The other day I wrote here on the blog that I was “childless not by preference but out of absolute fear and disobedience.” My dear friend Rebekah mentioned in the comments that her becoming a mother was out of rebellion and disobedience and she said she would like to hear my story. It’s obviously been a few days that I have been pondering this and I think I’m ready to write.
My first thought was how I was going to tell the story without giving out sordid details of my sinful life. Then I wondered what the point of the exercise would be anyway. I know that I had told God that I would be obedient in writing about the lessons He has taught me. And this lesson is one that I finally figured out recently, so it’s applicable to my pledge. Sometimes I don’t even worry about what God might use my essays for, but this time I wanted to know. The only thing that came to me as I turned this idea over and over is that disobedience and fear do not outwardly look the same on each person. Instead of comparing our insides to other peoples’ outsides, we might need to come along side of them and know them better. We might be able to help someone through a struggle that was not apparent at first glance. So with that thought in mind, let us start at the beginning.
Though it might seem odd, the first factor in my childlessness is my own adoption. I learned that I was adopted at a young age. I don’t actually remember when I found out, it was so long ago. I knew that I was the illegitimate child of an illegitimate child who herself had been put up for adoption. So two strikes in our lineage already. The small religious world I grew up in was full of people who made it clear that I should be ever so grateful that my parents had overlooked my bastardy and given me a home. And relinquishing children for adoption was considered the only civilized thing for unwed mothers to do in this small society, so I decided that under no circumstances would I ever, ever get pregnant outside of wedlock. The fact of two unwanted pregnancies was some of the only information I knew about my biological family and I decided that we were not going to make it a tradition. I was very determined in this, though not very logical. Since the only sure-fire way to keep from getting pregnant would be to keep my legs crossed, you would think… but no.
Another factor in my “fear and disobedience” fiasco was the stream of mixed messages I was receiving about sexual purity. Sexual purity was stressed (and sometimes stressful) in my small religious world. All the Bible verses about fornication being a sin had been trotted out time and time again in Sunday school. However, many of my friends from school did not attend my particular church and some not any church at all. They had much more liberal ideas about sex than what I was getting taught and so I filed that away for future reference.
Also, somewhere around my eighth grade year, the teachers for the girls’ Bible class decided to take an anonymous poll of the guys’ Bible class. They asked only two questions: 1) Do you want the girl you date to be a virgin? And 2) Do you want the girl you marry to be a virgin? The answers were 100% “No” on question #1 and 100% “Yes” on question #2. Now, at this point I could have just concluded that all the guys in that class were a bunch of big dummies who did not understand the logistics of having a pool of virgins to pick from for marriage if all of the girls they were dating were putting out. Mind you, that is the correct conclusion. But what I got out of this exercise at the time was that nobody seemed to be taking this sexual purity thing too seriously.
I met my first serious boyfriend when I was a freshman in high school. He was the son of a preacher from another denomination. And no, seriously, I had not heard any rumors about preachers’ kids being wild. Would have been a nice bit of knowledge, but I was out of the loop. He seemed to think sex was not really that big of deal either. He truly loved me, and I trusted his judgment more than most peoples’, so I filed his opinion away for future reference.
Let’s go off on a tangent here for a second. Did you know that improper nutrition can affect a girl’s menstrual cycles? No? Consider yourself educated. Somewhere around my junior year I stopped being regular. I thought that was odd, so I told Mom who promptly sent me off to our family doctor. I was humiliated to be taking a pregnancy test when I was a virgin, but they said it was “procedure” so I let them draw my blood. This would have been an EXCELLENT time for someone to diagnose me with an eating disorder. Didn’t happen. (was not diagnosed for another 13 years and I hid it so well that even I didn’t know) But instead of saying, “gee, is this a symptom of a much larger issue?” the doctor just said, “this happens sometimes” and prescribed birth control pills. Mind you, the fact that BC pills are used to help regulate cycles was another piece of information that I had never heard, so I was upset. Our next-door neighbor – who we went to church with – was also our pharmacist. I was afraid he was going to think I was “loose”, so I made Mom go get the prescription filled in the next town. Now let’s start tying this tangent back into our story…
Where were we? Oh yeah. Now I’m on birth control, I have normal teenage hormones, and I am swiftly becoming convinced that guys don’t want anything to do with a girl who doesn’t “put out”. My descent into disobedience is about to start a long spiral. There is one other factor here – and I haven’t quite figured out all of the whys and wherefores on this one – I did not trust God. I believed in God. I really thought that Jesus had died and been resurrected. But I did not trust God. Somewhere I had come up with the idea that I was going to have to work my way into Heaven and I was also going to have to work my way into any good thing that came into my life. I did not know a Heavenly Father who wanted to bless me out of His love for me. I did not know a God who had a loving plan for me that He wanted me to follow by faith. I don’t even know who to point the finger at for this (if there even is anybody), but these are the ideas that I carried out of my childhood.
