This is Advent season. I am in a Bible study with some sweet friends who call themselves the Sister Hearts. We just began a book by James A. Harnish, When God Comes Down. The introduction talks about a minister who studied the stars and kept watch for the stars that go supernova, comparing how the light from something millions of miles away can be seen on Earth. The first chapter asks the reader to read Isaiah 64: 1-3 and Luke 1:5-80 before Harnish’s essay on how Zecharia and Elizabeth waited for most of their lives to be parents.
There was a lot I could relate to in this first chapter, the hopelessness of infertility, old age, and coming to know a Power greater than myself.
I first learned of my infertility when I was in my early 20’s. From the time I started menstruation, my periods had been irregular. I could go for months without one, and then bleed for six weeks or more. The doctor that Mom took me to said I had a hormone imbalance. I married early at nineteen and was on the Pill till we decided to have children. (The Pill. Birth control in a pill was still a new thing when I was young. I’m not even sure doctors used it for helping with hormone imbalances then. Home pregnancy tests wasn’t even invented. Maybe the ones that doctors gave to their patients was pretty expensive as well.) It was eight months before I had a period after I stopped taking birth control pills. I went early on to an OBG-YN hoping I was pregnant. He told me just from giving me a pelvic exam that I was about 2 months pregnant, and to start coming every month to the clinic. The clinic passed their patients around to each doctor there so everyone could get to know each other, I guess. Not be surprised who was on call when it came time for deliverly. The next month, a new doctor told me that there was a mistake in how far along I was in my pregnancy, and that I was still at 2 months. The third month, they gave me a pregnancy test and told me that I wasn’t pregnant. I was in college, taking classes, and working part-time, same as my husband. I remember getting out of that doctor’s office feeling dumbfounded, cutting a class, and going to my parents’ house. I sat on the front porch swing and told Mom that I wasn’t pregnant, cried, and then went to my next class. My doctor put me on Clomid, but I had complications from that right off. My husband and I decided to adopt, which at the time was something like a 3-year process. In meantime, I learned my ovaries had failed, and I was in early menopause. And my marriage failed along with ovaries.
Infertility for Zecharia and Elizabeth is defined in this first chapter of When God Comes Down as more “a spiritual and theological problem that was even more profound than the biological one.” This is Old Testament times when sons and daughters, (mostly sons, I think) are the wealth of the Hebrew people. Not only are children needed for daily living, but they are the future that ensures a promised relationship with God. I wonder how much of life for this couple was lived out pretending to be okay, hating piteous comments, worshiping by rote. Zecharia must have loved Elizabeth greatly to have stayed with her and not moved on to another who would have given him children. That kind of love, I believe, is what caught the attention of God. What made me laugh out loud was that Zecharia had a sense of humor that pretty much pissed off an angel of God, enough to silence the old man’s ability to speak until his son was born.
I guess that’s the thing about being older, it’s easy to get cynical. For me, I think I felt older between mid-20’s to my late 30’s than I do now in my late 60’s. My self-esteem was on a downhill slide during that time. Divorced, I looked for single men who had children to date. Unattractive neediness radiated out like a warning signal, maybe. Whatever the case, my fear of never having a real family of my own was like a self-prophesy.
It wasn’t until I got into recovery from my codependency that I actually felt my true younger age. Working the Steps helped me see the invisible grief I felt from being infertile, and the regret from the loss of my marriage. Working the Steps lifted those weights and woke me up to a beautiful world around me. It’s been a slow process. Here I am approaching 70, and my spirit is still awakening.
Harnish quoted Thomas Merton in the first chapter of his book:
It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken
Us…Our discovery of God is, in a way, God’s discovery of us. We cannot go to heaven
to find Him…He comes down from heaven and finds us.
Merton’s words are beautiful and full of hope and awe that God would think I’m important enough to wake up, to see family living all around me, my husband, my mother, my sister and her family, my dogs, the people in recovery meetings, my church friends. Although, I do think that we have to be willing to wake up. Richard Rohr in his book The Universal Christ says something about God’s creation of the heavens and earth was God’s First Incarnation and that Christ was the Second Incarnation. For me, either way, God blesses us with so much. I’ve spent much of 2020 and 2021 working here at my home, mowing, planting things, messing around with the dogs, cooking, and driving over to see my mother and sister in Florence. All those things have been blessings.
I have a friend on Facebook who is single and about the age I was when I first started to believe in a Power greater than myself. I don’t really know her except for being in a writing class with her for a few days. But I see her posts. She has applied to be a foster mother and just got a premature baby. Can you believe that? She amazes me. This world amazes me, even with the fear of covid deaths and our country being so torn apart, this time in my life is so sweet.
Blessings to you who read this post. Thanks for putting up with my very irregular posts.