Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Love of God

I've heard it said many times that a person can't fully understand the love of God until they've become a parent.

Many people have stated that it wasn't until they saw, held, raised, loved, and cared for their own children that they truly realized how much God loves them and what the sacrifice of His own Son on the cross of Calvary really was.

I hope you know me well enough by now to hear my heart here if you're a regular reader of this blog. If you are not, please understand that I don't know what having and raising my own children is like. I may never know. And I would certainly never, ever take away from a person's own experience of parenting. I don't doubt at all that so many have better understood God's love through parenting. If having children is the way that our Heavenly Father has helped you to truly realize and grasp His amazing love for you, then I think that is a wonderful thing.

What bothers me, however, is the idea that NO ONE can understand it unless they've become a parent. It is one of those statements that I hear that, as a barren woman, cuts so deeply.

I wonder if anyone who has thought or said this has ever realized how much an infertile Christian woman relies upon the love of her Lord. In fact, I would even say that I may not have realized the greatness of it until I experienced infertility! And perhaps that is just the point I'm trying to make here. We all have different paths, different trials and afflictions that we will face in life. We will even have different joys and different blessings. And we all will decide how to accept and live with all of the combined circumstances that make up our lives. I believe that God is big enough and strong enough to reveal His deep and relentless love to His children no matter where they are in life, whether they will ever experience the joys of childbirth and parenthood or not.

It is unfair to suggest to someone that she may never understand God's love and sacrifice until she has a child. Many of us can identify with a portion (however small) of what He may have felt when He sacrificed His only Son. Although I've never held any of my children in my arms or looked upon their faces or even called them by name, I knew them and loved them while they were a part of my body and after they were no longer. Many have had to continue to live after having lost a child inside or outside of the womb. Furthermore, many have had to face the fact that they may never have any children. This too, friends, is sacrifice.

For me, it is the very love of my Lord that gets me through that pain every single day.

I understand sacrifice. I understand love. I don't know if any of us can ever truly grasp the depth of God's love until we see Him face to face. Until then, if the Lord has used giving you a child to reveal His love to you, what a wonderful and special gift! If instead He has used infertility to reveal how much He loves you with an undying love, what a wonderful and special gift that can be as well.

Your Love is Deep (song lyrics by Jami Smith)

Your love is deep
Your love is high
Your love is long
Your love is wide

Deeper than my view of grace
Higher than this worldly place
Longer than this road I travel
Wider than the gap You filled

Who shall separate us?
Who shall separate us from Your love?
Nothing can separate us
Nothing can separate us from Your love

(Ephesians 3:17-21 NIV)
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.


Chuck said...

I understand when some people say that having a child made them better understand the love of God, but I too have a problem when they say that we simply cannot fully understand the love of God until we have had a child. The Apostle Paul never had a child, but he had a wonderful grasp of God's love as evident by the scripture you quoted.

Amy said...

I agree with Chuck. I thought of the Apostle Paul as I was reading your words. Of course it is a careless, or not well-thought out statement. There have been many great pillars of the faith, and many a childless couple who has a beautiful understanding of God's love as Father.
I definitely understand what you are saying. Although yes, I can see many parallels in parenting Abigail of rebellion, obedience, grace, and it does give me a better understanding of that role, experiencing pregnancy loss gave me a GREAT perspective of God's love for me from Father to child. A child who could only cling to her Father when nothing else makes sense. You are clinging to the right thing, and your understanding is a beautiful one because of the experiences you have had. God does not withhold Himself from those without children. He is near to all who call on Him.
Thanks for this thoughtful post, Stacey.

Lauren said...

I whole-heartedly agree. I think that for me, particularly because I have a complicated relationship with my mother (that really wasn't that great until just recently), when our son was born 3 years ago, I remember feeling like, "Wow, I finally understand how much she actually does love me." Because I had never *felt* it that much from her before. Does that make sense?

But for someone to say that "you just can't understand the love of God until you have kids of your own" is lunacy. And, as Amy points out, they are apparently not very well-versed in Scripture and pillars of the faith. :o/ Blessed are those who mourn, anyone? He is near to the broken-hearted.

The problem with people is, while so many really truly mean well, so many of us are completely unable to relate to the experiences of others, or perhaps we even assume that everyone's journey and experiences are the same, or expect everyone we encounter to operate on the same paradigm and frame of reference.

Always thankful for your blog encouraging and spurring others on to increased sensitivity and demonstrating grace to others.

Melissa said...

