The thread of infertility weaves itself throughout time. It exists in stories of old. It is in my story and yours, as well. And it is the most profound evidence of the Divine.
- Sarah is barren. In her 90s, when heavenly messengers promise her husband the title “father of nations,” she laughs – understandably. She has spent a lifetime in the throes of infertility’s grief; this promise is like pouring salt in a wound. Eventually, God’s will is fulfilled and Isaac is born.
- Rebekah is barren. Isaac’s heartfelt prayer on her behalf turn’s God’s favor. Eventually she gives birth to twin boys: Jacob and Esau.
- Rachel is barren. She screams out, “Give me children or I will die!” and like his father, Jacob beseeches God’s kindness. Joseph is born. Rachel dies in labor.
Why were these (and so many more) stories of infertility told? Why not just tell of the births, the boys, the continued lineage? Why articulate the waiting, the anguish, the pain? Why was this thread woven within?
The answers matter.
Easy answers tell us that fertility is the Divine’s to grant or withhold. In the Biblical text, it is not understood as biological anomaly, nor was it ever connected to the man. The woman was infertile and a god would decide if she would bring forth life. The thread woven into these stories binds us – in a constricting way. It’s no wonder many of us come to see god as capricious; one who leaves us guessing – and often hurting.
There are other answers; harder ones, better ones. They do not depict a god that grants our wishes, that metes out judgment, the bestows preference or favor. They reveal a god that shows up – in blood and pain, sweat and tears, cycles and moods, death and life. This god is revealed in the stories of women. Better yet, it is in the stories of women that the Divine is revealed.
This is the thread of infertility: a woman’s longing, hope, and unquenchable desire oft’ unfulfilled and, in the midst, her capacity to labor, to endure, to live.
Biological mothers or not, women’s lives are stories of tremendous suffering and life. In fact, it is our suffering that creates life at all. Hope is nurtured in spite of pain. Creation bursts forth. This is miracle. This is god-made-real; the Sacred Feminine embodied, enfleshed, incarnate.
She is found in our deepest heartaches, our most painful longings, our most excruciating pain, and our most profound joy. She is the one with whom we can relate. She is the one in whom we can hope. She is the one in which we can place our faith. She is the one revealed in stories – Sarah’s, Rebekah’s, Rachel’s, my mother’s, mine, my daughters’, yours – told and untold.
The thread of infertility is the only thing that enables the glorious, unquenchable scream of life, no matter how it is experienced or birthed. The thread of infertility, of suffering, of pushing through, of showing strength beyond comprehension, is what connects us to ourselves and to one another. Bound. Tied. Woven. Mothers. Daughters. Sisters. Friends. Women. The Sacred Feminine.
This thread is the most profound evidence of the Divine.
Happy Mother’s Day.