When you experience infertility, it seems that every other woman in the world is pregnant. I still have that feeling, but not just in that concrete obvious way. I often get the impression that every thing, every comment, is geared to draw attention to my infertility and conspire to make me feel inadequate and a failure.
A less-than woman. A less-than person.
This has happened twice this week, two experiences that really stayed with me and left me chewing over them during my drive into work today.
The first happened at the museum of fine art over the weekend. My mother and I had gone to spend a day out together, and I was happily reading the little notes to the left of the paintings, when I read a description that I allowed to steal my joy away. It read,
Famous Artist So-and-so considered motherhood to be the ideal expression of womanhood.
And then I read this article on CNN.com and the kicker phrase in this article states:
Having a baby is the ultimate bonding experience.
Comments like these only serve to accomplish one thing in my life: they make me feel that my experiences are condemned to be less than ideal, that no matter what I do, I can never have a full life, and that I can never fulfill the requirements of ideal womanhood. They scream to me that I should just get used to the idea that I will never know ultimate bonding, that no matter how hard I try, I will never measure up to even the minimum standard.
I was turning these thoughts over in my head this morning, trying to reconcile them with my heart, when I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, clear as day, “Trish, that’s the world talking. You know that’s not true for you.”
Wow. Just let that sink in for a minute, because even as I write this, I have to pause and let my thoughts catch up with my beating heart.
It is the world’s view, and it’s so insidious that it can influence even our best-intentioned Christian thoughts. What makes it so seductive is how pure it seems on the surface. Afterall, the world asks, what can be more pure than motherhood? What can be more perfect than the bond between a woman and her children?
It’s an illusion, a distraction, from the truth. It’s Satan’s subtle way of saying, It’s a beautiful feeling, so it must be right. By focusing our views and thoughts on childbearing as the ultimate and ideal , the true Ultimate and Ideal is overshadowed in our minds: God.
It places childbearing on an untenable pedestal, makes it the new idol, the new theology of our society. Even our values are now phrased in terms of Family Values, not God’s Values.
Christian women also fall victim to this seductive view of womanhood. I know I have. And I’ve had kind and sincere well-meaning Christian friends say they are praying for me that I would have children, “because you can’t really understand and experience God’s love until you’ve had children of your own.”
Talk about killing me with kindness! According to this viewpoint, not only can I never attain the ultimate and ideal expressions of womanhood, I also will never fully experience God’s love!
But Sisters, it’s a lie that motherhood is the highest calling of women. It’s a warm, beautiful, and seductive lie, and to those of us who are precluded from it’s fulfillment, it’s a sharp and bitter sword that separates us from finding our true worth and purpose as women of God.
I have to remind myself, when the world tells me that I’m less than the ideal expression of womanhood, that God tells me that the ideal expression of my womanhood, the reason He created me, was to worship Him. That the ideal expression of my personhood, above all, is to be Christ’s ambassador on this earth, to be like Christ.
To understand God’s love through the love of a child is a step in the right direction, and I don’t mean to take anything away from parents in this regard! It’s a beautiful bond that cannot be imitated. If you are a parent, please don’t take offense, but your love of your children, while strong and undeniable, is not the ultimate love.
Jesus said, If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46-48)
I believe that in this passage, Jesus is saying, “It’s perfectly natural to love your children and your family, it’s the way you are designed. But the true measure of your love is how you love those who are unlovely, who are not your flesh and blood, who are unloved.”
Perfect love, as God loves, is to love super-naturally. Beyond the natural. That’s how God demonstrates His love. Certainly, a mother can aspire do that.
But so can a woman with no children!
As women, we need to be careful about not letting the world set our standards. As Christian women, we need to be especially careful of this, because while it is good to study and reflect on the qualities of faithful mothers and women in the Bible as models of earthly women who walked in faith and love, they are models for living, but should not be our ideal models for living.
Our only ideal should be Christ, and the ultimate bonding experience that we seek should be the bond of relationship between our soul and God.
So while I may indeed be missing out on the experiences of motherhood, while I may indeed never fulfill the world’s view of perfect womanhood, I need not fear missing out on the Ideal or the Ultimate on account of my disease or my inability to bear children.
God is my Ideal and my Ultimate.