This is a really beautiful and thoughtful post. How much more would our lives be blessed if we all lived in the moment and truly saw the ways that God is demonstrating His love toward us.

prayerfuljourney said...

Like you Stacey...I have felt God's love on this IF journey. I hear "ignorant" statements like that often myself and I just think of Jesus's words "They do not know what they are doing." or saying in this case. There are people out there that honestly believe everyone can have children (ask my dh...he works with prego teens...they say the darnest things to him). We just have to stand above or away from them and keep it all in perspective...they just don't know. I often pray to God for strength when I feel weak by someone's blunt statements. I pray you find strength in God too at these times and always. He loves us. We all know it...and we all just experience His profound love in the way HE wants us too. God bless.

Connie said...

Paul is able to describe God's love so beautifully because he knew all about it. Of course you can know God's love and experience it to the fullest. After all, that is His desire for all of His children. Beautiful scripture...Beautiful post.

And so it goes (AshaAnn) said...

So well written. for me, the crux of what you wrote is "I believe that God is big enough and strong enough to reveal His deep and relentless love to His children no matter where they are in life..." You are so right on. Today in particular, I found my self reflecting on what God has been teaching me through infertility. And more than ever I believe God is saying "Stay with me, trust where this is going, WHERE EVER this is going." No matter the journey-

I have really appreciated many of your recent posts, but have failed to comment. I don't know why i have been reading, but not commenting. But I am still reading- and I will find my words again soon to start commenting again and stop being a stranger. :)

Beautiful Intellectual said...

That's a load of bull (sorry to be blunt) God didn't create an exclusive relationship that only people who have children can understand. Its not a snobby new mom's club, its God's love, and its there for EVERYONE to be loved the same.

I found that when I got together with The Drummer, I understood concepts of God's love for us better, but it didn't mean that I was any better or worse than my friends who were single - and most of them still have a much better grasp of the love of God than I'll ever have - its about relationship with HIM not our life circumstance, however much thay may help.

A said...

My heart has been cut to the core deeply by these kinds of statements, too. Another one is from a religious leader who apparently wrote that "the most precious gift you can give a child is a sibling".. I am sitting here thinking, oh great! I can't even have ONE child and according to your gift giving strata, I already have to stress about giving a sibling!!!" Aaaah! The insensitive things people say...

I would agree that most days, the only thing that gets me through is my hope in God's love and joyful plan for me as I turn these hardships over to Him. I feel like, in some ways, especially people who have children easily, do not really understand the sacrifice that Christ made for us/have not really lived it (with respect to kids)....versus me who knows what it feels like to die/give up myself for the dream of children. Every time I accept another AF as just another step closer to our children, I die to myself in lieu of hoping in God and his plan for our family. Maybe that sounds holier-than-thou, but I DO think it is a dying to myself because it kills every plan that *I* have made in order to follow God's plan. Maybe those who have children lickety split "die" to themselves when they have to watch spongebob instead of dancing with the stars, but I'm sorry, that doesn't compare to the turmoil I'm going through....or what Christ went through for US.

Rebekah said...

Well said!! I wonder- have the people that have said this ever known- really known- what it is to lose a child? To love them and yet truly have to give them to God knowing they will not rise again in three days? I hope not. I do have a different perspective on things now but that doesn't mean that others don't appreciate the sacrifice that was made on Calvary from the Father and from the Son. I am glad though that God draws people to Him through so many ways, parenting being one of them, but that is far from the only way. One of my favorite examples of what it means to live and love as Christ did is Mother Teresa and she had no intention of having children of her own.

Susan Sene said...

Thanks for sharing - you're right though...I don't think that just because you haven't held your own child in your arms that you aren't able to fully understand God's love for His children. God works in various ways and can open our eyes through various circumstances.

Sunny said...

Stacey, this is a wonderful post. The scripture you quoted from Ephesians brings me to my knees in humble adoration everytime. Praise God that He speaks to us wherever we are and reveals His love towards us no matter our station in life. Through being barren, sexually abused, through losing my brother - Christ's love has overflown in my life. I know God's love and don't yet have my child here on earth, so it is absolute proof of what you are saying as truth. I'm glad you shared this with others, especially ones that may have believed this lie and withheld their willingness to let God's love flow over their lives. Love ya girl!

~ Katie ~ said...

Amen to that!!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Well said.

Jenn said...

