I do not ever remember a time in my life where my family has not been touched by the loss of unborn children. Conversations about miscarriages, infertility, and adoption have been nearly as common as talking about what we should have to eat that week. My parents have not been afraid to talk about their journey through loss and grief, and they have guided their children through those challenges with them with the greatest of hopes and honesty.
The little farm town church of my childhood knew well the joys over the births of greatly anticipated children, but it knew equally well the tears and burdens of longings and loss of babies we never got to hold. In a congregation that hovered at just around 100 attendees, with about half being touched personally by the struggles of childlessness, we had no choice but to rally together in all seasons of life. The Lord taught us all many things through the loss and barrenness we walked through, and I hold a beautiful picture of biblical community enacted in our moments of deepest griefs.
From the age of a young elementary child into my early teens I witnessed the Church loving the Church well in joy and in sorrow, in abundance and in loss. These years have shaped me in ways that I cannot even convey to myself, and they comfort me as I face the uncertain path of motherhood ahead of me.
I am one who has had to lay down my dreams of having my own children for the time being, trusting that the Lord will one day provide a way for my arms to be filled. Living in a town where the likelihood of finding a godly spouse is low, and the resources for adoption currently being beyond my reach, I must walk on in obedience facing prolonged singleness and childlessness. Though keeping a home and raising a family has been one of my greatest desires since childhood, I must prepare my heart for what God may have in store for me, should motherhood look differently than I imagined as a girl. Childlessness may be something that I face in the coming years. My picture of motherhood may look nothing like that of my mother, and that is okay.
I am certain that I am not the only one in the church facing the uncertainty of motherhood, nor are my loved ones the only to have dealt with infertility, loss, failed adoptions, and the grief woven through all of them. There are many, many people facing these struggles, yet the topics are often still seen as taboo within the Western Church.
Why is this, and how do we work to change it?
In her book, “Longing for Motherhood: Holding on to Hope in the Midst of Childlessness”, Chelsea Patterson Sobolik bravely addresses the issues facing the church in the area of childlessness, coming from a life of first-hand experience.
Chelsea writes from a heart that has walked through the suffering brought by childlessness, and provides a biblical basis for hope in the Lord amidst the sorrow. She makes a plea for living out the role of a mother to those around you, and gives practical advice to the church about how to come alongside of those who are facing childlessness. Chelsea has laid out a beautiful testament of God’s goodness and mercy even amidst the valleys of life that we would not have chosen to walk through.
This is the type of book that should be read by not only the childless, but by the whole church, regardless of age, gender, and circumstance. These sufferings are real and present within the Church, and what affects one member of the Body, affects us all. We cannot afford to let the topics surrounding childlessness to be considered taboo any longer, but come alongside our brothers and sisters in the midst of childlessness.
I would be willing to bet that there are those sitting only a few pews away from you in your local church that have been touched by childlessness in some way or another, and are in need of love and support.
Don’t know where to start? Read “Longing for Motherhood”. Don’t be afraid to engage in conversations about the topic. Be willing to enter into the grief of your spiritual family. Pray.
With one step at a time, the church can well rejoice with those who have been blessed with children, and as well care for whose who are facing childlessness.