A few months ago, my friend and I started a series. We hope to finish with a few additional posts. Starting today…
What if you were a recovering alcoholic called to work as a bartender? An unsatisfied single man called to do pre-marital counseling? An infertile pastor asked to do a memorial service for aborted children?
Yeah. It’s gonna be that kind of raw. The kind of raw that surprises you, mid-slicing limes and cilantro, that ends up spilling these words out over the sound of gut wrenching tears, “Doesn’t it say somewhere, ‘he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up’?”
I handled the torn down okay, I thought. Gut wrenching sobs? Check! I made it through that first stage. In the initial months of becoming pastors, we decided that it would not be wise to tackle the what-to-do-next of the infertility diagnosis until at least 1 year in. And that was a good idea! Until the nursery workers start asking, “When will we have yours in the nursery?” And the unsuspecting grandmother says, “You wouldn’t be able to understand what my daughter’s going through. You’ve chosen not to have kids.”So leaving that frightening word, infertile, on the shelf for a year wasn’t possible. Friends got pregnant. I was torn down.
But after tears, I honestly felt healed. “Thank you, Father, that you gave me the diagnosis infertile. I know without a shadow of a doubt that you are in control. I know I did not make a wrong decision about whether to have or to prevent kids for the last 6 years. Because you have been in control, and you said no. Thank you. I can trust you.” That was 2 weeks ago.
Today, during a reflection on Psalm 103, I said to a fellow staff member, “I have experienced that God heals our afflictions. But I wish I knew that he forgives our iniquity deeper.” Full sincerity. Totally calm.
Cue the strike down.
That was pre-meeting with courageous women who walk with fellow sisters in Christ who have undergone abortions. They walk through their anger, forgiveness, grief, saying “hello” to their unborn child, and then saying good-bye. And now they would like to have a memorial service. They want me to lead a memorial service. I say what we always say, “We don’t have funerals here. We have services of the resurrection. For we are a people of the empty tomb, and we live in the hope of eternity.” I remain calm. Pastoral. Tears well up when one of the women acknowledges the coming pain for one of the women in the group who isn’t yet ready to say good-bye to the child she only just learned to say hello to. That must be so painful. “Should we sing ‘Amazing Grace’? How about ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’?” We pray. Hug. See the administrator to schedule the service. Continue on with the day.
Then I come home and lose it. “I’m supposed to be speaking the forgiveness of the Father over these women! How could they do it? I can’t even make one. How could they kill theirs?!”
“He has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”
Never have I been so convinced that I am not strong enough on my own to do the work that I’ve been called to do. Never have I needed God so much. Never have I needed God’s forgiveness so much. I need his forgiveness to be able to say in 2 weeks words of assurance, “Your sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus.” I really need to forgive them. They are, I am, the lost sheep that Jesus has picked up, bound up, and returned with.
After 2 days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Here’s the summary of what I hope to share:
This series is intended to bring the anonymous struggle of infertility into the light.
To those unaware of infertility, I hope to make it personal and known, rather than generalized and unnoticed.
To those struggling with infertility, I hope to bring comfort and empathy.
To those within the Church, I hope to bring a theological framework for engaging the questions and ministry that arise with infertility.
I am a married Christian whose medical chart reads infertile. This is my angle, and I hope it serves you.