Where is a woman's worth?
Does God value a woman for having children or for her roles outside the home?
I struggled with infertility for several years and was discouraged when people showed a lack of empathy by saying I was lucky to be free of children, that children are a time-consuming and expensive burden, and that infertility is not a serious health issue. When I looked for comfort in the Bible, I was upset by verses that seemed to blame the woman's immorality for her infertility and to align having children with being virtuous. I was angry because I had lost control over my life plans and the future I had envisioned. I was embarrassed and disappointed at my
I cannot imagine how terrible infertility was in Bible days when being unable to provide an heir was a legitimate reason for divorce. Only men could initiate divorce in those times, and it is quite possible that the Samaritan woman at the well was divorced by men five times because of being barren. I do not believe she was immoral, because the story shows that her community continued to respect her and listen to her. However, if she was like me, she would have avoided groups with many mothers and children because of the pain of exclusion.
In the midst of my struggles, I held onto the verse in Psalm 113:9 that says God nests the once barren woman at home - now a joyful mother with children. Now I see Psalm 113:9 as an exclamation of joy, but not as a promise. God does not always answer prayers the way we hope or expect. Some people will remain childless. Some will not get the boy they wanted; even today sex-selective abortions in Ontario, Canada, mean that more boys than girls are born. Some will have a child who does not meet their hopes for perfect health or outstanding academic or athletic ability. Some will have a child who grows up to have a different orientation, interests or beliefs from their parents.
So it is unhealthy to place our value as women on having children. Jesus valued us for more than having children. When a woman called out from the crowd to bless the womb that bore Jesus and the breasts at which he nursed, she reflected the idea that only the reproduction of a woman mattered. Jesus corrected her. He said, “On the contrary, blessed and happy are those who hear the word of God and continually observe it.” (Luke 11:27-28).
God values us for more than being a vessel to carry a child. When Jesus was with Mary and Martha in Bethany, he told everyone that Mary made the right choice to be a disciple learning from him, rather than working on cooking and hospitality. Jesus used the Samaritan woman at the well to go and tell all the men and women of her village about him. People of all genders, including Mary the mother of Jesus, were among the hundred and twenty believers in Acts 1:14-15 and they were filled with the holy spirit and began to prophesy in Acts 2:17. Being a disciple like Mary of Bethany, a preacher like the Samaritan woman, and a prophet like Mary the mother of Jesus are ways that women were valued for more than their ability to have children.
Biblical women had many roles other than being a mother. Miriam was a prophet, Moses' mother was a wetnurse, many women were midwives. Deborah was a Judge and a Military Leader, Esther was a lobbyist, Rahab was an innkeeper, Ruth was a gleaner/farmer, Abigail was a mediator, Huldah was a prophet, teacher, and interpreter of scripture. Anna was a prophet and preacher, Lydia was a businesswoman, Phoebe was a deacon, benefactor and teacher, Damaris was an academic researcher, philosopher and speaker. Priscilla was a tentmaker, businesswoman, and evangelist, Junia was a patron and apostle.
From the very beginning, God's design was that all people, regardless of gender, be caretakers of animals and nature; God created both men and women in God's own image, and both are called to populate the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). Children are equally the responsibility of both genders. Work in society is equally the responsibility of both genders.
God did bless us with twins, and then with a third child, and we were thrilled to raise our three daughters. However, the struggle provided a lasting empathy for those going through various types of trials. When your prayers are not answered as expected, I encourage you to look at what other roles God may be calling you to do.