by Teresa Baker
“I wish you were my mommy. That would be so fun!”
These words, spoken by a seven year old parishioner at a church game night, have become familiar to me over the past two decades. In this case, it was mostly a liter of root beer and a frosted cookie talking, but I have heard these words hundreds of times. In most cases, they come from a kid dreaming about a mother who is a grown-up playmate instead of an authority figure. For years, I found these statements humorous and adorable. But at age 27, things changed when my husband and I began trying to conceive our own child. Not long after the decision to grow our family was made, the words began to hurt.
Month after month went by and there was no pregnancy. We did all of our research and followed all of the right steps. Still nothing happened. We tried for years. Soon, it seemed as though everyone around us was having babies. We were struck by the realization that we did not have as much control of the situation as we thought we did. But if we weren’t in control of our own reproduction, who was? “God” felt like the obvious answer—at least to most of our friends and family.
“God’s timing is perfect.”
“It will be your turn soon.”
I heard these words over and over again. Sometimes it seemed near constant. I was to believe that God timed everything out and apparently let people take turns pro-creating, but I found it hard to believe. Why would a loving God want me to suffer so much heartache while I waited on his perfect timing for my ‘turn’?
As I tried to wrestle with the meaning behind all of the pain, I began to wonder if this meant we were to adopt or foster a child. Was adoption God’s plan for our family? Maybe, but thinking about this theologically began to make less and less sense. If God had planned for us to be infertile so that we would adopt, did he also cause a young woman somewhere to be in a desperate situation for the sake of growing our family? Did God cause a family to fall apart or be unable to care for their kids so that we might find a way to add to our household? Could God really be the author of all that pain?
Although the voices all around insisted that God was in control of every aspect of this situation, I knew deep down it couldn’t be so. Tom Oord’s discussion of essential kenosis has helped me work through the struggle of God’s role in our infertility situation. Our infertility remains medically unexplained. There are numerous factors that all have to line up in order to conceive a child, and most of the entities involved in this process have God’s necessary gift of free agency. God’s divine love allows freedom. That freedom may lead to much heartache.
But the good news of the free agency afforded us by God’s love is that we are free to participate in the redemption and restoration that God has for this fallen creation. I don’t think God caused our infertility any more than he causes parents to be unable or unwilling to raise the children they birthed. But the two situations can collide when people understand that the pain and heartache are not caused by God but by free-agency. That same free-agency invites us to work with God to change the heartache into rejoicing. One day my husband and I may give birth to our own child, or foster or adopt a child, or invest our time and money in the lives of children who need us in some other capacity besides parenting. Whatever happens I am thankful for a God who gives us choices and invites us to participate with him in redemption.
Teresa Baker is a co-pastor at Columbus Community Church of the Nazarene alongside her husband Chris. She previously served as a children’s pastor in Upstate New York. She also enjoys her job as a cook at a local high school.