One of things I am working on this summer is helping our parish leaders plan our fall Women’s Retreat. In interviewing guest facilitators, one of the facilitators talked about the scriptural theme of infertility. Having some amazing people in my life who are or have struggled with infertility over the years, I immediately connected with the idea. But the facilitator expands the definition of infertility as being unable to do the thing you felt you were created to do.
As I have been thinking about this expanded definition of infertility, I have seen that spiritual struggle all around me. Certainly, I have been aching for those who struggle with literal infertility, knowing what a crushing experience that can be. But I have also seen that same sense of infertility happen vocationally for people who really thought they would end up in a certain career, only to find their restrictive geography, their family responsibilities, or their inability to take on the time or financial commitment needed to pursue their dream making them unable to do the thing they felt created to do. As our diocese is looking at electing a new bishop, I am aware that all four of the current candidates have discerned they feel created to serve in this new role, and yet only one of them will be invited into that ministry.
But infertility strikes us in other ways too. This week I was listening to Kate Bowler’s podcast Everything Happens, and she and her guest were talking about palliative care and mortality. The two of them talked about how one of the disadvantages of our American culture is a sense of limitless – that we can do anything we want in life. And what both of them has seen, as a person in recovery from cancer, and a palliative care doctor, is the falsehood, or even the sinfulness, of the notion of limitlessness. When we think we can do anything our heart desires, we are inevitably disappointed when our bodies, our mortality, or other things outside our control, throw limits around our dreams. Part of their work has been helping people work through the sense of infertility that comes from that experience, and helping them find hope, healing, and new meaning in life.
As I have been thinking about literal and figurative infertility, I have been wondering whether sharing those stories might be a part of the healing process. Something about naming the struggle and sharing the journey has power to not only help you move toward invitations to new vocations, but also has the power to encourage others to name their infertilities, destigmatize them, and transform them into something else that can be lifegiving. If you are looking for a safe place to do that, I invite you to join our community of faith – a place where wounded souls are heard, broken hearts are mended, and new paths are celebrated. You are not alone. We would be honored to walk with you. I suspect we need you as much as you may need us.