Welcome to barren Mondays, the place where our places of greatest barrenness—physically, emotionally or spiritually—provide fertile ground for the beauty of the Kingdom to break through. Where does every barren woman break forth with child? In what place might every infertile be granted fruit and multiplication in her household? Where might this happy-clappy place of fertile abundance be reality?
Yes, the Holy Scriptures. And trust me, God and I have had conversations about this.
Seriously, Lord, the women you trumpet as barren and dried up, depressed and despairing, the ones with no fruit on the vine, always get a baby in your Book? Seriously? And this is supposed to bring me comfort how? Could not one of them remain barren, could not one of them find a way to joy beyond childlessness, could not one of them be the poster child for a kind of spiritual fertility that makes the dried-up womb bearable somehow, redeem-able somehow?
Not a one that I could see.
The Bible's most popular fertility stories include those of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elisabeth and Ruth. And each story has a turning point, a climax, a solution to their terrible pain. The solution is a baby. A bonafide, viable-sperm-meets-egg-after-ovulation miracle pregnancy. But then, in my mind, every pregnancy ever conceived is a miracle.
For Sarah, the babe came after searing infertility, menopause, and old age had already arrived. In Genesis 25:21, after 20 years of Rebekah's barrenness, Isaac pleaded with Yahweh to open up her womb—and out popped Jacob and Esau. Admittedly, Rachel died in childbirth, after she had given birth to the long-awaited Joseph and Benjamin. Hannah's womb, once void, produced five more children after Samuel was born, the angel announced Elisabeth's treasure in her golden years, and Ruth's infertility dried up when her kinsman-Redeemer helped her conceive a child that would rescue her mother-in-law's family name from disgrace.
In a patriarchal culture where a person's seed symbolized their salvation, each of the women above were dramatically rescued from one of the worst fates that might befall them: barrenness.
"For nothing will be impossible with God," the angel said to Mary the mother of Jesus, after announcing cousin Elisabeth's miracle baby.
Allow me to be blunt. After years of childlessness, my monthly cry has often been this: nothing is impossible for God except for me to have a child. Only this.
If hope deferred makes the heart sick, hope denied is worse.
So how might one find any kind of hope again when they are not promised a child, when their arms remain empty and their heart lies bruised and questioning?
This Book I love, the one that contains the truth that lights my way, may not offer up the permanently barren woman with whom I can commiserate. I wish it did. But it does winsomely point the way to my suffering Savior, those bloody teardrops in the garden, arms outstretched, nails pummeled through his broken flesh, redemption and the future secured, anchor-sure. Human body, he had, human disappointments, betrayal, angst, loneliness, and yes, despair. Jesus may not have had a uterus, but he is somehow acquainted with my sorrow.
This is hope, and it will be enough.
What about you? Describe how hope does—or doesn't break through—in an area of barrenness.
Next week: Another "barren Mondays: Guilt by Association," as I discover the one woman declared barren in the Bible and what it might have to do with me.