5.02.2010

Death of a Dream

Last week was National Infertility Week. With Mother's Day coming soon, and Father's Day not long beyond, with Confirmation Sunday just recently passed for many of our congregations, it is worth pausing to remember those from whom God has withheld the blessing of children and offered instead a journey of patience. More awkwardly, we also remember those who have withheld God's blessing from themselves, only to later desire it, but not find it.

The following article traces one couple's difficult quest to conceive: Death of a Dream. The article concludes with the realization that whether childless or child rich, one must wait upon the Lord who blesses in His own manner and His own timing. Sadly, however, the article begins with a recognition (though not so clearly a regret) that the couple's recent struggle for fertility had been preceded by a five-year insistence against fertility:

When my husband and I married, we made a deal: We'd wait five years before starting a family. Five years would allow us to start our careers, be on better financial footing, and have time just for us. So when the moratorium passed, with anticipation, I stopped using birth control.

After 12 months of not taking the Pill and still buying tampons, I started to research the subject. "Eight-five percent of couples trying to conceive will become pregnant within one year." Red flag. We were already past that.

It is odd how frequently pastors emphasize in pre-marital counseling that marriage takes three--the husband, the wife, and Christ who holds them together--and yet when it comes to self-imposed infertility, so many couples follow in the path of the woman writing this article: "When my husband and I married, we made a deal...." Where was Christ in that arrangement? For five years she and her husband pushed away God's gift of children, and then after one year of failed attempts to conceive, followed by some invasive procedures, they felt their dream of having a child was dying. How alive had that dream been during their first five years of marriage?

If we, as Christians, truly want our dreams to live, we must put to death the sinful flesh, drowning that Old Adam through daily contrition and repentance, asking God to forgive us for our prior attitudes and actions that have sought to thwart His will, and to give us the strength to rightfully seek and accept His current will for our lives. We must let our own dreams die, and learn to dream the dreams that He has for us. Just as those who delayed coming to the Wedding Feast had their invitations revoked, so also God's gift of fertility may only be available for a time.

6 comments:

GL said...

We never made an explicit deal, but we agreed without stating it that we would wait awhile. Then unexpected events kept intervening and then, when we finally got around to trying, we were unable to conceive. After some tests and minor surgery to fix the problem, we were able to conceive and now have four beautiful children.

Let's not judge those who made the wrong decisions in their youth. They are already paying an enormous price. Ours is to love them and comfort them. We should, of course, warn others not to make the same mistakes, both those made by the couple in the story and those which we ourselves have made.

Family Man said...

Well said, GL. The "we" in the final paragraph of my post was meant to be inclusive -- myself, others like yourself, the author of the article, we all struggle to come to terms with God's will for our lives, and we all fail. But in Christ we become new creations, and by the Holy Spirit we begin to dream the right dreams, that His will be done.

Anonymous said...

"Let's not judge those who made the wrong decisions in their youth."


Okay, but let's tell the truth up front about the risks of waiting. Many people feel deceived and duped when they discover that the decisions they made based on incomplete information now have very real consequences. Every one has their own story. This post is about sharing an example and letting people make informed choices.

There is a massive epidemic of breast cancer and most women don't really connect the waiting to the cancer. I personally have friends who waited to have kids until they were over thirty, only to die of breast cancer around fifty never to see their grandkids. Statistically speaking about 60% of women who get breast cancer and die, get it because they waited. These women deserve to know the truth.

GL said...

"Many people feel deceived and duped when they discover that the decisions they made based on incomplete information now have very real consequences."

I said essentially the same thing when I wrote, "We should, of course, warn others not to make the same mistakes, both those made by the couple in the story and those which we ourselves have made."

Their are two problems, however. First, if we are not careful in how we go about it, we can easily come across as self-righteous. We must be careful not to thank God that we are not like those other folks, who contracept, but must remember that we too are sinners in need of mercy. Any efforts to persuade others on this issue requires a great deal of humility and honesty about our own sins. Second, while the laity certainly has a role here, it is primarily the office of the shepherds (i.e., pastors) to care for His flock and to protect them from wolves. One doesn't condemn the sheep when they are devoured. As a layman, I take very seriously the fact that I am not to presume to undertake a role to which I have not been called.

I certainly believe Christians have been sadly duped by the world on the matter of "family planning" and the blessing of children. My wife and I have repented of our sins in this area. But having repented of one sin, I hope to avoid, by His grace, entering into others, namely legalism and self-righteousness.

Anonymous said...

Do we need to worry about coming off as self righteous when we teach our old teens about marriage and family and Christ being the focus of their lives?

I hope I don't sound rude. This is an honest question.

I mean, I am not up for telling my adult friends what they should do, but I feel like I want to tell my kids the truth and I don't want the folks at church leading them otherwise. I don't want the pastor or others at church presenting or implying that children should only be welcome if x, y, z conditions are satisfied. I just want to be on the same page generally. I don't think silence on the issue is appropriate because that seems it has been seen as tacit approval of the worldly view of marriage and family and children.

GL said...

"Do we need to worry about coming off as self righteous when we teach our old teens about marriage and family and Christ being the focus of their lives?"

Of course not. I'm think more when we discuss it with others, not our own children.

My position on the issue is clear and well-known. As a result, I have folks ask me about it. Not long ago, a young man who knows me asked me to give him resources on the subject to shared with his intended bride. I was happy to do so, but I was very careful in how I addressed the issue with him, readily sharing our own story and the regret our use of contraception early in our marriage has caused us.

This is such a sensitive subject and many of the most devout Christians simply are ignorant of the case against contraception. Most folks are shocked to learn that Luther, Calvin and almost all Protestant pastors until a mere lifetime ago unequivocally condemned the practice. In many cases they or their closest family members, including parents and grandparents, have and/or are using contraception. Their pastor and his wife may well being using contraception. It's important to emphasize that we are all sinners and that we are in the same boat as them and that we are undoubtedly ourselves even now sinning in ways we don't understand.

Finally, I encourage the young man I shared information with to find a pastor who adhered to the Church's teaching on the subject, knowing, of course, that that might be difficult or even impossible. I do believe, however, that we should try to encourage Christians to speak with those whom God has called to shepherd them whenever that is available.