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(Still) Barren on Mother’s Day

Like many kids, I grew up dreaming of what I wanted to be when I grew up. At times I wanted to be a nurse, sometimes a teacher, other times a milkman just like my dad, and on occasion an architect (for no other reason than I loved looking at house plans).

I never once put into my plans that I wanted to be a mom because I assumed that went without saying. I never felt like I needed to plan that part because obviously that’s how life goes.

But that’s not how my life went. I’m 37 and I have no children.

Most days I don’t live in sadness that my life has played out differently than I thought it would, but there are definitely bumps along the way. Bumps, that if I’m not paying attention, catch me off guard and throw me for a loop.

I remember helping plan my mom’s 30th birthday party. I grew up simply assuming that my own kids would be there to put on a surprise 30th birthday party for me. Turning 30 was a reminder that I don’t have my own children.

When I moved to Vancouver I had to downsize significantly. One thing that was not essential in my new 450 square foot home were my childhood toys that I had carefully saved for my future children. I was happy to gift them to my childhood best friend for her daughters to experience the thrill of our precious toys, but it was simultaneously a tearful reminder of the daughters I always assumed I would have, and don’t.

And then there’s Mother’s Day. Every year when most of the women in my life have people celebrating them in some sweet or annoying kind of way, I am confronted, again, with the reality that I am still barren.

Sam Allbery has described experiences like these as “a sudden unexpected moment of bereavement.”[1] It’s a moment when you are cut by the reality of some good you will probably never attain in this earthly life. Despite the fact that bumping into these realities has been painful and grievous at times, I am thankful for this unexpected journey. It has caused me to think deeply and carefully about what the gospel says about motherhood.

Isaiah 54:1 says, “‘Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; Break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labour! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,’ says the Lord.”

The good news of the gospel is that my desire to be a mother does not have to be repressed because I am barren; it needs to be re-imagined with gospel clarity.

Isaiah is describing a reality where a barren woman does not contribute physical children to this world, yet she has the real and profound joy of contributing spiritual children. She is involved in bringing children forth, not for life in this world, but for life eternal with God in his world that has no end.

Matthew Lee Anderson once tweeted, “Within the community of the church . . . ‘parenthood’ is a vocation open to all, including singles and the infertile. It is an ecclesiastically centered way of cultivating maternal and paternal love in its deepest orientation, namely, toward the kingdom. If this is true, then there are aspects of parenthood that are disclosed to single and infertile people. It is not a realm closed to them.”[2]

This means there is a type of motherhood that is available to every woman in the church, even if we don’t have our own children. The good news of the gospel is that my desire to be a mother does not have to be repressed because I am barren; it needs to be re-imagined with gospel clarity.

The blessing of spiritually reproducing those in the faith is available to anyone willing to tell people about God and help them grow in Christ.

When I struggled to have a routine of reading my Bible, Lezlie had me over to her house one evening a week to help give me the structure that I needed. Week by week I saw what her years of devotion to reading God’s word could look like, in verses that rolled off her tongue in the middle of conversations and in the binders and binders full of copied out scriptures. She modeled a vision for how I wanted to grow up into a woman who had devotion to God through knowledge of his Word.

Gloria and Annette faithfully led a “behind the scenes” prayer ministry at church and I am sure they have no idea how much they influenced my understanding of prayer and ability to use the Bible to give shape to my thoughts as I told them to God.

Other women have modelled unwavering trust in God despite horrific and tragic life circumstances, which was instrumental in teaching me how to suffer towards Jesus not away from him.

Other women have walked beside me in important life decisions and reminded me of God’s faithfulness in the past and reassured me of his known faithfulness in my unknown future. Pieces of spiritual maturity have been replicated in me from these women, my spiritual mothers.

While some women in the church might be physically barren, in Christ all women can have the joy of spiritual offspring.

I don’t have any physical children, but I pray there are women and men who have matured in Jesus because of my influence in their lives. I pray that in my interactions with the people God has given me in my local church, in my neighbourhood, community group, extended family, and various friendships that these people will grow in trusting God, grow in praying effectively, grow in persevering in the faith, grow in quickness to repent, grow in a desire to encourage others, grow in understanding of God’s word, and grow in abiding in Jesus.

While some women in the church might be physically barren, in Christ all women can have the joy of spiritual offspring. This is a legacy that will last eternally for the praise and glory of God.

So, to all the mothers with offspring of their own that bear their resemblance, and to all the mothers in the faith who labour training people in godliness that we might all grow to bear the resemblance of our God, Happy Mother’s Day.


[1] Allberry, Sam. 7 Myths of Singleness. Crossway, 2019. (pg 83)

[2] Quote found in Allberry, Sam. 7 Myths of Singleness. Crossway, 2019. (pg 89)