In a world where every aspect of the procreative process is shaped by the omnipotence and omnipresent arm of technology, it can be easy to forget the fundamental miracle that human life is.
In Romans 4, the proof of the power of God to make and remake the world is the opening of Sarah's womb. In fact, infertility pervades the Old Testament narratives. Hannah, Sarah, Rachel, Rebekah--it's not terribly surprising, of course, given the high infant mortality rates and the value placed on childbearing.
But a lower infant mortality rate doesn't minimize the grief that those who are infertile still struggle with. If anything, it potentially heightens it, as technology shifts our expectations such that we forget that some people cannot bear children. Infertility is a silent struggle, a challenge that many couples face only within the cloistered walls of the doctors and therapists office.
In a sense, those couples who are infertile bear witness to the unique value of human life, the preciousness of children and the miracle that they are. It is easy to be pro-choice when infertility isn't a challenge. But while undeniably multi-faceted, the grief that accompanies the inability confronts us with the strangeness of a world with life, the mystery of our own existence and the possibilities of the world before us.
Some will turn to adoption, remembering their adoption into the people of God and forming a family anew on that foundation. Others will grieve. Whichever route people take, they carry the difficult cross of grieving over a life that they desired which will not be, a future which was theirs which they will not have.
It is fitting to be sad in such moments. It is, in fact, better. "But for the weeping in it, [our] world would never have become worth saving," wrote George MacDonald, for the weeping reminds us of the goodness which has been lost and which will someday be restored.
Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.