by Barb Best
When the symptoms of perimenopause began in my mid-forties, I pored over articles, blog posts, and any information I could get my hands on. I listened intently at Women’s Group meetings and other gatherings of women as friends and coworkers talked of their experiences. The information, be it secular or Christian in nature, generally fell in to two camps. One group celebrated the end of monthly periods and the sexual freedom that came from no longer having to fear unplanned pregnancy. The other group grieved their loss of femininity and their emptying nests, as menopause hit when their children were entering high school or college and moving on. In the thousands of words that passed through my consciousness I never once saw a reference to single women.
I am fifty-eight years old, never married, childless. A Christian since I was nineteen, I have lived the chaste life God directed in His Word. But information regarding menopause presumes a woman is sexually active and, if she is a Believer, married. However, menopause occurs by virtue of biology and gender, not according to marital status. While single women may experience the same physical symptoms such as mood swings, brain fog, and hot flashes, there is an emotional and spiritual component unique to us. At menopause a woman’s fertility ceases. She will never have any more children. For women like me, we will never have any children. Since there is no marriage or childbearing in the next life, that never is really never ever. For eternity.
No one really knows what the new heaven and the new earth will look like, though much of this earth gives us hints, allowing us to visualize and give it some shape and form. Because many of these examples relate to marriage and childbirth I’m often puzzled and feel left out. Psalm 113:9 says “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.”, but I don’t know if I’m barren. I’ve never had opportunity to find out. In Romans 8:22 Paul describes the deliverance from present trials to the glory that awaits us using a child birth metaphor. Men who’ve witnessed the birth of their children have a better understanding of this verse than I.
Randy Alcorn wrote “Heaven is not the absence of longing but it’s fulfillment. Heaven is not the absence of itches; it is the satisfying scratch for every itch.” But the Bible explicitly says the very thing I long for, marriage and children, will not exist in heaven. So, I’m confused. Just how will that itch be scratched? Walking along that particular portion of the valley of the shadow of death is a little darker for me. I keep tripping.
But I’m not the only one stymied by the ways of God. After the death of Lazarus, Martha meets Jesus and tells him that had he been there before Lazarus had died he could have healed him and that despite her brother’s death, she still believes Jesus has God’s ear. Jesus tells her “Your brother will come back to life.” He’s speaking in definite terms, making a promise; a promise Martha does not doubt.
She answers, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha had knowledge. She had faith. Nonetheless she was wrong…or maybe just incomplete. Jesus didn’t wait until the last day to reunite she and her sister with Lazarus. He raised him from the dead only a bit later. Based on her knowledge and understanding, Mary expected one outcome; Jesus had something different and far better than she could imagine.
I know God’s Word and I believe it to be true. When He says He will grant the desires of my heart I believe Him. I just have no clue of what it will look like, though I’ve wasted plenty of time and tears trying. I just know that because of His faithfulness in the past and present, He will faithfully fulfill this longing. The empty ring finger of my left hand, and my empty womb will not have been for nothing. In the next life He will reveal to me His good purpose and it will be far better than I ever imagined.
Barb Best lives in Erie, PA with her Coonhound, Lucy. She enjoys reading, writing, and running. She completes all of these very slowly. Follow her at www.brab.blogspot.com
Cover photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash.
I have a sister-in-law who was single for most of her life, and she was very competent on her own. Yet I remember men would say, “It’s too bad she’s not married “, as if that somehow was wrong. People don’t think it’s wrong if a man is single. It is true, when they talk of menopause, you assume it is about women who’ve been married. I’m glad you wrote this, it give a great perspective.
Thank you for your comments, Diane. I’m glad you found this constructive.
This is so powerful, Barb! Thank you for adding your words to this discussion. You’re so right–nowhere do we hear single women discussed as this phase of life descends upon them, and I don’t recall seeing their voices in print. I’ve been so blessed to know numerous women in your situation, however, and all of them have mentioned this lack and this wondering.
This statement you made: “Jesus had something different and far better than she could imagine,” is the solace in this situation, I believe. And none of us can add anything to it, for we do not know. All I know is that Mary and Martha seemed to be single, and their hope and joy was entirely in Jesus. With him, and only him, they felt no lack.
It will be more than any of us can imagine. It will be more than YOU can imagine, and that has got to be pretty amazingly good and definitely the scratching of that itch. This is the solace that all of us anticipate and upon which our hope is fixed. God bless you, dear friend, and you anticipate that fulfillment!
Melinda, you are one of my greatest champions and your work has been inspiring to me. Thank you!
This is really beautiful. Thank you.
Thank you, Dorothy. It’s encouraging to hear such kind words, especially from someone with your talent and experience!
