversation one enjoys having or even writing about publicly. But with 1 in 6 couples struggling with infertility—a problem evenly divided down gender lines—I’m sure there are plenty of others who are going through what we’ve already experienced and who are seeking spiritual help.
Without a doubt, children are a blessing from God. Our nieces and nephews are a joy from God in our life. And because children are a blessing, Mindy and I have worked hard to have a positive impact in their lives, even writing a church history series for children, called History Lives. We hope that they will learn to love the church and find inspiration in those that made Christ their identities. We hope that they too will ask those important questions such as, who am I as a servant of Christ? What is my purpose in life? More importantly, whatever adversity comes their way, we hope that they will not waste it, but will find the path laid out before them as an opportunity to serve and love God.
Note from Admin. This post was published some years ago and is so well written we thought it was worth repeating.