I achingly remember last year’s Christmas. I remember feeling like I could fall to pieces at any second. And I did, once we got home. Christmas Eve began a series of nights where I laid in bed, shattered and weeping. I remember apologizing to my husband (whose mother was in the hospital) and I asked him difficult questions, like “will you still love me if I cannot have a child?” And he, with all of his compassion and tenderness, tried to console me. It is painful now to even recall my desolation and doubt, but I am so grateful for my husband’s total empathy on those nights.
Somewhere along the series of infertility treatments that I was undergoing, I became so obsessed with who I was not, that I had nearly forgotten who I am… who Jesus wants me to be. I was measuring myself up to the image of a woman that I had imagined I would become, a woman whose image is supported by our world. It is an image that doctors try to help us to achieve, our families encourage, and friends model. It is the image that the majority of women will become and it is so widely universal: that of a mother with biological children.
Reflecting during this Advent season, I have been reminded of who the Jews expected the Messiah to be–a great king with vast armies that would smite down and destroy the enemies of God’s chosen people. They thought the Messiah would conquer all and he would have great riches. But as I pull out my nativity scene this year and unwrap the figures, I ponder how Jesus really comes, as a tiny baby; poor, vulnerable, and born in a stable. This precious little baby overturns expectations in his birth and his future actions, words, and salvific acts.
In an analogous manner, I find myself faced with the image of a woman that I feel is expected of me. I can work myself into hopelessness while trying to achieve this unachievable model. Contrarily, there is the image of the woman that God wants me to be–the one that I am called to be. The one convicted of hope, certainty, and filled with joy while shouting to the world who I really am. This woman is not defined by her barrenness, but rather by the confidence that God will eradicate the paltry expectations of her future. He has plans for me beyond my greatest hopes and my safeguarded dreams.
This does not mean that I have given up my desire of having children, that I won’t try more fertility treatments, or that I can stop praying for healing. No! What this means is that I will not be defined by the image of a woman that I ‘am not.’ Instead, I will be defined by the reality that I am God’s beloved daughter. He is working all things out for good. His plan for me is the best plan, even when there may be disappointments for myself or others. Jesus’ lowly birth broke and crushed people’s expectations. Why can’t my life do the same? This Christmas, I will meditate upon the tiny newborn baby in a manger and ask Him to show me the woman that I really am. Come, Lord Jesus.
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.