I hesitate to write this because I don't know how it may seem. I have two children but I "envy" those loving mothers who get to stay home and raise their children and even enjoy their children when they return from work. Without going into detail, when my children were small, I was a single parent and worked full time and also went to school at night for awhile. Coming home from work and school, I did not want the "headache" of taking care of kids. I was tired, I was stressed, I was depressed, I was miserable, I was lonely and I was angry at how my life had turned out. Although I loved my children dearly, I saw them as more of a burden than a blessing. And oh, does that grieve my heart to this day! Having had a hysterectomy two years ago because of medical problems, it is now so "final" and I will never be able to experience the love and joy of having a child with a husband who is wonderful and would be there to share that joy with me. I do wish things could have been different but they weren't. I do regret not being the kind of mother I now could have been. Even though I have children in the physical, I feel like I never got to experience the happiness of motherhood the way it should have been. With all that being said, I know God's love is real, mainly because of the things I went through in life, not because I gave birth to two babies.

Aubrey said...

Wow. Excellent, excellent post. I have definitely thought that through infertility and miscarriage i have come to cling much more deeply to God and his love than I ever did before.

Connie said...

Jenn - I appreciate your honesty and can even relate in some ways. Thank you for sharing your perspective. XXXXXX

Ro-bear said...

What an arrogant statement for someone to say! Yet it is one that I could have easily been guilty of carelessly saying.

Stacey, this was an awesome post. I think it is a very good sample of what your blog is truly about. I'm sure it's something that anyone who is dealing with IF can relate to, and helps those of that are not understand your hearts and hurts more. Once again, thanks for sharing.

Stacey said...

THANK YOU for all of these fantastic comments! You guys challenge me and help me see things from different perspectives. I love that.

I definitely see how we all can experience sacrifice and God's love depending on what life experiences we've had. Certainly, infertility is not the only struggle and hardship in the world by any means. It has really opened my eyes to lots of different struggles that people live with daily. For some it is being single, for some it is single parenting, and the list goes on and on. I'm so thankful that God loves and cares for all of us.

Love the comments and discussion! Thanks for all of your encouragement.

Alicia said...

I often shutter when I hear statments like that because its just not true! I like what you said about each of us being on different paths and God revealing His love to us indiferent ways because we are all very different people. Hopefully with one mind in Christ however. Thanks Stacey a great post!

humbird97 said...

I am living this right now. For me, I am struggling with a lot of anger about our infertility. We have stopped infertility treatments - due to emotional and financial reasons - and I am trying to accept that we will never have children. Yes, we can adopt, but that is a separate issue.

In my mind I know God's love is real, but my heart is having trouble believing it. Still, I will turn to Him for all that I need, knowing in time that I will 'feel' His love for me again.

Thank you, Stacey, for your kind, wise words. I can see the sacrifice you make to say them.

twondra said...

Oh, Stacey, this is a WONDERFUL post! So thoughtful and right on target. I have been hurt by comments like that, too. You always put your thoughts into such wonderful words that make it so we all can relate and not feel so alone. Thank you! (((HUGS)))

Anonymous said...

I'm so with you on this one! And I agree, I wish my fertile friends could understand that those statements, when made, even with no malice intended, cut so deep!

I Believe in Miracles said...

I love Chuck's comment on this. So so true about Paul.

This "I believe that God is big enough and strong enough to reveal His deep and relentless love to His children no matter where they are in life, whether they will ever experience the joys of childbirth and parenthood or not." is totally true. God is BIG ENOUGH.

Additionally, the how are we able to limit people's understanding of God?


Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

I hope I can say this the way I mean it ...

I don't believe you (in the generic sense) can't truly know the love of God until you have children. I know way too many single people and married folks without kids who seem to have a better grasp on God's love than I to think everyone needs a kid to really experience the love of God. If that were the case, we'd all have kids!

Meanwhile, I do believe that I needed to have a child to experience the love of God in a way I never would have without kids. I fully trust (well, sometimes not so fully, but that's a whole other issue) that God provides us with everything that we need to know Him. I also believe that everything He allows into our lives is meant to direct us toward Him. Clearly, we don't all have the same experiences, but God gives us all the same opportunities to be completed in His love.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the beautiful verse, for reminding me of His power and purpose!

Krysta said...

You put this perfectly. Although I have not struggled w/infertility, I have been on the receiving end of similar comments and felt like these women were talking down to me. I will keep in mind Chuck & Amy's example of Paul in the future. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Parenthood For Me said...

Well said. I think this is another example of people do not understand how difficult infertility is.

Wendy Maybury said...

Amen, sister!

Dragonfly said...

Brilliant post. I've had similar things said to me and other female friends (single and likely to remain so for some time) about being married and children as well. People in the church can sometimes really alienate those of us who have no children (married or not).