Skip to main content


The produce of a week or so's worth of rather cathartic evenings back in July...

                To Their Moot Issue

                Had we but world enough, and time,
                This indecision were no crime;
                We would sit down, and think, and weigh
                The pros and cons, our long life's day.
                You'd watch the lads-turned-dads, matchside,
                With wistful awe; I, with the fried
                And frazzled mums would freak. I would
                Disdain myself a "hopeless dud",
                While you should, if you please, amuse
                Yourself with video games and booze.
                My anxious reticence would grow,
                Skirting the all-too-final "no";
                A decade more of muddled haze
                Would not one future chance erase.
                Two hundred years we'd spend in jest,
                Three thousand questioning what is best,
                And, should we settle it at heart,
                We'd chill, an age, before we'd start.
                Our maybe-child deserves such state –
                Nor would we rush to procreate.

                But at my back I always hear
                The murmurings of near and dear,
                And cohorts eager to decry
                Our state of fruitless unity.
                To duty we are duly bound;
                Delaying is a fault most frowned
                Upon. The time is now – to fly
                This long-preserved sterility,
                And utilise my uterus
                Before it gathers too much dust.
                That clock they cite ticks on apace;
                We're barely even in this race.

                Now, therefore, while our youthful hue
                Evaporates, like morning dew;
                And while the prying world conspires
                At every turn, to bend and ply us;
                Now let us yield to social sway,
                And now, like weary, hunted prey,
                Rather concede the fertile hour
                Than war against its short-lived power.
                Let us rule all our fears, and all
                Our quandaries, inadmissible,
                And bear the existential strife
                Of being party to new life.
                Thus, though we cannot make our son
                Stand firm, yet we may still have one.

                Carolyn Whitnall, 2014. (With apologies to Andrew Marvell!)

The theme has proved a fruitful one for my various poetic endeavours, light-hearted and otherwise. So ... I have worries ... and they're not entirely irrational, nor entirely selfish. Personal challenges aside, the responsibility of "being party to new life" is a rather gulp-inducingly weighty one. In the words of the famously wise 'Preacher'...
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)
Need I say more? I mean, wow, this world ... this world! And me, barely muddling along as it is ... entrusted with a fragile, precious, struggling, conscious little being ... looking to me (well, to us) to guide and nurture through said terrifying world? Really?!

And so I seek passing solace in parodic purges, as is my wont. But I do recognise ... I do ... that such a 'take' on the question is not very faith-filled. In my wonderings around the subject, I stumbled on a really helpful short article by the excellent Tim Keller, elaborating on the radical transformation of singleness, marriage and procreation when viewed from a Jesus-centred perspective. "The Christian gospel and hope of the kingdom-future de-idolized marriage", he states, and quotes from Stanley Hauerwas' book A Community of Character:
“One…clear difference between Christianity and Judaism [and all other traditional religions] is the former’s entertainment of the idea of singleness as the paradigm way of life for its followers.” (Hauerwas, p.174) "Singleness was legitimated, not because sex was questionable, but because the mission of the church is ‘between the times’ [the overlap of the ages]…We must remember that the ‘sacrifice’ made by singles was not [just in] ‘giving up sex’ but in giving up heirs. There could be no more radical act than that! This was a clear expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family but by the [kingdom of God and the] church” (Hauerwas, p.190). “[Now, in the overlap of the ages], both singleness and marriage are necessary symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s life . . . that witnesses to God’s kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other. If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to effect lives for the growth of the church, marriage and procreation is the symbol of the church’s understanding that the struggle will be long and arduous. For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope . . . that God has not abandoned this world.” (Hauerwas, p.191)
Powerful stuff: "a sign of their hope ... that God has not abandoned this world"... YES to that, and some ... and boy do I want/need to grasp the realness of it, whatever my (our) own unfolding participation in this unabandoned world turns out to be. "For God SO LOVED the world, that He gave HIS only son..." (John 3:16a, emphasis mine). How's that for reason to trust Him? -- even (should the occasion arise) with the future of a person whose primary human care-provision would be one-half myself ...

[Thumbnail image cc from uppityrib on Flickr]


Pigwotflies said…
I'm sure any parent would tell you having a baby is amazing and awful (in both sense) in equal measure. But we're biased.
:-) Yes, I do rather get that impression. But biased? Surely, on the contrary, having experienced both the not having and the having you are perfectly placed to make a fair comparison. Whereas my evidence base is entirely one-sided...

Popular posts from this blog

An autobiographical poem about walking on water

A decade ago, give or take – feeling at crisis point in my mental health and desperately socially disconnected – I "went up for prayer" at a church I was visiting. (I find it hard to do this at my own church when I feel desperately socially disconnected. It's hard enough even to be at my own church at such times). And the gentle, kindly woman who placed her hand on my shoulder and prayed some simple, general, healing words to suit my simple, general, hurting plea looked thoughtfully at me afterwards and said "just, if and when you can, keep taking each next step towards Jesus, whatever that looks like," or words to that effect. It seemed as good a plan as any, so I did. (Not instead of getting medical and professional help, I hasten to add; seeking out and receiving whatever support is available has always felt more like an action of faith than a compromise of it).

Since then, stepping towards Jesus has taken me (slowly, often painfully, and usually the long w…

The Sin of Onan

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. (Genesis 38:6-10) According to Google's answer to what (let's face it) must be right up there among the most-asked questions since the invention of the search engine, this story is the closest the Bible comes to saying anything directly about masturbation.

And it isn't a story about masturbation. It's not even a story, not really, about birth control methods – although they feature. It's a story about the denial of ju…

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.  (T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land, part I: The Burial of the Dead,1922) These lines have lingered in my mind the past few days. Eliot wrote The Waste Land in the years following the First World War, when the landscape of humanity seemed perhaps particularly stark and bleak. The poem resounds with disquiet and despair: all glimpsed respite turns out to be illusory or faltering; it seems improbable that any grounds for real hope exist at all. Eliot …