When I began this blog For All She’s Worth, I mentioned that the inspiration for the content came from my reading 1 Peter 3:6. We are Sarah’s daughters, it says. (Sarah of biblical fame, of course.) Like many people, I wanted to know a little bit about my ancestry, so, if I’m Sarah’s daughter, then I wanted to know what she was like. Much to my amazement, Sarah (formerly Sarai) wife of Abraham (formerly Abram) was a lot like me and other women I know, even though our existences are separated by centuries. I have struggles and feelings of inadequacy just as she did. I feel devalued for many reasons just like Sarah. One of the main areas where Sarah struggled was in her ability to be a mother. She was considered infertile (which was considered a curse in those days) and remained so until a miracle happened and she conceived one child in her old age. Read the whole narrative in Genesis 12-17.
Since I haven’t personally struggled with infertility, I asked my daughter-in-law, Kelly to write about her frustrations in this area. She graciously agreed. She and our son, Mark, have always wanted to be parents, but after 16 years of marriage, they have been unable to conceive a child. Here are her wise words:
“Today I had blood drawn. I sat in a familiar gray chair and rested my arm on the familiar flat armrest. I felt the familiar snap of a rubber strap tied in clamp to my bicep and heard the familiar instructions, ‘Make a fist.’ But the nurse could not find a vein in my arm. Perplexed she moved to my other arm. No vein. She then moved to examine my hands. No veins. She called a colleague, who examined me and was equally perplexed until I finally offered up, ‘I had fertility treatments for 6 years which included daily blood work, and I think my veins have gone into hiding.’
“There is an old school-yard rhyme that goes ‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.’ When Mark and I were married, I assumed life would unfold for us the way it was told in rhyme. It was May 21st, 2008 that my husband and I first learned that we were infertile for “unknown causes”, and it was the day our lives moved from what should be to an unmarked path. As months stretched into years, I have felt the loneliness of watching others my age (and now much younger than I) move forward in life as their families grow and children are added. I have known the humiliation of Mother’s Day Sunday when women are asked to stand and be honored as mothers, and I remain seated. I have had the awkward encounters of being asked if I have children, only to respond with, ‘Not yet…’
“Things are not as they should be.
“Barrenness has caused a wrestle in my soul to find worth and purpose; how, as a woman without children, do I fit in and do I matter? In scripture, Naomi knew life not as it should be. Famine made her a foreigner in a strange land. She became a widow. Her daughters-in-law remained childless. Her sons died. The first five verses of the first chapter of Ruth screams Naomi’s life is not as it should be. (Ruth 1:1-5) She wrestled to find God’s goodness and faithfulness in all of it. Her response is familiar to me:
It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me! (Ruth 1:13b)
‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.’ (Ruth 1:20-21)
“I have felt these things. Abandoned and afflicted. Empty and bitter. I believe this wrestle happens to all of us when what should be is not, and we let our circumstances challenge God. The situation may be different, but the wrestle is the same: If God is good … why is this happening? If God is faithful … why am I facing this? If God is with me … why am I abandoned? If God has a plan … why am I forgotten? Over the years as I’ve wrestled out these questions, the end of Naomi’s story has given me tremendous comfort and courage.
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.’
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son!’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:13-16)
“There are several things I have learned from this passage. As Naomi holds Obed, we read that he will be the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David … and we know David was the lineage to Christ. Through Naomi’s season of sorrow, her life not as it should be, God was working out His redemptive plan for the entire world. And it’s not just a universal plan God was at work in, I also see how God meets Naomi in a personal way by giving her a guardian-redeemer. God had not forgotten her. He had not abandoned her.
I do not know how the rest of my story goes. I do not know if we will be given children in our older age. I do not know if the adoption we are pursuing will end well or with more sorrow. But what I do know, and cling to with all I’ve got, is that God never changes. The same God who was at work in Naomi’s life, and at work in the fuller redemptive story, is still at work in me … for His glory and for His namesake. So, if His work in my barrenness is what makes His name to become famous, then things truly are as they should be.”
I love you, Kelly. Thank you for being vulnerable.