Childless Is Not Less
We first met in July 1982. At that time Nigel was working as a curate at a church in St Helens, Lancashire, and Linda had recently returned from five years working abroad with Operation Mobilisation. Nigel had been asked to lead a seminar at a day conference at St Mary’s church in Wirral, organised by Martin Hallett who was then the Director of TFT. Linda was already a member of that church. The title of Nigel’s seminar was, “Sexuality and the Single Life.” Linda attended the seminar, we met, and a year later we were married, when we were both in our mid-thirties. We were not given any marriage preparation, and we hardly discussed having a family! Perhaps we just assumed it would happen! Our parents were dead, and no one raised the issue with us. After five years of marriage, we began to wonder why we had not conceived, and discovered that we should have started investigations much earlier. We were fast-tracked to a fertility clinic and were offered just two IVF treatments due to our ages. In those days, the success rate was at best 10%. We were warned that it would be a stressful and emotionally demanding procedure, and as we prayed about the treatment, we felt that God did not intend us to go down this route.
Adopting or fostering?
Not long afterwards, we came across a representative of the orphanage where Nigel had been born, and it sparked a thought of exploring adoption. We could have a child from the same agency that Nigel had come from. Wow! We waited and waited and heard nothing for a year. By then, it felt that God was not leading us to have an adopted child. We had contact with some friends who had adopted three children. They had gone through a tough time with them, culminating in their son dying from a drug overdose. They told us that if they had their lives again, they would have chosen to remain childless. So, we approached the local Social Services in response to an advert for foster carers, But the social workers went on strike, and it was over a year before we were invited to a preliminary meeting. By then Nigel had applied for and been offered a new job in an AIDS hospice in Hackney, East London. The accommodation which went with the job was a one-bedroomed flat, and we concluded that God was calling us to remain as we were. People told us how they knew of friends who had conceived after many years of marriage, and so we lived on in hope until Linda had an emergency hysterectomy. Our hope for a family ended brutally and abruptly.
God directs our paths
Some people are childless by choice, but for those who would like to be parents, whether married or single, it is a bereavement. We grieve for the child we never had. We watch parents interacting with their children and see what we are missing. We listen to our friends talk about their children and now, at our age, their grandchildren, and we feel we have nothing to say. But being childless does not have to be less. We had the following words from Proverbs read at our wedding, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Prov 3:5-6). We have been able to take on jobs and move to locations here and abroad which would have been far more difficult if we had had to attend to children’s education. When we moved to the hospice, Linda, who had trained as an early-years teacher, got a job at a school opposite. Having worked overseas, Linda enjoyed teaching in such a multi-cultural school. When Nigel was appointed as vicar of the International Congregation in Beirut, Linda found a job at an orphanage school run by a Western charity, which followed the English curriculum. Amazingly, the school was ten minutes’ walk from our home.
Now we are both retired, and into our seventies, we wonder who will clear up our home when we die! So, we are freeing ourselves of unnecessary possessions, and finding ways to serve God and others while we are able. As with every situation in life, we can dwell on the negatives and feel sorry for ourselves, or be grateful for the positives and rejoice in what we can do. And, above all, we believe that we live under God’s loving providence. Jesus said to his disciples, “No one who has left home or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30).
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Winter 2020 edition of Ascend