Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Image from the beautiful photographic collection, Infertility Struggles by Robin Spalding, 2014

Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name: But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.
Judges 13:6-7

The narrative of the childless woman conceiving as a result of divine intervention is a repeating pattern in the Old Testament, continuing into the New Testament with the final story there having the twist of the woman being much younger, and a virgin, the previous six being older and described as 'barren'. Each child thus born is an instrument of God in one way or another. For the sake of completeness and cross-reference, here is the full list of mothers and their chosen offspring, with book and chapter reference.

Genesis 11: Sarah → Isaac
Genesis 25: Rebekah → Jacob (and Esau)
Genesis 30: Rachel → Joseph (and Benjamin)
Judges 13: Manoah's wife → Samson
1 Samuel 1: Hannah → Samuel
Luke 1: Elizabeth → John (the baptiser)
Luke 1: Mary → Jesus

A child, or more specifically the honour of being a parent is perhaps the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon a woman, so these interventions stand out as some of God's greatest works, each child thus born playing a key role in the continuing narrative of the survival of the nation of Israel, and later of the birth of Christianity.

But there are downsides to this narrative too. The first feeds the sin of self-exaltation mentioned in a few previous reflections.1 Today, having your own child is considered a right, rather than a blessing, and has spawned the fertility market, another arm of Pharmaceutical Industry—a false god if ever there is one today. Bringing one's own child into the world takes precedence over fostering or adopting an existing child, a child in need. The right to continue ones own gene line is paramount, to the exclusion of the love and care of currently living, abandoned children. This is self-worship gone mad, as if by sheer wealth and force of will we have the right to materialise the kind of blessing only God can bestow. This is Technological Man playing God. Just because we can does not mean we should.

The second downside, less financially-driven but likely as violent, and certainly oppressive, is the message that a woman is not whole until she has conceived a child. Derogatory terms such as 'barren' and 'spinster' are associated with childless women, and they are looked upon with suspicion by many, even considered selfish and self-serving. It's an injustice we have yet to come to terms with. The childless woman is yet to be integrated as an essential element in our society, the gifts she brings not fully recognised. Yet in a world fast becoming over-populated, and ecologically destroyed through idol worship, perhaps this woman is our saviour. Jesus, on his way to Calvary, foreseeing the fallen world of today, expressed it thus:

Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the breasts which never gave suck.2

1 Consequences, Idolatry, Weakness
2 Luke 23:28-29