1 Corinthians 7:8-9 King James Version (KJV)
8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.
King James Version (KJV)
by Public Domain
Recently I searched the internet for information on the male perspective of infertility. Since my ministry is with women, I have little exposure to hear from men when they find themselves infertile.
I found some interesting information about the Rabbinic perspective on infertility that gave me some insight to teach my lessons on the book of Daniel. Unlike my contemporary barren girlfriends, the barren ancient Jewish wife was perceived not only as the afflicted, diseased, deficient spouse but as a woman whose husband was not fulfilling his role as pro-creator.
According to Judith R. Baskin in the article “Infertile Wife in Rabbinic Judaism” (http://jwa.org/http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/infertile-wife-in-rabbinic), childlessness was perceived as a “grave misfortune” for both spouses. However, a male’s failure to generate offspring “violated a legal obligation, since men alone were obligated to have children.” The article further explains how a couple could be together for ten years, and if no offspring resulted, they were permitted to divorce and try again. A woman could marry after a second failed union for a third time only if the new husband already had children.
Wow. This perspective is shocking; to think women were shown so much compassion in the ancient world. The matriarchs who suffered a closed womb were driven to deep, gut- wrenching prayer and Baskin explains the Lord yearned for their prayers and supplications. It’s amazing to meditate on the deep, serious responsibility Jewish men had for creating life as well.
This tremendous burden on Jewish men makes me see Daniel and his three friends in a new light. Their submission to the Babylonian king to become eunuchs and continue their blazing devotion to the one true God is breathtaking. Of course they understood their lives would be devoid of marriage and its benefits but they must have suffered deep anguish at not being able to fulfill their legal obligation to produce offspring.
Jeremiah also was forbidden to marry. Poor Jeremiah was asked to perform so many unusual tasks as he wept along carrying the same burden of being unable to fulfill his call to procreate. Even a brief, light study of his book exposes his loneliness in faithfulness and his obedience in isolation.
The Apostle Paul is debated to have had a wife, but it is clear at the height of his ministry he was alone. He ended his life alone, asking for books and a warm coat from a jail cell.
The women I minister with live in every form of marital relation. Widowed, betrayed or abandoned, single again, divorced, and never married women sit around my Sunday school class each week. We look to the scriptures each week for instruction and comfort to live our lives. We relish the stories of our ancient mothers who lived through betrayal and abuse, childlessness, poverty, and loss.
Thinking about the men who lived the single life in the bible as inspiration to find comfort, instruction, and guidance is unique for a group of gals. Yet, after looking at the sacrifice of these men I can see they are great examples of people who missed an intimate relationship and still served God mightily and boldly.
My ladies inspire each other with their faithfulness and boldness to serve the Lord. Women have been our main examples, but after this study I think I can offer a new insight about these unique “eunuchs” who sacrificed marriage and family to serve the Sovereign Lord. Of course, our Lord is the ultimate example as our High Priest who sympathizes with all of our weaknesses, male or female.
The bottom line is this: our call to serve the Lord is not dependent upon our satisfaction within marriage. Men and woman are called individually to be faithful first to Him. The outcome of our service can be great even if our state of motherhood or marriage is not.
My friend is pictured above on a recent medical mission to a severely impoverished African country. This friend has applied what we have learned in our Sunday school huddle about being a great servant under not-so-great circumstances. She has experienced the gamut of human pain and disappointment in life, yet she serves and loves greatly. Like Daniel, Jeremiah, and Paul, she has wept and been faithful. I include her photo as a testimony to the power of a great God who makes all things work together for the good of those who are called.
Know that my ladies will look at a bunch of single guys in a new light, as examples of sacrifice and strength to be obtained from a compassionate, loving God who loves to see our faces turned up in prayer.