Looking for Love (Steve)

God ripped me off. I knew it, and He knew it—or I thought we did.

I wanted the companionship of marriage, and waiting for “the one” stretched me. By my late twenties, I felt ripped off—as if the best part of my life had passed and taken with it any chance to “rejoice in the wife of [my] youth” (Prov 5:18). I knew my desire emanated from God’s design (Gen 2:18–25). But I also knew that some people stay single—by chance and by choice. Time marched forward. And God stretched me.

I remember the moment the dam broke. It caught me by surprise. I thought she liked me? I cried—hard. As my emotional well heaved itself dry, the clouds parted, and a ray of truth beamed into the brokenness. My heart had coiled itself around the lie that marriage would bring life. Singleness seemed a quasi-existence from which only marriage could save me. So I crumpled to my knees and whispered a dangerous prayer: “Father, I don’t want to walk through life single. But I trust You enough to give me what I need if You call me to.”

The following year, I saw Kim’s Disney-princess eyes for the first time, and the earth shifted. Eighteen months later, we honeymooned in tropical north Queensland. God made me wait, but He didn’t rip me off. He had just given me time to relinquish my idol.

Longing for Little Ones (Kim)

I always wanted children. No one told me to—no one had to. The desire just came. Steve caught me by surprise, though. At nineteen, I never thought our new youth minister would look twice at a girl nearly a decade younger. When he asked what I thought about us dating, barely twenty, I demurred with contrived casualness: “H-m-m-m, I’m not opposed to it.” Steve proposed six months later, and we married two months after my twenty-first birthday.

We wanted time to ourselves before kids, so I took contraceptives. I investigated the different “pills” to ensure we prevented conception, rather than aborting it. We pulled the goalie after two years, never having considered not fielding one.

Blessing on Demand (Steve)

We both wanted children. I think we assumed Amazon would hand-deliver them on request. So, two years in, we closed our eyes, held hands, and placed an order. But, somehow, our requisition got lost. It turns out prayer doesn’t work like rubbing an antique Arabian lamp.

“Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord” (Ps 127:3, cev). We knew that, but no one challenged us to leave the timetable up to Him. I waited long enough for “the wife of my youth.” Parenting could also wait. So we planned our course. But God established different steps (Prov 16:9).

Begging for Babies (Kim)

When you pull the goalie, sooner or later, someone scores. Except sometimes no one does. Players and fans alike go home empty-handed.

I tried not to get excited each month when I checked the scoreboard, but it proved impossible. The timer screeched. The strip shrieked. And my heart spiraled.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

We tried to conceive for a year before consulting a doctor. I had turned twenty-three, so we had plenty of time. He tested the basics. Nothing showed up so we saw a specialist. I had needles and instruments jabbed into me for weeks. Lab rats get a little wheel to run out their frustrations; I had to cry mine away.

Steve has average swimmers and my ovaries played coy, but the specialist said the stars could still align. I took Clomid to regulate my fickle cycle, but in Australia, professional standards limit its use to twelve months. A year later—still no baby.

Husbands, Love Your Wives (Steve)

We talked early about not idolizing kids. I learned my lesson waiting for Kim. Somehow, I knew she had enrolled in the same course.

God commissions husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). We talked. We cried. We even laughed. Sometimes, I just held Kim. We also prayed, asking for kids and for grace to keep walking—with or without tiny feet alongside us. Sometimes she prayed. Sometimes I prayed for both of us. When only groaning would do, the Spirit interceded (Rom 8:26), but every now and then, He let me do it for her. I never knew a more sacred trust.

Eighteen months into infertility, Kim said something I’ll never forget: “I thank God for this—it’s growing me closer to Him and teaching me to depend on Him.”

Hearts Play Catch-Up (Kim)

My heart struggles to own those words. I want to “be transformed by the renewing of [my] mind,” not conformed to this world (Rom 12:2). That means my heart must follow my beliefs—not determine them. I have to remind myself that God, not His gifts, brings life (John 17:3). My heart slips away at times though—“deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9). Occasionally, it hijacks me, and I have to talk it down with biblical truth. I married a good negotiator—that helps.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov 13:12). Mine grew sicker every month. It took us a while to identify the sickness as grief. Every month brought the prospect of a baby, the conception of new hope. And every month, when baby didn’t come, hope miscarried—sometimes stillborn. I got trapped on a macabre roller coaster, wrenched between unquenchable hope and undiagnosed grief.

When we lose someone precious, it has a certain finality to it. We can grieve. We can let go. How do we grieve someone precious who exists only in our hearts? And how do we let go of the baby we might have next month? The losses existed—even if the baby did not. Each month smuggled a little more grief into our lives, sabotaging them with subtle espionage.

Every time we discussed the future, my tension and grief seeped into the room. Steve skipped seamlessly between possible future worlds, and I froze like a deer in his starship headlights—trapped nine months behind him in every one of them. How can we plan for the future when we lack the key ingredient?

