I’m writing this post in response to a common theme I’ve seen around the faith-based infertility community. It’s something that I’ve heard over and over and often times I’ve heard it from people I truly respect. And yet, it’s something that has troubled me.
The people who discuss this topic seem to be very sincere in their intentions, and in a lot of ways, I think they make very valid points. And yet, I find it to be an unsettling topic for me. I think it troubles me because the topic provides me with a temptation to let go of the active faith I have to see myself as the mother of a miracle baby. Giving up faith is not something I want for myself, and it’s not something I want for you either.
And so, although it may be a bit controversial, today I want to share my thoughts on the idea of having a “baby idol” in your life.
First of all, what is the baby idol? (Nope, not talking about a tiny little statue!)
The baby idol (as it has been presented to me) is the idea that a person is elevating their desire for a baby into an unhealthy place where it impedes on the space that God is supposed to have in your life. Sometimes this idea is accompanied by a story that goes like this– “As soon as I took my desire to be a mom and surrendered it to God, that’s when I got pregnant!”
From what I can tell it seems like these women’s experience has been one where they believed that having a baby would provide them the peace and joy and comfort that only God can provide. They say that the idea of a baby preoccupied their minds to an unhealthy point and call this thought pattern a “baby idol.”
I agree that believing that a baby would satisfy those places in their heart that were designed to be filled by a relationship with God is a false-belief. Some might refer to this kind of belief and resulting behavior as idolatry. Regardless of what you decide to call it, it’s a thought-pattern that needs to be replaced by truth. Only God, not a baby, can bring you the fulfillment you are looking for.
And yet, I would be cautious of implying that the baby is an idol or that the intense desire for a baby is sinful.
It doesn’t sit right with me, and these are my thoughts on why.
The first time I had heard of this idea of a baby idol was a few months ago when I met a sweet lady who I ended up sharing some of our infertility journey with. I told her about IVF and how hard we were fighting for our family. She looked at me and said, “Do you think that a baby is an idol in your heart?”
I was taken aback at the question, but was sure in my response. I told her “No, I think that God has called me to be a mom and I’m fighting in faith for my family in obedience to that.”
I felt strong and confident in my answer.
Later I heard an infertility speaker talk about “building a baby idol” in her heart. Her story was similar to the one above, she surrendered her desire for motherhood (which she explained was an idol to her) and now God has given her children. This time after hearing about a baby idol I felt more unsettled.
The theme continued, I heard about a baby idol from person after person who had gone through (or was currently facing) an infertility diagnosis. Each time it left me feeling more and more uncomfortable. I sat down with my husband- my most trusted advisor- to discuss the idea with him and why it bothered me so much. Turns out he had a very similar reaction.
This is what we have decided. A baby is not an idol in my life. A baby is a point of faith and something I am believing for in my life. I believe that a baby is a blessing and will be a blessing in our lives.
I confess to having other areas of my heart that could be identified by some as “idols”. Those would include my personal comfort and a desire to control, both of which I have at one point or another (unsuccessfully) elevated to much too high a place in my own life. There have been times that I’ve been upset that things were not going my way- things were not living up to what I thought my life should look like or feel like. I’ve been distressed that life wasn’t going according my timeline or my plan. Comfort idols and control idols (if that’s what you want to call them) have been something that has come to the surface in our fertility journey.
The baby (and babies) we are going to have, however, are not an idol. And my desire for them is not a sin.
I would, however, like to give quite a bit of credit to the women who talk about baby idols. I don’t think they mean to imply that desiring a baby is wrong at all. I’m sure if I had a chance to converse with them we would end up on the same page about most of this. However, I see the phrase “baby idol” as a severe misnomer, and I believe what we call things matter. And I believe that calling a desire for a child an “idol” (even for someone who is struggling with other heart issues) is a huge disservice to all of us who have ever prayed in faith for a miracle baby. I’d love to see the language we use around these heart issues change in such a way that emphasizes the fact that sin is sin, and a desire for a child is not.
Imagine Abraham and Sarah. They were promised by God that they would be parents to a baby. They had to wait and wait and wait for that baby. It seemed like all hope was lost. And yet the Bible says that Abraham believed.
Sarah had a harder time with waiting. It seems she lost hope and took matters into her own hands. She sent her handmaid to Abraham and tried to have a baby through another woman. Later, God confirmed that it would be Sarah herself who would birth the child promised to Abraham- what was her response? She laughed. To Sarah, the idea of having a child was comical at this point, she had given up hope of ever having a baby years and years before.
On the other hand, the Bible gives credit to Abraham for his faith. The Bible never says that Abraham “surrendered his desire to be a Father.” In fact he did the opposite. He believed. He believed- and even on days when the promise seemed far, he was called by his new name, “the father of many nations” despite the fact that there was no baby to be found.
God promised Abraham a son. Do you think that Abraham would be honored as a father of our faith if he continually told God, “Ok I know you said I was going to be a dad, God, but I surrender this to you, if you don’t want to give me a child, I’m ok with that.”**
That would be doubting the word of God, and God isn’t looking for someone to let him off the hook for all things He said that He would do.
He says that He is the one who gives us the desires of our hearts. He says that He is the healer of our bodies. He says to be fruitful and multiply, that children are a gift from Him, and that He withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly. In fact, He is the one who calls the barren woman to REJOICE in their coming miracle.
So please, don’t imply that a deep desire (that hurts so bad some days) to see God fulfill His word is a sin. Faith is what pleases God.
If faith is what pleases God, what does that look like in the midst of infertility? First of all, I think it probably looks different to each person, but for me, I come back to Hebrews 11:1 that faith is the conviction of things hoped for and being assured of the things we do not see.
