He wept. It was the sobbing-kind of weeping where you can’t control what is happening to you. My husband, Phil, is not the kind of person to cry over his own life situations. Sure, he gets a little teary-eyed when he sees something sad, but now four years into our marriage, I had never seen this type of cathartic weeping from my husband. Crying was what I did. Regardless, here we found ourselves on our knees in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament surrounded by our youth group in prayer and my husband let it all hang out.
As I prayed in adoration beside Phil, I reflected on the beauty of this moment at the feet of Jesus in contrast with the pain of what we had been through. The last few months of fertility treatments had left us suspended in what felt like an eternal wave of darkness. I was struggling with people close to me who had no empathy for our sufferings. There was isolation in my life like I had never felt before. However, being among these young people for this weekend, my heart was filled with hope. The blessing of being called to share the Lord’s love to these youth brought immense joy and consolation. I wondered what weighed on my husband’s heart as I knelt next to him before Jesus. Was he bearing the weight of the darkness that I felt? Was he finally expressing his pain after so many nights of trying to be strong and carrying me through my tears?
The last four years that my husband has been married to me, he has also given himself to these young people in youth group. (Let’s be real, I am a youth minister, my husband was “volun-told” to help out, but he does it because he loves me.) He and one of his best friends have led a young men’s discipleship group at church that began with a group of high school freshmen boys. Now, these teens were seniors, preparing to graduate, go out into the world, and pursue their dreams. Every Wednesday night for the last four years, my husband met with these teens and taught them about being a follower of Christ. He knows so much about these boys and he loves them deeply. The teens love him too. I’ve read notes that the teens have written to him on past retreats thanking him for being a father to them.
After the retreat was over, Phil opened up his heart to me. He shared that in adoration, he experienced the beauty of the spiritual fatherhood that he had been called to over the past four years. He said that in spite of what we are experiencing with infertility in our marriage, God has blessed him with being a father to these teens. He experienced deep consolation in that moment before the Blessed Sacrament. My mother’s heart rejoiced at hearing my husband share these words. He is a father and I am a mother. Through the pain of infertility, God used us to be mother and father to these young people. How blessed are we to be usedby God in this way!
As we approach Father’s Day, I am tempted to dwell in the guilt of knowing that our infertility is caused by my broken body. I will be tempted to think that I am weighing down my husband from achieving his true desire and potential to be a biological father. I will be tempted to say that it is my fault that we have no physical fruit in our marriage. By God’s grace, I will refuse to let this guilt take control of my heart. Instead, I will celebrate my husband and all men for their call to be fathers. That does not mean that Father’s Day will be without pain. It means that through the pain, God is good in choosing us to be mother and father in a unique and beautiful way. This Father’s Day, I will be counting the fruits that our marriage has produced through my husband’s call to fatherhood.
Stacey Huneck lives in Indiana with her husband, Phil. She is pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from the University of Notre Dame while serving as a high school Youth Minister.