So about 42 of my friends on Facebook have posted links to an article by Rachel Jankovic entitled “Motherhood is Calling (and Where Your Children Rank).” Okay, maybe not 42. But a lot. Since comments aren’t enabled on the blog, I decided to post my response on my own blog. I also sent it as a message to Desiring God Ministries. So here it is. Enjoy.
I appreciated the motive and message of Rachel Jankovic’s well-written article. Truly, our culture undervalues and even attacks motherhood, and she elevated the role of the Christian mother admirably. However, I believe that the opposite problem that has arisen in our conservative Christian sub-culture. In some churches today, motherhood is so elevated that a woman’s worth is entirely wrapped up in her ability to bear and raise children. This is not something preached from the pulpit or taught in Sunday School, and I doubt there are many Christians who would say that this is true. But if churches aren’t careful, this idea can permeate our sub-culture in the most insidious ways.
Let me provide an example. The last time I was in church on Mother’s Day, at the end of the worship service, all of the mothers were invited to stand while a song was played. While they were standing, the deacons and elders delivered a rose to each woman. In the small congregation, the young girls and I were the only females left sitting. My husband and I have been infertile for the last seven years of our marriage, and this event served as a painful reminder of our inability to bear children. I felt ashamed. Without any malicious intent, the idea being unconsciously communicated was “We only value the women in our church for being mothers. We do not recognize them otherwise.”
Rachel Jankovic also discussed the plethora of unkind comments that come her way when she is out in public with her four small children. I have received my share of thoughtless comments as well, but they have all come from people in the church. I’ve heard everything from, “When’s it going to be your turn?” to “Don’t you know that children are a blessing from the Lord?” to “Why don’t you just adopt?” to “What does a career have to do with having kids and raising a family?” Rachel’s article stated, “Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory” whenever they go out in public. I would agree and add that infertile Christian women sometimes enter hostile territory when they go to church.
Rachel Jankovic is spot on when she speaks of “partial truths and half-lies” that can distort a biblical perspective on motherhood. However, we must stand against “partial truths” that exist in the church as firmly as we stand against the lies of the world. One lie being communicated (often unwittingly) to young women in the church today is that their worth rests primarily in the future role of mother. It has taken me many years to recognize and live out the truth that my worth is not found in what I do but in who I am in Christ.
It also took years to realize that my situation presents me with a unique opportunity to glorify God. I derive much comfort from the story in John 9 about the man born blind. When the disciples asked Jesus whether it was this man’s sin or his parents’ sin that caused his blindness, Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” My infertility is a result of living in a fallen world, but it is not a consequence of my sin. My husband and I were both virgins when we married, and we were heartbroken to discover that we would be unable to have children. Our childlessness is not a result of our selfish desires to have a career, travel the world, or sit around and pick our toes. We can still live in a sacrificial and Christ-honoring way, laying down our lives for the sake of the gospel. I am teacher at a Christian school, and I spend countless hours investing myself in the lives of my teenage students. I pray for them, weep for them, challenge them to excellence, discipline them, and point them to the cross. At the end of my life, there will be no one to rise up and call me blessed. But that’s okay. I still believe that I will still hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
We must keep our gaze fixed on Christ and be careful not to make idols of any of the good things He has given us. If we teach our young people that they glorify God best by delighting ourselves in Him rather than only His gifts (including the gift of parenthood), we set them up to be faithful followers of Christ no matter what His plan is for their lives.