Why doesn't the church talk about childlessness
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Childless not by Choice Podcast, where my mission is to recognize and speak to childless not by choice women and men around the world. Civilla Morgan here. I am spreading the great news that we can live a joyful, relevant, and fulfilled life, although we did not have the children we so wanted. I also welcome you even if you do not fit the demographic. Maybe you did not want children, maybe you have children. Thanks for tuning in. Welcome to episode 121!
Well, before we get into today’s show, why doesn't the church talk about childlessness? I would like to stop and recognize that this month makes five years of podcasting, speaking to, and encouraging the hearts of the childless not by choice community globally!
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As I mentioned in the last episode, on Mother’s Day, a couple of months ago at this point, we had a nice little get together in our Childless not by Choice with Civilla Morgan Facebook group. It was nice to get together with other women who may have varying degrees of difficulty dealing with Mother’s Day.
By the time you hear this episode, we would have had our July meeting. If you are not already a member of the Facebook group, come on over, answer the pre-entry questions, and join us in the group! If you do not fit the demographic, there is a Childless not by Choice with Civilla Morgan Supporters group as well.
So one of the ladies in our Facebook group, Childless not by Choice with Civilla Morgan, asked why doesn’t the church talk about childless women...you know, barren women as the Bible calls us. And I got to thinking that the reason is the Bible never talked about a barren woman who remained barren. All of the barren women in the Bible’s stories ended up having children. So then church folk are left to think from a wide range of thoughts, ‘just give it time’, to ‘what did you do wrong?’ to ‘What are you doing wrong?’
I was talking to a friend about the fact that I was working on this episode recently, and she said ‘well what about Anna? So let’s talk about Anna for a minute. Anna, not to be confused with Hannah. Because Hannah begged God for a child and ended up with six including her firstborn who would eventually become one of the most known prophets in the Old Testament, Samuel. Not only was Samuel a prophet, but he was also a counselor to kings.
But Anna. Well, according to The New Testament, Luke 2:36 , Anna was a prophetess who was quite elderly by the time she is mentioned. She had been married for seven years and then widowed for more than 80 years. She never remarried instead spending her time in the synagogue praying and fasting.
She met Jesus when his mother brought him to the temple as a baby.
As far as I have researched, she never had children.
That’s Anna. Everyone else, all of the other barren women mentioned in the Bible who were childless and cried out to God, got an answer of ‘yes’. Rachel, Hannah, Sarah. Young, old, somewhere in between; they got their child. Sarah had Jacob. Rachel had Joseph and Benjamin. Hannah had Samuel and five other children.
Oh, by the way, the woman with the issue of blood, she may have had children before the issue. There is no mention of that, nothing came up in my research.
The question and the title of this episode is ‘Why doesn’t the church talk about childlessness?’ But my question is ‘Why didn’t God talk about childlessness?’ Childlessness as in the woman who never got the child? I have some ideas. Some of them may seem like cop-outs, but well, here goes:
- First of all, I’m quite sure there were barren, aka childless women in that era. Childlessness is nothing new. I mean just biologically it would make sense, and remember, the women I mentioned earlier initially could not have children.
- Remember, women were considered next to nothing if they were childless. OK, they were considered worthless if they had no children. In fact, although Hannah’s husband loved her dearly, when he realized they weren’t having children he brought on a second wife. He had to have children to carry the family line. Today, in some parts of the world, women are still looked on with disdain if they cannot have children.
But listen to this: if a woman was wealthy enough, they could have a servant have a child for them. Which is what Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and Rachel--wife of Jacob, initially did. They had their maids sleep with their respective husbands and then raised the children their maids had as their own. Until in Sarah’s case, it was no longer convenient. Sarah’s maid had Ishmael, but then her maid began to forget her station in life, and Sarah wasn’t having any of that, she tried to have them--the maid and her son, her husband’s son, sent away. You can read the story. The link is in the show notes.
We now live in a society where although we run into the random person who does not understand our childlessness and the pain that can come with that childlessness, I believe the women in that time had it much harder than we do today. Yes, if we are childless and in some cases also husbandless, we have concerns about our elder years, we are the sole breadwinner for our households, people wonder what is wrong with us, really?
Back then, a woman’s son was her retirement plan. Basically, the more children she had, the better her elder years looked.
But back to the question, why doesn’t the church talk about childlessness? Why wasn’t there a direct story in the Bible about a woman who never had children? Yes, there was Anna. But why wasn’t her childlessness confirmed or highlighted? Why wasn’t there a direct story about a woman like me? Like you, if you are listening as a childless not by choice woman?
Could it be that there are so many problematic layers to the human condition, and in this case the issues around childlessness, that the church, like society, just wants every aspect of our lives to fit into neat little boxes, and when an issue does not fit, well, better to look the other way, remain silent, highlight the miracle baby, and highlight the woman who has children. We all love the cute, cuddly little people right? So if you cannot have one, well…it’s not like the church does not address the other issues people come into the church with such as alcoholism, adultery, lack, even hate. But childlessness? Well, maybe you’re not praying correctly. Or back to what I said earlier, something is wrong with you, you are doing something wrong, you did something wrong.
In too few cases, the church talks about the true-life fact that God does not answer every prayer the way we want or ask. Some women will not marry? Some men will not marry. Some couples will not have children. Does that make us weird?
Does your church have a singles ministry for people to be normal in their singleness, without feeling like they are attending a meat market every time there is a singles event? Could we have a singles event where we can allow people to possibly meet their future spouse organically?
Can we have conventions where we have a breakout session for childless couples, childless women, etc? Is it possible for the church to see us instead of looking the other way instead of treating us like unanswered prayers? I have hope.
We are living in a time of great change. And that great change is including the church whether the church likes it or not. I am hoping that change will allow for more inclusivity of those of us who tend to live on the fringes, in the cracks, you know, as in ‘we tend to fall into the cracks’.
And then we pretend we’re OK but we know that on some level we are being judged. Judged that we did not get the spouse. Judged that we did not have the child. Judged because our family of one or if you did get the spouse, a family of two; doesn’t quite look ‘normal’.
Look, the fact is I don’t know why God didn’t mention the barren woman, but I do know that’s no excuse for the church not to mention her because there are other issues God did not go into great detail about, but the church has a definite opinion on how to deal with those issues.
I think the church may be having a tough time dealing with childlessness because there is a scripture that says ‘"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…"--Genesis 1:28 . Most theologians take that to mean go and have tons of kids. And hey, maybe so. But so time back I had a conversation with someone who said that in the case of childlessness, it could also mean for us to be fruitful in our work. Whatever work we are given to do.
Childlessness does not mean we do not have a calling on our lives. It does not mean that we should be forgotten, blamed, or ignored. It simply means that our hopes and dreams did not work out the way we expected and that God does not say yes to every prayer.
Articles, links, and all that good stuff:
- There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[a] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.--Luke 2:36-37.
- "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."--Genesis 1:28
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Well, thank you for listening to this episode of Childless not by Choice! Until next time! Bye!
‘To recognize and speak to the broken hearts of childless not by choice women, and men, around the world.’
‘Spreading the great news that we can live a joyful, relevant, and fulfilled life’.