I know. I know. You are trying to figure out how this ties in to my childlessness. Well, I wasn’t going to have a child unless I was married. And finding somebody who wanted to marry me wasn’t all that easy. (I had run off that first loving boyfriend, who has turned out to be a great husband and father for a family that is not mine.) Instead of finding a man who wanted to love me as Christ had loved the church, I was attracting a succession of men who saw me as disposable - the way I was beginning to see myself. Coming home to the boyfriend being gone (with his real girlfriend, I was to find out) and seeing a check lying on the bed clued me in to what my value was. I got close to getting married once or twice, but there was so much selfishness and self-destruction in all parts of those relationships that they burned up before the altar was in sight.
There are horrible stories that I could tell about these relationships, but I don’t think the details are very relevant. What is relevant is that the disobedience in my life was leading me farther and farther away from God and that meant I was getting farther and farther away from Him giving me the desires of my heart. When I did show up at church, I wasn’t telling anyone these things. I didn’t get close to people and they let me keep them at arms’ length, so nobody knew what was going on in my life. Mom and Dad knew some of it, but they mostly just gave me “the look”. I don’t think they knew what to do.
Okay, Holy Spirit, I feel you pushing. Enough already. I’ll tell. I’ll tell.
There is one more situation that contributed to my childlessness. In my 20s, I had a boyfriend who had two small children. I fell in love with those children the same way I fell in love with their father. They saw me as a second mother. But I was not much of a mother. I had never even been around little kids. My relationship with their father was deteriorating rapidly and I hurt one of those children in my anger. That was the most shameful moment of my life. And then their father hurt me in his anger. So I left. I left them there not knowing why their world kept getting ripped apart by divorce and breakups. I had abandoned them.
Now I was sure that I did not deserve to have children. I was angry and dangerous and didn’t know how to stay. So I did not deserve a family. I was used and impure and so I did not deserve a good man. I did not trust even the precious Blood of the Lamb to redeem me from this. HOW COULD HE REDEEM ME FROM THIS? I didn’t know – I was afraid that I would never know - so I continued on my journey into fear and disobedience. This was just the way it was going to be. More sin. More destruction.
The rest of the childless story is that by the time I found the man that God has given me for a husband, my body had started an early change and now I cannot have children. But I won’t leave you there…
Do I know now? Yes, I know. I know that the precious Blood of the Lamb will cover even MY sins. How did I come to know this? I can’t say in specific. It is thousands of tiny things that all come together in the space between Him and me. I had given my life to Christ at a young age and He wanted me back. He was relentless in letting me know that He wanted me back. I am still in the process of coming back. It was a long journey away and it is a long journey coming back. But at least on this leg of the trip I have something to look forward to.
I know you are tired of reading this already but sit up straight and pay attention because this next point is important. It is sad that in the midst of such destruction I was able to hide it so well. There were so many people who thought that I was a “good little church girl.” They had no idea what was going on and I was too ashamed to tell. And there might be people around you right this very minute who look okay on the outside but are dying on the inside just like I was. It is important that we make connections with people. Real connections. If not in church then somewhere. That is what Jesus was all about – relating to people. Being approachable even to those whose pain might not be as apparent as others'. I’m not saying that we should get all up in peoples’ business, but the Holy Spirit can give us the discernment on where we are needed if we humbly and sincerely ask.
So there is your story, Rebekah. That is how my fear and disobedience led me to a childless life. I’m hoping that our Almighty Father will let me use those experiences to have a fruitful life.