There can be a lot of shame around being infertile, even in America, and especially in other countries where the patriarchal systems remain in full force. Willem Ombelet of the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology said, “If you are infertile in some cultures, you are less than a dog.” In the U.S. we can feel shame around infertility because of the stigma or the feeling of “strangeness” that comes with being peripheral to societal norms.
Brene Brown defines shame in her book Daring Greatly as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
Let’s pick apart Brown’s definition. When we look at ourselves as women struggling with infertility, we do see a flaw: a broken womb, scarred fallopian tubes, too many cysts to count, or whatever the case might be. Of course, we believe we are “flawed,” because our bodies are broken, and this is something we must grapple with. But that does not make us “unworthy of love and belonging.” Especially as Jesus followers.
Yet ironically, because of our sin, there becomes this sort of double war that wages within us. As women struggling with infertility, we wrestle with being ashamed of ourselves. Then as Christian women, we wrestle with being ashamed of Jesus! The Bible makes it clear, this will be a part of the Christian’s journey. Look at Peter, one of Jesus’ greatest disciples, who denied Jesus three times after he swore he never would (Mark 14:72). Look at Jesus, who warned His disciples, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when He comes in all His glory” (Luke 9:26). And look at Paul who made sure the Romans knew he was not ashamed of the gospel, perhaps because, in his weaker moments, he was tempted to be. (Romans 1:16)
So this double war will wage, and every day, we will have to fight it. As Christian women, we want to say, “I am not ashamed of the good news of Jesus. His sacrificial death shows me I am worthy of love and belonging.” And as Christian women wrestling with infertility, we can take it one step further and say, “I am not ashamed of being infertile. Making babies is not what makes me worthy of love and belonging. There is no shame in the kingdom of God for women who can’t bear children.” What a beautiful message of hope for women all over the world who have felt unwanted or have been ostracized in any way for their condition!
This is why we must keep coming back to what many theologians have called “the great exchange” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus has exchanged His perfect identity for my imperfect one. And Jesus is there, every single day, to help us fight this double war for our souls. So let’s rise up and actually believe that the gospel equalizes all people, no matter what their “flaws.” Let’s ask God to bring the freedom from being ashamed of Jesus, ashamed of our infertility, and ashamed of sin that we so desperately need. And let us keep looking at the cross and see that Jesus has done everything to prove we are infinitely “worthy of love and belonging.”