This means that I determine to stay convinced that I will be a mom one day and that I will hold my own baby in my arms. It means that I actually should be spending time imagining myself living out my desire of motherhood, assuring myself that this will one day be my reality. It means that I shouldn’t bury my desire for a baby with all the other junk I’ve tried to rid my own heart of.
Calling my faith and my desire for a baby a sin threatens the hope I am holding onto. It’s kinda like that old saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” I feel that is the temptation when we start to use the phrase “baby idol.” It sends the message that I need to get rid of my desire for a baby, or at the very least, make it something I desire less. It implies that as we rid ourselves of self-sufficiency, control, or other heart issues, that we should be downplaying our desire for a baby as well. (Again, I truly don’t think many of the women in this community would argue this is the case, but I do believe that it’s strongly implied in the phrasing.)
Minimizing my desire for a baby and downplaying it in my heart is actually a way of entertaining doubt that this desire will ever come to fruition.
Honestly, entertaining doubt has been something I’ve struggled with. I have been tempted to lose faith at times in this journey. It has been difficult for me to believe that I could actually be the woman with the positive pregnancy test or actually feel kicks in my womb or hold a baby in my arms.
Believing there is a miracle coming has brought me so much heartache each time the miracle is delayed. I’ve been tempted to be like Sarah- to laugh at the idea that the miracle could actually be mine. Nonetheless, I want to hold onto every little shred of hope I have, and being told that my desire for a baby is an idol, only makes it more difficult for me to hold on to my faith.
For us, Andrew and I firmly believe that God has called us to be biological parents of children. I believe that desire came from God. If God wants to take away that desire and replace it with something else, He is free to do that, but I’m not going to sit here and constantly surrender to Him what I firmly believe He has called me to stand in faith for.
The method by which we become parents, however, is something I surrender to God often. We have sought God strongly before each and every treatment attempt. We prayed about the clomid, the IUIs, and each IVF we have done. At each failed cycle, I’ve asked God “Is this still the path you want us on?” When the answer is yes, that’s what we do.
In fact, not only have I had a peace about pursuing these treatments, I’ve actually not had a peace about not pursuing them. I’ve known in my heart that not pursuing treatments would be outside of God’s will for my life in this season. Although I haven’t gone into every treatment with a perfect heart, I can tell you I have gone in obediently. And it’s been hard. IVF has not been easy. I have put my heart and soul into what we feel God has called us to do and it’s been incredibly disappointing to see it not work out. And yet I press forward. And I believe that not only is a baby coming, but a whole new world of blessing is coming as well.
From the outside looking in, some people might think I have a baby as an idol. They think I’m putting myself through the hell of multiple treatment cycles to achieve the dream of motherhood. That’s not why I’m doing it. I’m not pursuing a pregnancy simply because I want to be a mom. (Even though I do want to be a mom!) I am pursuing a pregnancy because I believe God wants me to be a mom. And I do IVF because that is the method by which we feel God calling us to. If there was an easier way, believe me, I would want to take it. But this is what we feel called to do- to move forward with treatments and believe God that He is going to give us a family.
Has my heart always been perfect every step of the process? Nope. I’m growing and maturing along the way and slowly weeding out the junk of my life. And have I always wanted a baby for the right reason? Probably not, but wanting a baby for a reason that’s wrong doesn’t make the actual desire for a baby wrong.
In fact, I actually think that at times I need to focus on the idea of a baby more, not less. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the path in front of me (the treatments, the medications, the hormones) than it is for me to keep my eyes on the why behind all of this. I need to do things to remind me of the why. I need to pin baby clothes on pinterest, look up nursery ideas, and research the meanings behind all my favorite baby names. I need to remind myself that I am not in faith for a successful IVF cycle- I am in faith for a miracle BABY.
Standing in faith is hard. And it’s harder still when people you know and trust are talking about the tempting idea that it is godly to give up the very desires that God is calling you to believe Him for. I’m doing everything I can- even in the face of discouragement- to continue to believe that God is going to fulfill His call to motherhood on my life. So even though I’ll gladly hear what you have to say about control idols or comfort idols or wanting a baby for the wrong reason idols, please don’t be offended if I tune out of your talk on baby idols.
A baby is what I believe God has promised to me and I’m not ashamed to say that a baby is exactly what I am standing in faith and believing God for.
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by it our ancestors won God’s approval.
Does believing in faith for a baby feel difficult for you? Have you been tempted to let go of a dream God placed in your heart? Reach out to me. I’d love to pray with you for fresh faith for your miracle.
P.S. Do you not like this post because you resonate with the idea of “baby idol” and doing so has helped you mature in your faith? That’s ok, I’m not trying to ruffle your feathers. I’m trying to bring a new perspective of grace and understanding. Like I said, I believe that words matter and what we call things matters. The “baby idol” phrase does more harm than good in my heart, but if it has helped you iron out areas of your life, then I will support you in that!
Verses referenced in this post:
Genesis 15 and 16, Psalm 37:4 Exodus 15:26, Isaiah 53:4-5, Genesis 9:7, Psalm 127:3, Psalm 84:11, Isaiah 54:1, Hebrews 11:6
**For clarification sake, Abraham’s obedience was tested in Genesis 22 when he was asked to sacrifice his son, but even in that moment, Abraham maintained his faith that Isaac would live to father Abraham’s descendants just as God has promised. Hebrews 11 says He believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead, if necessary. Because of this, I don’t believe that Abraham ever surrendered his faith that God would do exactly what He said He would do in giving Abraham and Sarah a son, making them the father of many nations.