Happy IComLeavWe! I don’t always go all ‘christian-y’ here but tis the season. For a quick laugh, see my last post on GLITTER.
Look, I love me some Christmas, I still talk about Santa like he’s real (because HE IS), and I celebrate the season with joy.
As a Christian, Christmas is really hard for me. As a Christian I spend a good month dreading the build up to Christmas in our churches. As a Christian, I am a regular old Grinch when it comes to Christmas.
And this is not about the commercialism of Christmas or any of that. It’s about the message that is taught and/or preached for upwards of a month concluding on Christmas Eve/Day that for infertiles seems like one long diatribe reminding us: ‘sucks to be you‘.
Now, this post is not for everyone. It may seem I am targeting Christian preachers or the Christian message, I am not (hell, I’m married to a pastor). Additionally I would like to state that like HALF our friends are pastors or involved in church work and I am NOT targeting you. I am targeting a theme that the church in general has seized upon and promoted for hundreds of years. And I will honestly tell you, even before our infertility issues started, I have had issues with anyone who makes general statements such as “in God’s time” or “this must have been God’s plan.”
And so Christmas. In almost every Christian church the build up to Christmas includes the reading of two stories of women who could not physically get pregnant. One, Elizabeth, who was barren, and Mary, who was a virgin. These are beautiful stories on their own. And taken on their own, I’m ok with it, I celebrate with Elizabeth and I marvel with Mary.
Inevitable to the reading of these stories is the sermon or lesson that follows. And inevitably I am left feeling lost and hurt. I’ve spent almost three years dealing with infertility issues. And three years of hearing these stories and then dealing with the church’s interpretation of them.
Because inevitably it gets mentioned how this was all in ‘God’s plan‘, or ‘in God’s timing‘. Especially when they talk about poor Elizabeth, who had been barren and was now in her old age. When Elizabeth is talked about and how this was all part of God’s plan I want to rail on her behalf. So God PURPOSELY did this to her? So God sat back and watched her SUFFER, in a time when your value as a woman was largely based upon your ability to bear children? When if you could not have borne a child your husband had the right to get rid of you.
The trouble I have with the lessons based upon this topic is that they almost always implicate God as causing the infertility, by saying it was all in God’s plan, and then grant Him the hero-status of coming in and saving the day. In my opinion, YOU DON’T GET IT BOTH WAYS.
I have to believe in a God that does NOT cause infertility. And that allows me to believe in a God who does sometimes break into our world to cause miracles.
Mary’s story gets me because it so often gets glossed over the role Mary played. If you read things carefully in the scripture, Mary accepts the proclamation of the angel Gabriel. No one ever talks about ‘what if Mary had said “no”?’ Mary, at most 13-14 years old, a virgin, and suddenly an angel of God shows up and proclaims that she will give birth to God’s only son. How scary. How absolutely terrifying .
And yet Mary accepts. Mary’s courage reminds me of the so many infertile couples who stick together, stick it out, and carry forth in a time of often terrifying struggle. Of wrestling everyday with the knowledge they may never have a biological child. No, I am not equating Mary’s struggle with an infertile couple’s struggle. I am, however, saying that both are stories of courage in the face of the terrifying. And often that part of the story, that struggle, is glossed over, for both, as part of ‘God’s plan‘. It’s easy to read this passage in the bible and summarize it all as being ‘God’s plan‘. It is much harder to wrestle with the very real issues of terror, courage, and the very REAL fact that for Mary, this was most definitely NOT in her plans, yet she took it on. And it’s very easy to see a couple struggling to have a child and in your attempt to say something comforting, such as, ‘it will all work out in God’s time/plan‘ you end up devaluing their struggle and journey while also telling them their struggle isn’t even worth it, because it’s all up to God.
Like Mary, the infertile couple’s strength and love for each other, the courage they show, is glossed over as part of ‘God’s plan‘. Mary accepted and embraced something I doubt few of us would, yet she is accredited as just doing ‘God’s plan‘. Yes, it may have been God’s plan but that doesn’t make her acceptance of it any less miraculous.
A rough estimate is that 25-35% of couples will face infertility or miscarriages in their lifetime. Which means for 25-35% of couples Christmas is a real struggle. They will sit in pews and hear about two miraculous births. Births that in themselves are stories of awe. But they will also very possibly hear a message that, however unintentionally, for them is filled with pain.
For those of you struggling with infertility or loss this Christmas, my heart goes out to you, I am with you.
And from my husband, a pastor, here was his comment on my post:
The true story of Christmas is not that women, who couldn’t otherwise have children, gave birth. The Good News of Christmas is that “to you a child will be born and his name will be called, Immanuel (God with us).” God is with us through it all. God is not the cause of our problems, heartaches and disappointments. God is Immanuel (God with us)…even through the crappiness of infertility.
Thanks hun, for using “crappiness” in your comment, you truly know me
Also in the comments section below I will post some more quotes and resources from a well know pastor, Adam Hamilton.