I was on the cusp of going live with this series and I was at the losing end of a two week wait. The irony of the situation was not lost on me. If I had chosen to waste the money, I would have been on the losing end of a three minute eternity. I would have leaned heavy on the stove top for 180 seconds, watching the oven timer tick slowly down, sauntered back to the bathroom and exhaled the quiet disappointment at the expected single line glaring back at me.
Two lines on a home pregnancy test. Never seen ‘em. (Not including, of course, the time I took a pink Sharpie and drew one on there in a moment of frustrated anger and bitter humour. I know the breast cancer champions have claimed ownership of the pink Sharpie, but I’m not convinced.)
Ten years married. Countless two week waits. A handful of three minute eternities. Zero babies.
I didn’t cry this year. I had hashed out the ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’ and ‘hopefuls’ with a friend and, as someone who worships a God capable of doing the impossible, I know that moments like these will continue to come and go for the years I live in the ‘window of opportunity’. Fertility clinics would label me as AMA now – advanced maternal age – but the biological clock keeps ticking. The ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’ and ‘hopefuls’ won’t fade completely until that clock is silent.
This year, instead of crying, I thought of Mary. Teenager. Unwed. Pregnant.
I thought of all the women in the long line of redemptive history between the promise made in Genesis to Eve to a teenage girl being told by the arch-angel that big things were about to happen. Women raised with the ever-present hope that God’s promise could be fulfilled through them; taught to develop the aspiration of a child born of the Messianic line.
The barren women in the Old Testament were significant in the genealogy of Jesus. The ‘closing of their wombs’ carries with it the extended metaphor of expectation; unfulfilled promise. The sons they eventually bore (Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Samson, Samuel, John) were key players in redemptive history. Barrenness was more than a medical condition: it was a physical analogy of expectation, promise, salvation… the ability of a faithful God to work in extraordinary ways on behalf of His chosen ones.
Two thousand years. Countless women and babies. And now? A pregnant teenager.
A secret from the heart of the infertile: we don’t understand teen pregnancy. We don’t understand why a messed-up teenager gets a baby when we don’t. It’s probably the least gracious we ever feel, and while our minds know that God has a purpose and an intention to work good, our primal reflex – that raw, immediate gut reaction – is an angry ‘Really, God?!’. True story.
This year, when I considered Mary, I wondered how her young heart dealt with all this. And I marveled at God’s timing… for Mary and Elizabeth to spend three months together. My 21st century mind wants to impose all sorts of western, modern emotion onto the scene: to assume Elizabeth had to bite back bitterness; to wonder whether she secretly dreaded Mary’s arrival.
Scripture is so unwaveringly clear on Elizabeth’s response, however. Enough to makes my infertile heart cringe a bit. Elizabeth is overjoyed. She grasps the entire magnitude of the virgin birth. She is, after all, one of two millennia of expectant women who had prayed fervently to be Mary: fertile and barren alike.
Perspective is a gift when going through difficult times. We need it like we need air to breathe. Perspective hides us beneath the refuge of His wings; lifts us to the Rock that is higher than any circumstance we could travel though.
Elizabeth understood this perspective. Mary lived from this perspective…
Through grace and mercy underserved, we are able to do the same. We can look forward through an Advent season (no matter how bleak, difficult or ragged it seems) in order to look back and see the promise of a faithful God fulfilled. To see a virgin give birth… a King in a manger… God with Us come to earth; to see a God lavishly committed to working in mysterious, extraordinary ways on behalf of His chosen ones.
Circumstances change. God’s character does not.
Perspective: this is your gift this Advent.
Thank you for joining us in this Advent series. The comments are working again if you would like to leave a note or ask a question.