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I have two beautiful nieces and one terrifying nephew. They are all under six and all hail from the same womb. Said womb and womb mate couldn’t attend church one morning so Anna and I offered to take the kids to church for them. I ended up with Molly who is 20 months, the mathematicians among you may have noted that this left the wife with approximately one more child than me. It will be ok, I thought, we’ll only have them for 20 minutes then the older two will be in Junior Church, and I can skive in creche… or it could be a family service where everyone stays in.

With a little assistance from other parents and church members we coped, and about halfway through Molly threw her dolly to one side and settled into my neck for a bit of a snooze. It started with a wayward thought – I hope I have a girl – and that was it: a tidal wave of sadness, loss and self pity crashed in around my fragile heart and mind. As I barely stayed afloat in thoughts of ‘why me?’ and alike the church started clapping. While awake Molly loves clapping, joining in exuberantly at any opportunity. It turns out she is no different in her sleep, and as her open palms slapped my neck and arm respectively the dam broke and I began to weep for the child I don’t have.

In recent months I had become numb to the pain of infertility, of the severely decreased chance we have of conceiving without assistance. I was telling myself it was just one of those things and that God has a plan. That morning it wasn’t just one of those things, and God’s plan didn’t look perfect. But as we stood to sing the next song and I struggled with my thoughts, my guilt about having such thoughts and also trying to hide the fountain that had once been my face, I saw him. He had been in the youth group when I was heading it up. I thought he’d be a Christian forever, invincible to the lure of the world. But the world doesn’t always work out the way it does in our heads, and my friend drifted. I’d spent more time with him recently and really didn’t know where he was with everything. But as I looked at him that morning I saw that he was singing and it dawned on me that if I feel so strongly about the child I don’t yet and may never have, how does God feel about this lost son making his first tentative steps back home?

Luke 15v20 ‘So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’

God feels for His children more. More than I can know, more than my puny words can describe. And he also feels it for me, his heart breaking in time with mine as I grieve my current infertility. I only saw my friend sing one line of the song before I turned away. But the line he sang was perfectly appropriate. A prodigal son singing about a sacrificed one:

‘Thank you oh my Father for giving us Your Son.’

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