My wife has only walked out of a worship service once in her life. Her sudden exit was not due to some onset of nausea—she wasn’t physically ill, she was reacting to something she saw on stage. It was May 14, 2000 and the church was celebrating its mothers. The presentation included a tribute written by an adult son to his mother and in the background a collage of stirring pictures sprayed across the screens. It was sweet and moving, and all too much for Kathy—so we made our escape and quietly slipped out.
By the spring of 2000 my wife and I were deep in a losing battle with infertility. For years, we had progressed through the monthly stages of hope, anxiety, and despair. Doctors had been seen, specialists consulted, and procedures attempted. It was expensive, painful, and fruitless. Later, Kathy would suffer through two miscarriages to further her pain, but at this point we simply couldn’t conceive. Tragically, my wife would refer to her womb as a ‘hostile environment’. It was all very sad.
Today we have three beautiful children. Megan was adopted ten years ago. And then six years ago Kathy delivered our son Ryan. It seems that we were infertile until we weren’t anymore. We don’t understand the reversal of fortune, but we thank God for it. Caroline followed her brother twenty months later. It’s all quite glorious now and we are happy. But that Sunday in 2000 was excruciating, and it has left us both with a genuine sympathy for those who are still in the grip of infertility.
This Sunday is Mother’s day, and I will spend it with my mother and the mother of my children. It’s a big deal to us and we will celebrate it joyously. And in the worship service we will make a fuss about all mothers, young and old. They deserve the acclaim, and we like to give it. It is intended to be a happy event, even when we know that there will be some very unhappy people present. It’s a sensitive situation that Russell Moore describes well, “It is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize though that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.”
My personal experience makes me aware of those who are likewise afflicted. I will not ask mothers to stand and visibly distinguish themselves from the ‘non-mothers’ in the church. Most moms would prefer to keep their seats and those who don’t meet the qualification will be left to feel conspicuous. It’s clumsy and inconsiderate. We won’t do it! What I will be doing this mother’s day is delighting in the wonderful moms that I know, and in the quiet moments I will be praying for those whose longing remains unfulfilled.
Russell’s closing encouragement will serve as mine as well.
“Regardless of how you do it, remember the infertile as the world around us celebrates motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman needs our attention, but the 1 Samuel 1 woman does too.”