Forgiving the Fertile Myrtles
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25 NIV)
“You can have my kids for a weekend. That’ll cure you!” my cousin snickered as we stood outside the cottage balancing plates of hot dogs and potato salad. Meanwhile, a gaggle of toddlers dug in the sand, dads at their sides, as two other cousins plopped in lawn chairs lakeside, legs splayed, cradling pregnant bellies.
Reeling on the inside, I smiled at my cousin’s attempt to make light of my barrenness, my years of trying at what most women simply did. Then I mentally checked out of the conversation to run through a list of my offenders: the pregnant teen in line at the grocery store, the friend who led me through every drool-laden photo of her baby, the "experts" in pregnancy advice (just relax!), those stupid Platex bottle commercials. And don’t get me started on complaints about hemorrhoids, swollen ankles, and overactive bladder. I would have welcomed any discomfort for a baby to call my own.
I’m years into raising kids now, but I haven’t left behind my infertility. Every time a conversation turns to the topic of pregnancy and birthing, I am reminded that God left my brokenness unfixed. It is tempting to go cynical. Can’t these fertile women just get over themselves? When will they stop drawing attention to my scars?
Then I remember the fruit after my long journey of emptiness. Not only three children whose stories resound with miracles, but a deepening of my faith, an overwhelming desire to testify to God’s goodness.
I would not trade my lifelong barrenness for the blessing of pregnancy. God had a different blessing in mind for me, one born of waiting and of surrendering my very self. My forgiveness of the Fertile Myrtles depended upon my belief that God’s plan for me was his best, not his consolation prize.
Last week during my half-hour lunch in the teachers’ lounge, the chatter ping ponged from one woman to another as they shared pregnancy maladies from babies born years ago. “My pregnancy with Katie was awful,” one complained, “I had morning sickness for the whole nine months!”
Heads bobbed in sympathy and then I dared to chime in.
“Funny...” I said, “all three of my pregnancies were a piece of cake.”
Knowing my story, the women chuckled. One squeezed my shoulder and gave me an affectionate smile.
Forgiving the fertile world for its irritating insensitivity had opened me to God’s forgiveness long ago. My heavenly father had overlooked my own lack of trust, my childish proclamations of “It’s not fair!” How could I refuse to grant a pass to my prolific friends? Perhaps it is I who should’ve asked them for forgiveness… for selfishly viewing their joy as the root of my suffering, a sign of God’s injustice.
For me, the other side of forgiveness was recognizing how God had moved mountains to create our family. These days, I am raising three rowdy kids with a husband who stuck with me through 10 years of doubt. My gratitude far outweighs the pain of waiting, the prolonged sense of feeling empty and left behind. Had I become pregnant, I might never have known my need for God’s rescue. And this, perhaps, more than anything else propelled me toward forgiveness. I have more than survived a decade of chronic grief. God’s intervention has left me with a sense that I am not only blessed, but extraordinarily lucky, like a girl holding a winning lottery ticket that she found on the sidewalk.