Why Christianity is good news for the Childless

Why Christianity is good news for the Childless

As a Christian and a vicar’s wife there have been many moments over the past few years when I have wanted to walk away, to give up and reject my faith in Jesus. After six miscarriages and unexplained infertility it has taken years to believe again that prayer might actually work. I’ve sworn at God time and time again, I’ve ignored Him, I’ve avoided church and spent a long time getting p*****d off by other Christians who seem to radiate smugness. But, scrambling around in the dirt of disappointment, of failed hope and isolation I slowly began to uncover some truths about the Christian faith that stirred my soul. Promises and lives lived with God that brought with them a depth of comfort and a rich beauty of hope that I’d heard spoken of but never believed was actually possible to experience for myself. Slowly and gently these words and stories have challenged and transformed me, guiding me into a life of freedom and hope I had never previously known. On the outside, nothing’s changed, I’m still childless, at times I still resent the isolation of living a life that doesn’t ‘fit’ and I’m still grieving, I think I always will, but on the inside, deep in my soul, I have been transformed.

But, scrambling around in the dirt of disappointment, of failed hope and isolation I slowly began to uncover some truths about the Christian faith that stirred my soul

Until I stared death in the face and flushed it down the toilet, I used to be one of those Christians. The ones who believe everything happens for a reason and that God won’t give you more than you can handle and I always believed there was an answer. I knew God loved me and forgave me and that I carried with me the hope of heaven and I do still believe this to be true but when you’re locked in a bathroom weeping over your infertility these truths offer little comfort. For years my Christian faith actually made this journey into the life I never wanted even harder. I not only had to process what had happened, I also had to reconcile it with my faith. But over time I stopped looking for answers, I don’t think I’ll ever know why I’ve lost six children not medically or spiritually and I’ve come to the conclusion that in this fallen world my faith will not always resolve. What I have learnt however, is that Christianity has way more to offer than answers, it offers a way of living that is more beautiful and meaningful than anything else I have ever known, not because it preaches perfection or 2.4 children but because it speaks into my pain and gives it purpose. I truly believe that the Christian faith told through the story of God and His people in the Bible and lived out through the heroes of faith in our world has something far greater to offer the childless than anything else in this world can, so here is why I believe Christianity is good news for the childless:

Christianity has way more to offer than answers, it offers a way of living that is more beautiful and meaningful than anything else I have ever known, not because it preaches perfection or 2.4 children but because it speaks into my pain and gives it purpose.

STRUGGLE IS PART OF THE JOURNEY

In a world where a good life is marketed as an effortless one, struggle has no home. I know when my story of miscarriage and infertility began I saw struggle as failure, the stories of infertility I read or listened too didn’t help either because they were only retold once the baby arrived and the happy family was restored. But the Bible doesn’t edit struggle, it embraces it, in fact it’s what makes the stories told about God and His people so beautiful. The Bible is filled with stories about normal everyday humans who struggle and screw up, with many of the Biblical writers focusing more on the retelling of an individual’s struggle than the years of fruitfulness that followed, including the story of infertility.

But the Bible doesn’t edit struggle, it embraces it, in fact it’s what makes the stories told about God and His people so beautiful

I used to believe the thing that made a story great was the ending, when everything resolved and everyone was happy but the Bible has shown me that what happens in the middle is just as important and can be just as beautiful. I spent a long time running from my pain, pretending I was okay and that I was strong enough but it robbed me of joy. It’s scary but so much easier to accept my humanity and confess my struggle than hide from it because as soon as I did I realised I was not alone, I had this crazy band of misfits whose stories had been remembered and retold since the beginning of time and their faithful God right beside me showing me a better and a more human way to live.

NOTHING IS IRREDEEMABLE

I remember when I first read those words, they rolled over and over again in my mind, stirring something in my soul. At first my understanding of redemption was limited to rescuing, believing the only way my childlessness could be redeemed was by having children. It was my goal, my aim, I wanted healing, I wanted a solution but in that desire I still saw pain as an interruption to my life, stopping me from being the person I wanted to be because I wasn’t living the life I’d dreamed of. But redemption isn’t about God giving you what you want, redemption is God’s collaborative work of taking your pain and turning it into something beautiful and often something that can benefit way more people than just yourself.

But redemption isn’t about God giving you what you want, redemption is God’s collaborative work of taking your pain and turning it into something beautiful

Throughout the Bible the stories of pain, suffering and struggle were never seen as interruptions or a waste of a life but rather a pathway to something better. From Joseph to Jesus, the pain, suffering, imprisonment, abandonment, infertility, grief, betrayal, torture and death resulted in the transformation and salvation of many lives. My suffering has taught me and changed me for the better, I no longer feel bound by other’s expectations, I know my worthiness does not come from a role or job title and as a result I feel so much freer. But the redemption of my infertility has not stopped there, it has created new and deeper friendships, it has given purpose to my suffering, it’s also the reason why Saltwater and Honey exists – to redeem our suffering by sharing our stories with others and supporting them on their journey.