Barb, have you read (or conversed) much with anyone devout in the Catholic tradition where there is a celebrated, well-established tradition of offering one’s life to God through celibacy? The lives of Edith Stein, Teresa of Avila, and Mother Teresa spring immediately to mind. I am married myself, but I’ve been profoundly moved by the Catholic Church’s cultural and doctrinal respect for women and the ALL the diverse ways in which we may live for God.
Cordelia, as a matter of fact I was raised in the Catholics faith and a lot of my education was by nuns. They were wonderful examples of strong women serving well in their chosen vocation. . Other (non-Catholic ) examples include Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward and Helen Roseveare.
Barb I came across this and it was wonderful. Thank you for sharing your heart and I will definitely be sharing this article with others ❤️
Sherry, thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your sharing this. My hope in writing this was to let women in similar situation know they are not alone , and to let others see things from our perspective.
When I was in my thirties I cried a lot about not being married yet, and desperately wanting children. People who I asked for prayer continually told me, “oh, you’re not that old, remember, Sarah had a baby in her 90s.” (Like, really? You really think I’m going to have a kid in my 90s like Sarah?)
Then suddenly there was this switch. I’d be talking about wanting kids and people would say, “Really? You’re kinda old for that don’t you think?” Not everyone, but, it was infuriating, the same church that had told me not to worry about my age and single hood was now blithely telling me they thought I was over the hill.
I finally got married at 42. My husband had prostate cancer previously so our only option was IVF, regardless of my own age or fertility or lack thereof. Insurance companies refused us, and Christians seemed to love reading the worst possible slant on IVF they could find on the internet somewhere, and accuse us of some great immorality. Thankfully there are some folks rooting for us.
It’s just so hard though, to face a possible future of never having children. I can barely endure the thought. Yet, I am horrified that I am trying to have my kids in my forties. It’s a life I never wanted for myself or for my offspring. I think of bringing them into the world at my age with great sadness, and yet, I’d rather embrace the sadness of being in the wrong season of life for this than not have them exist at all. I plead with God for mercy from Heaven that He would please allow the IVF to be successful and that He would grant us babies.
And until then, I live on a knife’s edge. While wanting to smack every Christian who offhandedly says to me, “Why don’t you just adopt?”
Heather, I totally understand that desire to smack someone!! I’ve been on the receiving end of many of those same insensitive comments. I also know I’ve been on the giving end, as well. So on behalf of those people who said those things to you, I apologize. I pray God’s will be done, and I ask that God’s will be to give you and your husband the child you long for.
I married at 44, almost exactly a year after a hysterectomy. By the time I had the surgery, I had mostly come to peace with never being able to bear children, and without the surgery I likely would have died. So entering menopause (surgically) was a mixed blessing–it saved my life, but it made clear and definite that I would never bear my own children.
In my single years, I would mention a longing for children, and Christians would sometimes rebuke me, as though a longing for children meant I wanted to indulge in fornication. But the desire for children is God-given and deep within a woman’s soul. Furthermore, I come from a large and fertile family, and so I watched my married siblings have their five children each, one of them regularly complaining about not having as many as she wanted, while I had none. Furthermore, women’s conversations tend often to revolve around boyfriends (for the young) and husbands and children, and I was left out of those discussions unless I wanted to mention my nieces and nephews (which always felt a little pathetic) or my dog (which married people tend to bristle at, not understanding that you are not really “comparing” children and pets, but merely trying to enter the conversation at the level you can).
I don’t think that we in the Christian world always know what to do with yearning or longing. It isn’t always covetousness, discontentment, or envy. Sometimes it is merely grieving that God has given a desire, a good desire, and that it has not been met.
A day or two before my scheduled hysterectomy, I was in a store waiting behind another customer when three women (two employees and the customer, whom they knew) got talking about their children. One had two children, the other one each–and it’s possible all of the women were single. The one with two told the others that they were “lucky” only to have one child each, that children were such trouble, and the two with one each seemed to agree. They probably weren’t Christians, and they were sharing a common, worldly perspective (albeit one too many Christians share). But I wanted to tell them they were devaluing a gift I did not have, and one they should instead treasure.
God has given me a husband and stepchildren, but that isn’t a “happy ending.” It’s a different story–a good one, but a different one. But God gave women the desires for children, and He knows and grieves that desire with you, even if others around you think that all that single women desire is a husband and sex.
Barb, I had no idea you were so talented. Very much enjoyed your perspective. Keep writing, you’re a comfort to those who need a chin-up.
Thanks to Fran S. For sharing
Thank you for your touching and thoughtful comments. It is a blessing to read about a life lived admirably.