Written by Andrea Stephens
I’ll never forget the Sunday morning when the Fertility Clinic called with the crushing news that none of the eggs from the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) procedure had produced an embryo. We had tried so many other procedures but this was the time we were going to actually see what was happening by putting the eggs and sperm together in a petri dish and watching for results.
The doctor explained that the next step would be using donor eggs. I could look at the profiles of women who had frozen eggs, select one, then have her eggs used in another IVF procedure. But we had already decided that we would not take that route. Though others were making that choice and joyfully producing little bundles of joy, we had decided we would draw the line at this point. No third-party intervention.
To say I was devastated was putting it mildly. I was already ten years into this infertility journey. Hundreds of doctor’s appointments, invasive ultrasounds, blood draws, fertility drug injections, ovulation kits, six surgeries to remove painful cysts and endometriosis and I still had empty arms. The hand-knit baby booties on my dresser, intended to be a symbol of hope, had become a disheartening reminder of the loss I felt from being childless.
I had already worked through the jealousy of birth announcements from friends. The Lord had brought me to the understanding that what He was doing in someone else’s life had nothing to do with me and I eventually could rejoice with them. I had already learned that taking non-emotional gifts like diapers to a baby shower helped me feel stronger (shopping for cute baby outfits could land me in a puddle of tears). I had already mastered the art of redirecting the conversation every time someone asked me when I was going to start my own family.
I had also already worked through the tough God questions. Why won’t You give me a baby? Why don’t You love me? What have I done wrong? Is there unconfessed sin in my life? Do You not think I would be a good mom? Why won’t you bless me? I promise to raise my children to love and serve You! The majority of my wrestling with God over my childlessness had been resolved with the biblical truth that my infertility was not a withdrawal of God’s love, not a judgment call, not a source of punishment, not proof that I’d been abandoned or forgotten about, and not proof that prayer didn’t work.
Yet, that day after the phone call, I felt like I was still missing something. I still needed the Lord to comfort my heart and give me understanding. As I sat and prayed, I sensed a whispering in my soul. It’s time to focus on the bigger picture. The bigger picture? What could be bigger than God’s instructions to be fruitful and multiply? What was bigger than the biblical accounts of God opening the wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, and others in the Old Testament? What was I missing? What piece of the big picture was not in my puzzle?
I decided to dive into the Gospel of John, paying close attention to Jesus’ words in an effort to understand what God wanted me to see. So, first we learn that Jesus is the Word, John the Baptist came with a message of repentance, Jesus turns the water into wine, then he turns over the tables in the temple. Got it. In Chapter 3, the nighttime chat with Nicodemus about being born again caught my attention in a fresh way. Jesus said we must be born of the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and believing in Him, God’s Son, brings eternal life. Hmmm. The eternal. The kingdom of God. A different kind of birth.
I continued on. Finally, in chapter fifteen it happened. A huge clue was uncovered. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches; we are to bear fruit—eternal fruit! I was starting to get it. Fruitfulness was being given a new definition. In the Old Testament, fruitfulness referred to bearing earthly children. In the New Testament, it was about abiding in Christ and producing spiritual fruit.
God, does this mean that Jesus brought a new focus, a new sense of purpose? Could it be that being fruitful was not connected with having kids?
Jesus’ focus was not on the earthly development of the family of God, but the spiritual development of the Kingdom of God. How? Share the good news of saving grace found in Christ alone, so others might receive Him into their lives and be born again, born spiritually into the Kingdom of God, into His forever family.
Thoughts of New Testament people without children or without mention of children flooded my mind: John the Baptist, Martha and Mary, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary of Magdela, Apostle Paul, and Jesus Himself! If having biological children was the end all, then God would owe Jesus, John, Paul, and others an apology for leaving their lives unfulfilled and incomplete! Not possible. God was at work in each of their lives, he loved them, He had an obvious plan for each of them and they fully completed their calling before heading to heaven.
As the idea of spiritual children twirled around in my heart, my head realized that according to this definition, I had lots of kids. Through years in youth ministry and writing for teen girls, I had indeed seen many be born spiritually and had the joy of discipling them—growing them up in Jesus!
I began to take note of some awesome women God had put in my life throughout
my baby journey, other childless but Kingdom-focused women. He was using them—right then—to help me see there was a bigger picture. Rhonda had a local Christian TV show for women and taught a seminary class for soon-to-be pastor’s wives. Susie was editor of a teen magazine and led groups of girls on mission trips. Gail had a puppet ministry that told little ones about God’s love. Rebecca had a worldwide music ministry. Lori was an award-winning second-grade teacher who developed a mentoring program.
The dictionary says that part of being a mother is providing affection, protection, nurture, and guidance. It’s what many of us childless women do. We love, we teach, we train, we coach, we encourage, we guide. We are an important part of building God’s forever family. It seems that on some level we meet the definition of a mom.
The various clues had come together! This the “big picture” God wanted me to see.
Over the years, I have been so grateful for the truths God has revealed to me and grateful for grasping an eternal perspective. Now I celebrate each Mother’s Day in a fresh way. I celebrate all the ways God has used me to be a mom in the lives of teen girls during the previous year. And I smile, remembering all the young ones who took my manners classes—allowing me to have a tiny part in parenting them. And I focus forward knowing that I am a mother. Just another kind.
-parts of this article first appeared in Just Between Us Magazine.