There is a lot of injustice in suffering but the lives of faithful God followers have shown me that redemption can turn it into something beautiful. It’s not a quick process and it’s not easy, but rather than just abandoning God as unjust and our lives as a failure, I believe we need to be willing to embrace the potential greatness of the story we’re actually in and invite God, the master storyteller to help us redeem it.

we need to be willing to embrace the potential greatness of the story we’re actually in and invite God, the master storyteller to help us redeem it.

GRIEF IS A PRECONDITION TO JOY

For years I was desperate to be relieved from the weight of grief I carried with me and I truly believed the only way to feel happy was to ignore, forget and hide what I was feeling but oh, how wrong I was! I was afraid of grief, I was afraid that if I actually articulated how sad I was I would lose control, I was afraid if I let myself cry I would never stop. Our western culture is really bad at dealing with grief, I grew up in it and didn’t even possess the vocabulary to talk about grief let alone understand it. Our churches can also be rubbish at lament, focusing more on good news and answered prayers, choosing to sweep the awkwardness of pain and disappointment quickly under the carpet. But the Bible is awesome at expressing grief and anger and frustration, I love it! The psalms in particular model this relationship between God and His people, baring their soul to Him from the pit before being able to move forward and praise Him for faithfulness.

the Bible is awesome at expressing grief and anger and frustration, I love it!

Brueggemann (a very wise white-haired theologian), describes grief as not merely a therapeutic activity but as the only doorway through which you can experience true joy, the best illustration of this being Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus had to actually properly, physically die, in order that the joy that came with His resurrection could be known.

Grief promises a depth of joy on the other side that knocks a fake smile out the window. It’s a soul-filling joy that comes from fully expressing your humanity, a joy and new life that’s repeated time and time again throughout the Bible after storms, darkness, slavery, exile and death. There is no short cut to this joy, you have to feel it first, and in this world our grief will never completely disappear, but the expression of grief and the acknowledgement of our humanity is the pathway to experiencing an unrivalled joy and freedom whilst we remain on this earth.

Grief promises a depth of joy on the other side that knocks a fake smile out the window

A CHILDLESS PERSON CAN STILL LIVE A MEANINGFUL LIFE

If I’m honest, the place where I felt the most worthless as a childless woman was church. I didn’t believe I belonged there, my story didn’t fit there. But then, when I read about Jesus’ time on earth, I was reminded of how He was always found hanging out with people just like me, who felt like outsiders and I didn’t feel as alone. Childlessness is so often seen as a failure, in our world and our churches. We pray for newly-wed couples to have children, we rightly celebrate births and marriages but when they don’t happen we tell people it’s not too late or maybe there’s other solutions to their ‘problem’, or lament about how it’s such a shame they never got married or had children rather than acknowledging the meaningful lives they’re already living.

Some of the most powerful, radical words of Jesus speak right to the heart of the belief that exalts the idol of family life above all others and I love Him so much more for it. In Matthew 10v37, Jesus said, “anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” In Matthew 12, when told his mother and brothers were waiting for Him, He pointed to His disciples, telling the crowd His mother and brothers were here because they were the ones who followed Him and carried out His will. With Jesus, the genealogies stopped, at the announcement of His birth there are no more lists recording parents and lineage because they didn’t matter any more, family line no longer matters. Your childlessness no longer matters, not because it’s not significant but because Jesus says it can no longer define your worth.

Your childlessness no longer matters, not because it’s not significant but because Jesus says it can no longer define your worth.

There is so much about the Christian faith I still don’t understand. I still struggle with prayer and I don’t know why some prayers are answered and others aren’t. I know we live in a fallen world and we cannot expect perfection on earth, but I also know God asks us to trust Him and ask Him for help and I’m slowly learning to do that again. Until I was shaken awake from the comfort of a relatively easy life there were parts of the Bible that just just fell flat on the page, they spoke of an alternative reality that sounded good but I wasn’t desperate enough to need it. Now, when I read passages like the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 and Luke 6:20-22, the words quench a hunger deep in my soul that nachos, wine, positive thinking or stories of miraculous babies could never reach.

The beatitudes fly in the face of a world that believes wealth, fertility, happiness and good health represent God’s favour.

The beatitudes fly in the face of a world that believes wealth, fertility, happiness and good health represent God’s favour. They introduce the upside down kingdom of God’s reign that can also be experienced here on earth. They promise a peace, hope and freedom that’s not dependent on your BMI, your marital status or size of your family, house or bank account and I love it! When you don’t measure your worth by these status’ it frees your life up to experience and embrace so much more because you’ve become a citizen of heaven here on earth. A God follower who is no longer bound by the standards handed out at school or through social media or judgemental friends and family. This is not to say that if you don’t experience grief, poverty or persecution you can’t know the depth of God’s love or live with a heart filled with the peace and joy of believing in Jesus, there are plenty of people who trust Jesus with all their heart who already live this life everyday. Nor does Jesus mean that suffering is a free pass to this intimacy and soul-quenching peace. The true doorway to this alternative reality here in earth is through Jesus. It’s through getting to know Him better in the words of the Bible and following them each day. I fell deeper in love with Jesus when I realised He was there with me in the midst of my deep grief and isolation reminding me that my worth cannot be measured by what I do or what I have, not even by the number of children I give birth to, but rather how much I am loved by the one who created me. God is not interested in these lists of criteria we place on ourselves to measure success, He’s more interested in the person you become.