Through the centuries, barrenness was always seen as a sign of brokenness. It isn’t a mistake that both the Old Testament and the New Testament have stories of God answering the prayers of women to heal their barrenness. The truth is in much of the world in ancient civilizations barrenness was too often seen as a punishment from God.
Of course, that was never the case, but it is interesting that these miraculous stories of barren women conceiving a child still strike a powerful cord in us humans.
That’s because we instinctively know we weren’t created to be barren either physically or spiritually. And we know that when barrenness is present, it is a signal that something is wrong. As an aside, it is no mistake that the current societal madness about gender or sexual morality seems to highlight either the horrific mutilation of children that leads to serialization or the desperation of unusual “couples” to figure out how to have a child even though their physical pairing makes conception impossible.
Barrenness is a signal of woundedness. Pay attention to where you are barren and find out what the true remedy is!
Let’s look at our lesson today in Luke 1:5-25. I want to focus on St. John’s father, Zacharias, and his struggle with the miracle God was going to give him:
And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
Now before you get the wrong idea, this wasn’t to punish Zacharias, it was to invite him to embrace, through the medicine of silence, the spiritual healing in his own soul AND to be a sign and witness to his whole family and the nation of God’s impending blessing. It’s too easy to fall into the slander against God that He is “punishing” us when actually He is inviting us to powerful healing by His loving work in our lives. It is always that old Liar that is trying to convince us that God really isn’t good.
But God wants us free from the delusion of spiritual blindness, so He works in His world in amazing ways to wake us up from the lethargy of our own self-sufficiency. He does what is unexpected. He uses what is right under our noses to invite us to enter into His life and His peace. He offers us the way that absolutely obliterates the power of even difficult times to destroy us by planting seeds of “Light” and “Peace” right in the middle of our challenges and struggles. The unexpected is only unexpected if we are blind to God’s goodness to us!
When we “wake up” to His presence, when we dare to believe that He truly is “everywhere Present and filling all things”, we discover right under our noses the absolute joy of His provision for every aspect of our lives! Not even the devil’s best shot is exempt from His power to turn every moment into a revelation of His love! Thanks be to God.
Today, where does your life feel “barren” and devoid of life? Where are you empty and what do you fear in your life will never change? Look closely! Pray. Immerse yourself in the rhythm of the life of the Church, and watch as God, in His eternal love for you, uncovers before your eyes the path of rest, freedom, and peace right in the middle of whatever challenge you are facing. Let’s abandon our spiritual blindness to His loving Presence! Let’s see Him and Him alone so that, by Him, we can see all things! Not what you expected, eh? Well, that’s what happens when you’re Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, You commanded our first mother and father to “be fruitful and multiply.” What is true for our families is also true for our spiritual lives. Healthy communities grow. Healthy spiritual lives multiply. You are the Healer of barrenness and You call us to have You make us like Your Son, to form Christ in a life that is healthy enough to become a bearer of Christ! Grant us to abandon the barrenness of delusion and embrace You and Your Life-creating grace! Amen