fruitful emptiness: fearless love

My husband and I were driving to the store one weekend when I broke the news to him that our friends are pregnant with their second baby. “Yeah, I heard,” he said, not taking his eyes off the road. “I’m happy for them,” he said. I searched his face for some sign of emotion, anything that would help me read between the lines. Nothing. He just kept his eyes on the road, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand wrapped around mine.

In that moment, something inside me felt compelled to apologize. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was that he ended up marrying someone who has trouble getting pregnant. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was that because of me he has to stand by the sidelines and watch all his friends become fathers. But as I looked out the window, my eyes vaguely focusing on the houses and trees and cars streaming past, I realized that apologizing would be wrong. Of course, the infertility was not my fault, but it was more than that. An apology from me would send the message that this is my problem and mine alone, and I’m sorry that you’ve been entangled in it, and I wish I could set you free from it. I looked at his hand wrapped around mine and realized, this isn’t a man who wants apologies. This isn’t a man who wants an escape route. This is a man who has shown me without fail that he loves me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from failing to get pregnant, it’s that my husband wants no part in a life that isn’t shared between us completely. I know that he would love to have a child, but I also know that he loves me too much to let that desire come between us. I would give anything to honor him by making him a father, but until that gift is given to us, I have to honor him the only way I can – by allowing him to love me wholeheartedly, and by trusting him to accept me and the life that comes with being married to me.

This all sounds wonderful in theory, but in practice it is truly uncomfortable. All my life I’ve been so entrenched in the notion that I should have something to bring to the table, that I should earn my place in the world. When it comes to the attempt at parenthood, I’m not so sure what exactly I bring to the table. I know I’m inherently valuable as a human being, and I know that I have my own gifts as a person, but if I can’t even do this one thing that every other woman around me seems to be able to do, then how can I be so sure that I am, in fact, valuable? At least, how can I be so sure that I am valuable in our marriage?

We kept driving. There was no change in my husband’s expression, but his hand remained unmoving over mine. In that moment, I had another realization. I will never be fully certain of what is in his heart. I trust him, but I can’t presume to feel what he feels or think as he thinks. I also can’t see into the future; I can’t guarantee with complete certainty that what we have today will last another day, let alone an entire lifetime. But there in the uncertainty, in the blinding unknown, when it makes the least amount of sense to step an inch in any direction, love tells us to fly. It tells us to let go of our merits and our debts. It tells us to receive freely and to give freely. It tells us to have no fear.

It’s one thing to love someone from a place of strength. It’s a whole other thing to love someone from a place of weakness. The latter kind of love requires unwavering trust and complete abandon. By its utter vulnerability, it honors the other by requiring them to love selflessly, without judgment, without any promise of return. It demands faith in that which cannot be known and hope in what cannot be seen.

So I continued to hold my husband’s hand. I resolved never to apologize for my infertility. Not only does he deserve more than an apology, but I desire to give him more than an apology. I want to give him the kind of love that is unafraid; a love that flies into the unknown. Infertile or not, this is how I choose to honor him. Not with an apology, but with fearless love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. 

1 John 4:18-19

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