When Soul & Womb Are Barren: Thoughts On Adoption, Pt. 5

In post #3 of this series (Thoughts On Adoption), I made the comment that in the Scriptures, sterility is never blamed on men. Even more, sterility or barrenness is always portrayed as a curse from God. Further, in the Bible, every matriach who at one point is barren, is said to have recieved the gift of child from God. Add all of these together and the picture is quite terrible for Christian women who have pregnancy complications today. Indeed, while the issue of barrenness is tough in and of itself, the language of being cursed by God makes it worse.

Since entering the adoption process I have personally been dwelling on how the Scriptures might speak in a pastoral sense to both sterile men and women today. In fact, I noted before that it appeared that Scripture never indicted the male on charges of sterility. However, as I was reading Mk. this week, I realized that I might stand corrected. I also realized that this passage can be one that helps us to see that even in the Bible, it is not "always" the women that have reproductive issues.

In Mk. 12.18-27, the Sadducees confront Jesus and challenge Him with a story about 7 brothers (either direct kin or Israelite brothers) who, when the oldest died, the next in line took his wife for himself. This happened 7 times. They took her so that they might procreate and maintain the family lineage. However, it didn't happen. The interesting thing about this story, though, is that towards the end, we find this statement: "And of the seven, none left children. Last of all, the woman died too" (Mk. 12.22).

As far as I know, to the best of my knowledge, within the Christian Scriptures, this is the only place where it is acknowledged that men can face reproductive problems. In fact, male and female are mentioned alike here. While there are a ton of theological and ethical questions and issues that this story raises, few, if any, have noted the fact that sterility / barrenness can be attributed to both men and women. For those adopting and especially for those women who feel so abandoned by the Bible during such crises, I think this passage might offer some hope and comfort.

What the Sadducees are really trying to say to Jesus in this seemingly enigmatic passage is: If God cannot or will not "raise up" a child for any of these 8 people, what makes you think that there will be a resurrection where He will "raise" dead people? You see, the Sadducees believed that the only way one lived on after this life, was through their seed planted in their children; they did not believe in an afterlife. Jesus, though, challenges them on this. That is why the Sadducees practiced Levirate marriage, that is, when a brother dies, the next brother takes his wife. Basically, Levirate marriage is a marriage based on "death" (e.g. a brother has to die before it can happen).

Jesus, though, makes clear that He sees things differently. For Jesus, neither this life or the one after it is propogated or based on death, it is based on creation. The first life is rooted in creation and the new life is rooted in new creation. The resurrection, teaches Jesus, is the consumation of that new creation; when it is made whole. Thus, Jesus teaches here that earthly procreation, while a good thing in and of itself, is not one's goal or reason for living. The goal is to be transformed in this life in preparation for the life to come at the resurrection of all believers.

What I see in this story, then, in addition to the fact that men and women alike could be viewed as sterile, is hope. I see hope in the fact that in this story, neither is blamed and neither is viewed as cursed. I also see hope in the realization that God is the God of the living. For those who have unsuccessfully reproduced, know that God loves you. Know also that there are many children who are "living" in this world that need loving, caring parents. You have a chance to use God's transforming touch and power to help transform the lives and situations that they find themselves in. So, at long last, maybe this is one passage in which persons dealing with sterility can find comfort. In fact, this may be one way in which, unlike the Pharisees, when your soul and womb seem barren, you can acknowledge and rest in the "power of God" (Mk. 12.24).

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