Most of my very best and dearest friends are single women in their 30s. Two are very close to 40. Lovely, beautiful, wise, warm, sexy, godly, spiritual, intelligent, brave single women. They do things like bring in tens of thousands of dollars for meaningful causes, volunteer each and every week for children’s Sunday school, train and orchestrate for disaster relief efforts world-wide with a major missions agency, project manage millions of dollars for a massive company, sit with college students that are hungry for relationship with God. I mean, these women kick-ass and their lives are full.
Yet, there is something that I am increasingly aware of as I have walked this journey of infertility. As I have held this place of poverty, while believing and acting on the dignity of my life as it is. That, just as I sit each Sunday and hear the funny quips and antedotes about “my kid did this” “when I became a father I finally learned” “when I look in my daughters eyes and tuck her in at night,” these women’s hearts also hear, “my wife taught me” “husbands, just ask your wives how you really are” “sex the way God designed it.”
Now. I am not saying that these jokes and examples are bad in and of themselves. Or that they are hurtful every time, or even every other time. But, really, there are just a lot of them. And innocently, probably. I mean, that is who the evangelical church trains and hires to do their teaching: young men who married in their 20s; or 30s at the latest. And typically have children in due course. (Or, if they don’t have children, questions would be asked. I mean, can you imagine a married couple in ministry saying they did not want to have kids…I digress). So, really, these guys are just being themselves and trying to be transparent with their struggles or messiness. I am down with that in many regards.
The reality, though, is that I have never heard a pastor talk about infertility. Really. Never. And I have been in the church pew my whole life. And I have only heard a few blurbs during sermons on living singlely, and most of them are like, “hold on to hope until you get married,” or “you have so much free time right now…(until you get married?),” (and yes, there is a verse about that…). And its like…really? Really? Is this the best we have for examples of living fully and authentically? Ones that norm the Norm even more, Norm? Aren’t we supposed to be norming, or at a minimum inviting, the margins in the church? Even the micro-margins, if you will? (I just made up that word, I think).
And are the “margins” of the church really the margins of society as a whole? I’m going to go ahead and say no, Norm. I don’t know any smart statistics, but a boatload of people are single later and later life; always having been single or newly single.
And people are having babies later in life. And, like it or not, many people drop out of church until they have babies. And, honestly, I can see one potential contributing factor: there is a bit of a social no-mans-land for people, couples or otherwise, in their 30s and 40s without children in the church.
Solutions? I can tell you that one of the reasons I went to my church was because they had a single, woman elder in her 30s. And that, is a really, really good start. And I am doing my best to share my story and welcome people into my life and home who are single and have kids, married and don’t have kids, recently divorced, in their teens, 50s, 30s, 80s. I would also love to see more women teaching. And single men speaking. And childless or blended family couples preaching. From the platform. Regularly. What do you say, Norm? Are we ready for that?