Stop Giving Me Grief (Steve)

I stayed busy living. Kim got stuck waiting. I would ask Kim what she thought of this idea or that plan, and she would hesitate. Sometimes I knew why. Sometimes I didn’t. What if we get pregnant?

For me, having kids fit whatever future we chose. For Kim, having kids was the future. I wanted kids too, but her eyes indicted me for not hurting like she did. It felt like entrapment.

Identifying Kim’s grief changed the game for us. I had grown to resent it. She had grown to resent the absence of mine. Naming it instantly dissolved that tension. We talked. We asked each other for forgiveness. We gave each other freedom—to grieve or not.

People avoid grief rather than acknowledge it. It feels easier. Somehow, unmasking Kim’s grief exposed mine. As we discussed Kim’s sense of loss and grief, mine shuffled out from behind it. What would our future look like without kids? Would we never cuddle our own babies? Never teach them to read? To ride a bike? To love Jesus? Spurned realities invaded my heart. Now when I hold Kim, sometimes I cry too.

Waiting for Womanhood (Kim)

In the movies, the guy always gets the girl. In the Bible, the girl always gets the baby. Sarah got Isaac (Gen 18:12; 21:1–3); Rebekah got twins (Gen 25:21, 24); Rachel got two boys (Gen 30:22–23; 35:24); Manoah’s wife got Samson (Judg 13:3, 24); Hannah got Samuel (1 Sam 2); and Elizabeth got John the Baptist (Luke 1:24, 57, 62). God graciously “opened wombs” six times over two millennia—but always with divine purpose. He preserved the line of the promised seed of Abraham (through Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel), provided deliverance and godly leadership for Israel (through Manoah’s wife and Hannah), and prepared the way for Messiah Himself (through Elizabeth). God always works with divine purpose. He “gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps 113:9, esv)—just not always.

Children are a gift and a blessing from God (Ps 127:3–5)—not a guarantee or a birthright.

God designed me to want kids. It hurt that Steve didn’t feel my grief. As we talked, a realization dawned. God designed men and women uniquely to be fruitful and multiply His image-bearers throughout the earth together (Gen 1:28; 2:18–25). He designed women to bear children—not men—and He built into that design a desire to fulfill it, a unique desire Steve could never have.

Cursed Identity (Steve)

“What about work?” Kim proffered. The penny dropped, and clinked around as its significance settled over us. Lingering resentment resolved into shared understanding. God charged Adam with keeping the garden orchard in Eden (Gen 2:15), and Eve with helping him as his companion (Gen 2:18, 20). Same purpose, different roles—the man and woman uniquely designed for each. When we rebelled, God frustrated our roles—bringing great pain and difficulty to our pursuit of them as a perennial reminder that life is found in Him alone.

Men and women share the role of cultivating creation together, but God designed men specifically for this role in a way He did not design women—hence, He addresses the curse on the ground to Adam (Gen 3:17–19). Similarly, women and men share responsibility for raising children, but God designed women uniquely for this role in a way He did not design men—so, God addressed pain in childbearing to Eve (Gen 3:16).

I didn’t suffer the regular losses plaguing Kim. Now I knew why. God designed me differently—and not just biologically. Childbearing lies central to Kim’s design in a way it will never be to mine. The vast majority of couples facing infertility echo this. When Kim suggested work as a parallel in men, it made immediate sense—both from experience and from Genesis 3. What infertility brings as deep frustration to a woman’s design, the incapacity to work brings to a man’s.

Be Fruitful and Multiply (Kim)

Paul speaks of singleness as a gift, the same kind of gift as infertility—one few ask for but many receive. The gift lies in the opportunity.

The call of our creation design remains unchanged. Where Adam failed, Jesus prevailed (1 Cor 15:21–22). He “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15, emphasis added)—“the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3, esv, emphasis added). And since the Spirit baptizes believers into Christ, we share His identity as God’s perfect image-bearer (Rom 6:3)—energized by the Spirit to live out of that identity now, and sealed by Him to consummate it for eternity (1 Cor 15:49; 1 John 3:2). Jesus’s Great Commission—to go and make disciples (Matt 28:19)—recapitulates our creation commission to “be fruitful and multiply”—to multiply God’s image-bearers by making disciples of the one true image-bearer.

We hope to do that with our own little image-bearers. But if not, we’ll use the gift of infertility to make disciples of others. We may not reproduce, but we choose to increase anyway.

Life In-between (Steve)

Today, we wait. And as we groan with creation as in the pains of childbirth, awaiting the new heavens and earth (Rom 8:22), we also groan for a little birthing pain all to ourselves. The second we hope for, the first we hope in.

God is no person’s debtor (Rom 11:35)—least of all ours. He gave us unspeakable riches in Jesus (Eph 1:3) and, kids or no kids, He is our greatest treasure.

God doesn’t rip off anyone.

About the Contributors

Steve Selke

Steve Selke and his wife, Kim, grew up five minutes from the beach in Adelaide, South Australia. As a qualified lawyer, Steve briefly served as an investigator with the Australian government before moving into church and education ministry roles. After seminary he hopes to preach the gospel, teach the Bible, and train leaders for the church.