Sunday, November 2, 2008

Silence and Bunny Trails

It's 3:30 am and I find myself completely unable to sleep, largely due to the massive amount of hours I slept during the day today, having still been plagued by significant medicine side effects.

I wandered on to the bulletin board of my University and found the third or fourth discussion I've read in as many years about the nature and purpose of marriage. As usual, some young students and alumni were elevating biological procreation as the highest hall of human happiness and indeed, the best purpose of marriage. Infertility is an affliction or a punishment, and those who suffer from it are missing out on some part of God. This particular discussion wasn't so bad, but others in the past have been (my favorite are the posts from unmarried freshmen who pontificate on the purpose and ideals of marriage!) and reading this one recollected the others to me and reproduced and reinforced my general reaction.

These discussions always irritate me. I usually find myself first irritated at the speaker of the "argument" but I am quickly moved to impatience with the general ignorance in Christendom about infertility. I hate that the church has been so silent on it.

But I think the problem goes even deeper than that. We have a general ignorance about adoption too. We talk in flowery words about the beauty of being adopted as Christ's own, and we pick up our picket signs that say "Adoption not Abortion" but I think this is the extent of the average Christian's exposure to adoption, save maybe a little more if they have a friend who was adopted. But then our language betrays how little we either understand or esteem adoption. "Did you adopt because you couldn't have children of your own?" "Don't worry-just adopt and you'll get pregnant." "This is the Jones' adopted daughter Suzy."

How much are we actually doing to understand this precious illustration God has given us here on earth? What do we do to help the young girls in need besides pointing them in the direction of a Crisis Pregnancy Center? Do we try to understand the living picture of Christ's love in action in the dynamic of the families we know who have adopted? Do we take interest in legislation and movements that would support those families affected by it? Do we study what Christ meant when He gave us this example? Do we even understand what we're saying when we claim we have been "Adopted as Sons?" I really don't think so. Because I think if we did, if we really truly did, that would translate to action and adoption would look much different. I realize not every family is burdened or called to adoption issues and I'm completely ok with those folks, because I know God has called and equipped them elsewhere. But I think a lot more are called than are currently active, especially in Christendom and especially as a global organization.

So why is the church silent on these issues? The church is largely silent on things like birth defects, disabilities, persistent or terminal illness and bad things happening to "good people" too. I think it's because it doesn't fit in to our box of God. We can explain forgiveness. Most of us sin and are sinned against every day, so we have lots of practice in this arena. We can proudly embrace the sinner turned from a life of drugs, violence, promiscuity, or even apathy or unbelief in the name of God's grace and forgiveness and changing power.

But what do we do with the folks who don't fit in to our mold? How does that challenge our view of God? We seem to be unable to say "We don't know why God did this or made you this or that way or didn't fix this or that problem." We want an explanation when the only answer just might be "Because He said so." What do we do with that? How do we live that in action? I realize you can't walk up to a person and say "Well, God made you that way, tough." But there is a precious peace that comes with accepting God's plan, even if it's a deviation from "the norm" and realizing that in that, He is still good. Why does that deviation make us uncomfortable? Why are these people "exceptions" to our praxis rather than a part of our daily framework and ever expanding view of God? These folks were known, loved and named in their inmost being, too, and there are no flaws in God's handiwork. What does it say of our view of God when we don't know how to reconcile these "exceptions" with the box we've put Him in?

I wish the church would not be so afraid to speak on God's "bunny trails." The road less traveled is a beautiful one and I pray that you are invited on its precious journey one day. I challenge us all to evaluate those stereotypes and assumptions we take for granted. I challenge us to deliberately expose ourselves to a bunny trail and someone on it. I promise that expanding our view of humanity and God's role in it will expand our view of Him and His vast richness and goodness. I believe that God created so many variations of the human story because one standard model of a healthy married couple with 2.4 children, a dog and a white picket fence couldn't possibly display or contain all that He has to show us and all the ways He wishes for His glory and majesty to be known.

It is now almost 4:00 am so if my thoughts are scattered or incoherent, forgive me!


  1. These thoughts aren't scattered/incoherent at all - they make a lot of sense! *hugs*

  2. I want you to know that there are those of us who DO know what your heart is feeling. I went for 13 years without being able to conceive a child. I now have 2 teenage boys.

    I remember the insensitive things people used to say, "Maybe if you'd adopt..God would see that you really want one and send you one of your own.." (What...?)
    Someone even told me that if I ate wheat I'd get pregnant.

    I've come to understand that peole are well-meaning, but just don't know what to say.

    I also learned this--Heavenly Father DOES know you. He understands what you are feeling and going through. There is a purpose to all things--which we will understand someday.

    I was also impressed many times as I read the Bible how many women were barren and came to bear choice children for the Lord. A correlation?? I don't know.

    Your post was beautiful.

