How Should a Christian Deal With Infertility (Mrs. Spit tells us all how to be an adult, again)

Hem, Hem, Hem.

I got in a big debate in a seminar, when I was in university. I was in second year, and somehow I wound up debating with 3 grad students. And I lost. It was a sad, debilitating and humiliating loss. As I was packing up my stuff, and leaving the room, the Prof. called out to me. He stopped me and took me into his office. And he offered me 2 bits of advice:
  1. No one had ever defeated John Rawls' Social Contract theory, once they bought into the veil of ignorance. (if you aren't a poli sci geek, you are just going to have trust me. Or, go here and read this.
  2. Never start a debate by accepting the premise of a dumb question.

A nasty, vitriolic person posted on CLC's really very beautiful post about missing Hannah and her grief over seeing pregnant women. The poster was mean and rude. She (or at least I'm assuming she) wrote a couple of things, but the last one was a lovely little response to infertility and how a Christian should deal with infertility.

So, back to Prof. Carmicheal, and his second bit of advice: Never accept the premise of a dumb question. The question: "how should a Chrisitian deal with infertility?" my friends, it is dumb question. Anonymous may not be dumb, but her question about infertility, it's really, really, really dumb.

I had originally planned to go through all of the biblical references and comment on why they were inappropriate, and moreover, I was going to pull out all the verses that emphasize the need and appropriateness of grieving and mourning, and point out how much better they were at grieving. Yep, the old youth pastor in me was going to get right up there and preach herself a little sermon. I'm not going to do that. (I know, you can thank me later) That would be accepting the premise of a dumb question, the wrong question. Instead, here's why anonymous has a dumb question:

Reason Number 1

It is rude to give advice when you aren't asked for it. CLC has lots of people in her life, and if she wanted spiritual guidance, she would ask for it. She wasn't asking for advice, spiritual or otherwise. She was expressing her feelings. In fact, she didn't need to be fixed, she needed to be heard. It is, among other things, just rude to fix someone without their permission. It is cruelty to suggest that CLC needs her feelings fixed. She doesn't. None of us do. We are grieving. Grief is appropriate and normal, and if your spiritual beliefs are bent this way, Godly. We are not broken for mourning, quit trying to fix us.

Reason Number 2

The problem of infertility is part of something called the problem of suffering. And the problem of suffering is an entire technical discourse. People write their dissertations on it. Profound thinkers spend an enormous amount of time examining it. Bright minds examine this problem. It's large, big, hard to understand. And I'll give you a big lesson - cost me 40k to learn this: No one has the only answer. No one. We understand the problem of pain and suffering. Every disaster, natural or man made, every death of a baby, every child left abused, abandoned, neglected, we understand, there is something very wrong with our world. Things aren't fair, they aren't right, they aren't just. And as a Christian I have a particular answer to this and to the notion of original sin and death. And I believe my answers are right. But - the cry of our hearts, the pain of a dead baby, that isn't answered with a formula. The bible offers an answer to the problem of pain that is counter intuitive. It simply reminds us that God loves us. Which actually doesn't answer the question. It just provides comfort for the pain.

The real challenge of the problem of suffering is that there is no answer. At no point in suffering will I reach a point where I say "This, this is the reason that Gabriel died". It just doesn't happen. We may reach our own part answers. God may show me good that has come from Gabriel's death, but surely we can accept that there is no good reason for a baby to die. Finding the good in the tragedy does not make the tragedy ok. More bearable perhaps, easier to accept, but not ok. The problem of suffering is not answered in 428 words with seven bible verses. And if you don't believe in God, Jesus, the bible, the ressurection and christianity, my words and anonymous's seven bible verses, they are totally useless.

Reason Number 3

My third problem with the response of anonymous was this: the trite and shallow responses she gave suggested that she didn't want to engage. She didn't want to abide, she just wanted to make the nastiness out here in Lost Baby Land go away. She wanted apple pie and motherhood and shiny happy people. I have to say, I really hate people like this. Life is painful. It is unfair. It is messy. Pain and sorrow and anguish are human emotions. They are as much a part of the human condition as breathing and sleeping and eating. Part of what makes us human is our ability to feel great pain. We become more human, we grow, we develop stronger families, communities, churches when we feel great pain together. We become more fully human through pain. Anonymous, if you aren't willing to abide with those in pain, I would suggest that it would be prudent to stay away from them. And to live your life in cotton wool, as I can't see how you would prevent tragedy from striking your life.

Reason Number 4

Anonymous was answering the wrong question, solving the wrong problem. If you are going to fix someone who doesn't need fixing, you are going to solve the problem of suffering with a few trite bible stories, you are going to substitute bible verses for your care and concern, could you at least have the decency to attempt to solve the right problem? CLC doesn't have infertility. To the best of my knowledge, she had no problems getting pregnant. CLC lost Hannah. She grieves because she is here, and Hannah is not. That's not infertility, it's death. Quite a different problem, wouldn't you agree?

Here endeth the lesson.