Barren: unable to have children
synonyms: infertile, sterile, childless
This isn’t a word we hear much nowadays. You probably haven’t heard it yet today. But, I was raised on the King James version of the Bible. “Barren” is the word they use. And, as a 17-year-old sitting in a surgeon’s office listening as the words going back and forth between him and my mother faded into the fuzzy distance, only one word became clear in my mind:
Barrenness in the Bible is never good. This word always accompanies stories with emotions like deep sorrow, depression, and inescapable pain. Barrenness was a curse. Women who were barren turned to trickery, manipulation, or lies to try to get the one thing they so desperately craved: a baby. Those women were unloved. Outcasts. Unable to fulfill their “role” as a woman. I did NOT want to be barren.
Now, this is most certainly not the word the surgeon used to describe my condition. Truthfully, I think most doctors try to avoid saying something so concrete. (Especially when they are talking to a 17-year-old!) I was not yet truly barren in the literal sense, but I felt it.
Barren: empty of meaning or value.
Above is another definition of the word “barren,” and no matter what truths you shoved my way, this is how I felt. Empty. Empty of meaning. Empty of value. Suddenly, the future I had planned on, accepted as something that would surely happen, dreamed about… Suddenly, it was not sure. A shadow had been cast onto my dream. And my dream, my life, felt… barren. I was raised in a culture where pregnancy, giving birth, and babies – lots of babies – were the biggest blessings imaginable. Much like the Biblical culture I mentioned above, this was taught as one of the most beautiful gifts in a woman’s life. And, while my parents never told me I was broken or second-rate, cursed or unloved, I still felt this shadow very deeply. I felt like I might miss out on the “best” path for my future. I might be one of those women. One of those women that everyone felt sorry for because she was missing such an amazing blessing.
Fast-forward seven years to another doctor’s office. This time I sat with my husband holding my hand. We were talking this time. We were telling the doctor that we had made the decision. We had chosen our treatment option. We had literally chosen for me to become barren – infertile – forever. But that second definition? The one that said “emptiness.” The one that said “without value.” That definition was nowhere to be found in that room. Not in my thinking. Not in my husband’s. Not in our emotions.
You see, God took me on a special journey beginning that summer day. That day as a teenager when I nearly cried trying not to scream at the surgeon that I didn’t care that “my scars wouldn’t even show,” and that “I could still wear that cute bikini.” All I wanted was for someone to understand that the scars were internal, and that I would gladly trade the “bikini body” for the assurance that I could carry a baby inside of it. And He gently led me, His beloved child, until I understood that His purpose for me was far greater than the ability to give birth to a child.
I went through lots of stages, I suppose. And I wrestled with God. I did not like where I thought He was leading me and so I took the bit in my mouth and ran. I fought to get married as young as possible – so that I might have a chance at children before the endometriosis became too severe. Then I decided a life of ministry as a single woman was definitely the path for me. Then I did get married. Then I loved children that were given into my care for a time, tucked into my heart, but not my home. And at every stage, every turn in the path, my God was teaching me, showing me, that His ways were not my ways. That His thoughts were so much higher than my own.
That He is not a God of barrenness.
And He led me. He showed me that trying to force His hand only brought destruction and that He was all-powerful in my life. Then, He became the only thing left in my life and I learned that I could throw myself into His care with abandon. Then, He asked me to trust Him… by trusting one of His men… my husband… and I found that I had to be vulnerable. I found that walking with my God through pain and with nowhere to hide showed me evidences of His grace that I would not see otherwise. Then, He taught me about “today.” That every second of the day counts and that He knows the time of influence I have in another’s life. And it is enough. Because he is sovereign over that life as well. Because He is enough for them just as He is enough for me. And, at last, He showed me children. Children who desperately needed what I longed to provide.
And step by step, little by little, I learned that, in Christ, the word “barren” just didn’t apply to me. Yes, the technical “infertile” definition may apply, but that definition has no control over my life. Or my dreams. Or my identity. Or my emotions. Or my God. It’s just not what God created me to be. And how my earthly, broken body functions has nothing to do with the fullness of my life. The abundance of my joy. The adventure with my God.
Now, if you know me, if you saw my family Christmas photo, if you happened to pass me in the grocery store, you might be tempted to feel angry with me. Of course I can write this post! Of course I can say that I’m no longer barren! You could shout at me and tell me that “of course” I can be joyful. I have children! And I do. God, in His amazing sovereignty saw fit to give me 3 gorgeous girls and the opportunity to love many other sweet kiddos in my home. But that day. That day in the doctor’s office with my husband where we made one of the hardest choices of our lives to date. On that day, I had no children. And on the day of my surgery, I had no children. And throughout the healing process, I had no children.
And so, even though I became “barren” in the literal sense, I was not a woman empty, or without meaning. I was not an outcast. I was not unloved. And I was living out the role that God had given to me as a woman. As His daughter. As His child.
You see, God doesn’t call His daughters to be “mothers.” He calls us to be disciples and to make disciples. Motherhood is definitely a high calling and God does call many women to fulfill their calling through motherhood. But that isn’t the only way and it isn’t the “best” way. God’s best is individual and personal. He cares for His children too much to have a “one-size-fits-all” plan. And, ladies, God’s plan is bigger than this broken world and our broken bodies. I used to feel like my path was blessed in spite of the fact that I couldn’t fulfill “God’s best plan,” when, in fact, my path is blessed because God has chosen me as His daughter. Period. I used to long to “just be normal,” but now I rejoice in my unique path, my special family and circumstance. I rejoice because God has specifically led and gifted me for this path. He chose me to reflect His glory and who am I to argue with the “how.”
I was blessed. I am blessed.
You can read more of my story and surgery in my blogpost “Healing Is In God’s Hands“