  3. Beautiful post... thank you for speaking up for all of us on this road less traveled... (((hugs)))

  4. Hey there! I wanted to tell you that the November issue of Homelife Magazine (put out by Lifeway) has an article on adoption, and specifically mentions embryo adoption, too! I immediately thought of you guys!
    I can get you a copy of the magazine if you aren't able to find one in your area.

  5. Very well written...I took the bunny trial and IT is beautiful. -kriss

  6. Jen--I hope you don't mind me sharing something from the Jewish perspective that dovetails with your post...

    There is a story recorded in the Talmud about Rabbi Elazar. Apparently, Rabbi Elazar was feeling very full of himself because he had just finished studying a huge amount of Torah. The Rabbi came across another man on the road who recognized him and said "Shalom Rabbi!" Rabbi Elazar looked down at the man and said, "You are so ugly! Are all the men in your town as ugly as you?" The man was stunned and replied, "I don't know, why do you ask the Craftsman who made me?"

    Rabbi Elazar immediately realized the error of his ways and begged the man for forgiveness, but the man refused until Rabbi Elazar told G-d that He had created an ugly man. Rabbi Elazar followed the man all the way back to his town pleading with him. When they arrived at the town, the townspeople recognized Rabbi Elazar and greeted him warmly. But the ugly man told them what Rabbi Elazar said to him. Then Rabbi Elazar told the townspeople that it is important to be like a reed and not a cedar. [I shortened the story a bit so that I could get to the good part]

    A reed is humble, it bends easily and is not useful for many things. A cedar is tall, sturdy and beautiful. But it is the reed that merits to be used by scribes to write Torah scrolls, not cedars. Furthermore, in a strong storm, a reed can bend and thus withstand fierce winds. A cedar is rigid and will be uprooted in a strong storm.

    My understanding of the moral of that story (and why it was included in the Talmud) is that things are not always what they appear. Those that appear weak may actually be able to withstand much more than those that appear strong. Those that appear unimportant, may actually have a very holy task. Those that appear to be very learned, may actually have missed a very basic lesson. G-d created each of us exactly the way we are because we have a holy purpose to accomplish while alive. It may appear that G-d has afflicted us with the worst punishment, but that's only because we are looking at the situation through the eyes of a human who can't see the whole plan.

    I don't pretend to understand G-d's plan, I only know that He has one, and that I accept it. It seems rather foolish to look at one of G-d's creations as presume to know why G-d created him or her the way He did, or that there is something inherently wrong with His creation. Even people immersed in the study of holy texts, such as those at your alma mater, or Rabbi Elazar, can miss that basic point.

  7. Hi, new reader here (via your friend Diana), and wanted to say that this post was very eloquent, and I thought of it yesterday when our pastor was speaking. He said something about us maybe feeling like we were better than people of other times because of the great country we live in and with all the modern conveniences; and other times that we may feel like we've missed out on so much because we weren't able to live in first-century times, and he brought up about how that the first disciples were able to ask Jesus directly if they had any questions or misundertandings... and how good it would be for us (we think) to be able to do that.

    I correlate that to what you've said, and how your journey is different from mine. Not everyone is called to have children; not everyone is called to be barren. Not everyone is called to be wealthy; not everyone is called to be poor. Not everyone is called to be healthy; not everyone is called to suffer life-long illnesses. I don't know why God calls different people to do different things, nor to have such widely different lives. But I do know that God knows exactly what He is doing, and is leading you in your walk of faith just like he is leading me. Your path is different from mine, but He is a good God as well as the great God, and He knows just what He is doing in both your life and mine.

    I know several couples who have had struggles with infertility -- some have chosen to adopt, others have not, and two miraculously were able to bear their own biological children (one woman had endometriosis for many years that the doctors couldn't do anything about, and now has 5 children; another woman had an unidentified type of infertility which kept her barren for the first 5 years of her marriage, and she now has 9 children).

    Infertility has not been my lot, but that doesn't make me better than you, nor worse -- just different. I don't know what God is working in my life any more than I know what He is working in your life, but I do know that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose."

    Thank you for this beautiful post.


  8. You're right - this is a topic that the church as a whole (or at least mine) has ignored. And whenever I did hear a teaching even near this subject, it always seemed to have this undertone that all I needed was more faith. That always urked (sp?) me. The Israelites had NO faith, yet God still parted the Red Sea for their benefit (and HIS glory). Real faith is willingly navigating whatever bunny trail He sends us on.

  9. I don't feel that the God is punishing a lack of faith by giving hardships. I think that He wants to show you that you can overcome anything through faith. On days where I feel discouraged with my boys and start with the "Why me's," Andrew amazes me with how much he "gets" God. When I need it most, Andrew will randomly say something to me like, "Jesus loves me" or will start praying. He also loves to sing, "God Is So Good." He reminds me that God is in control and that this is His purpose for me, even though it is different from what I had envisioned. I have learned that God isn't always going to give you what you want, but will always give you what you need, even if it isn't what you want or is something you think is "bad." I believe that something good will always come from the bad and that God uses those times to show you something and grow you.