Playing God: What Infertility Has Taught Be About Doing God’s Job

February 19, 2014

As many of you know, my wife and I have been journeying through infertility.images

It has been many months, many doctors, many dollars.  We weigh each procedure carefully, as it is more invasive, more costly, more personal than the last.

And sometimes we wonder…if we are playing God.

Plenty of people might say we are playing God because we are manipulating life.  Some people are very uncomfortable when you start talking about embryos because usually the only time that word comes up, it’s accompanied by “stem cell research.”  Issues of life are big topics.  And the closer you get to merging the sanctity of life with the cold march of science, the more ethics are brought into question.  “In vitro” just has that ring of “Brave New World,” doesn’t it?

Yes, for a myriad of reasons, there are still a few areas of medical science that are still taboo, a little frightening.  We don’t know if we’ve somehow crossed a line.

But here’s the thing.  As my wife and I continue to trudge onward through infertility, we have learned a lot about what it means to manipulate science, create life and, yes, “play God.”

The Sanctity of Life

The “sanctity of life” is a big catch-all in American politics.

A lot of times, that phrase is used by anti-euthanasia people.  Or pro-lifers.  Or anti-death-penalty-ers.  Because, you know, life is sacred and precious.  Life is God’s domain, not ours.

The thing is, I agree with that.  I do believe life is sacred.  I do believe life is precious.  That belief was fundamental to us before we started and it is even more important now.

In fact, infertility has shown me just how precious life truly is.

I believe that life is sacred and precious enough that I’m willing to do something difficult to bring a new life into existence.  Most people just have life springing from their bodies, but a few of us have to work for it.  And I don’t think we would have put ourselves through this much stress, loss, pain and sickness if we didn’t believe life was precious and worth fighting for.

Yes, we do not only believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn, but even the life of the unconceived.

You Can Lead a Sperm to An Egg…

So what are infertile couples doing when we are “playing God?”

A lot of us are taking hormones or other medications.  Some are trying do “artificially” what is supposed to happen naturally, through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization.  We are eliminating a few more variables, trying to get that sperm a little closer to the egg. We’re trying to make the room for error a bit smaller…

But you know what?

You can lead a sperm to an egg.  But you can’t make it fertilize.

And you can’t make that fertilized egg implant itself in a uterus.

And you can’t force the uterus to hold that egg there as it grows for nine months.

The hormones, treatments and procedures can encourage all of these things to happen.  But there are no guarantees.

Do you see my point?  For all of our science, for all our miraculous medical advances, there is still a heavy element of mystery. (And isn’t that the case in all medicine?)  The fundamental things that make life happen are still out of our control.  And I suspect they always will be.

As my wife and I have gone through this journey, we have not stopped praying.  We have not left God behind.  We are just as convinced as ever that God, not our doctors, not our money, but God will give us a baby, or not, as He sees fit.

He’s Playing God – Isn’t That Cute?

When you were a kid, did you ever play “doctor?”

Or did you play “house?”  Or maybe you played “teacher.”

You probably played something that had to do with an adult profession.  Maybe you had a little doctor kit or a baby doll or something like that and the adults thought you were cute as you tapped their knees with your doctor hammer and listened to hearts through a plastic stethoscope.

They thought you were cute.  But a child is not a doctor.  A child can create no medical result from plastic toys.

And this is what I’ve concluded.  That our ability to “play God” is analogous to a child playing “doctor.”  We can, at best, tinker around the edges.  We can eliminate some variables.

But God is still in control.  He is still sovereign.  He still has the whole world in His hands.

He is still…God.

And nothing will change that.  We will not take God’s responsibility away from Him.  We will not strip Him of any credit He deserves.  God still cures people of cancer (and sometimes does not) and still gives couples children (or not.)

And if we truly try to take God’s job from Him, we are merely delusional.

What do you think?  Are there things we can do that take away God’s responsibility?  Or are we merely tinkering around the edges of God’s ultimate sovereignty?

9 responses to Playing God: What Infertility Has Taught Be About Doing God’s Job

  1. My wife and I have suffered through this discussion as well. We have chosen to not to pursue treatments. Tiffany shares more about her side of the struggle in this piece.

  2. Matt,

    Our 2nd was the result of IVF and I believe firmly that God created her. Seeing her as a 5 day old blastocyst before she was implanted in my womb was a miracle in itself. (the 2nd one that was implanted didn’t make it) You are right on that God is the ultimate maker and creator. The doctor can’t make them attach to the womb at all. We wouldn’t trade the experience because we wouldn’t have her otherwise. Our first was a struggle to conceive even though we didn’t have to go through IVF, medications were of help. I believe God has given incredible talent to doctors and thus I can use that talent and increase in medical knowledge of today’s science. I wish you the best!

  3. You have my sympathy for your struggles. There are so many people limiting their family size that it seems so unfair that anyone has to struggle having children. I wish you well.

    In terms of playing God, sometimes I think all humans have ever done is play God. From domesticating wolves to taking naturally growing berries and grains and planting them in rows, from Caesarian sections to penicillin, from walking upright (when Our spine was designed for walking on all fours) to heart transplants–all humankind has ever done is play God by interfering with the natural order of things.

  4. I never knew as a child or teenager or even a 20-something how difficult it is to have a baby. When I first went to my ob/gyn sometime after we began trying to conceive she said to me, “Oh, anybody can have a baby these days.” And she referred me to a fertility specialist. She was so flippant. I just shook my head inside of my head. I’ve never given birth. After a few months of fertility stuff we turned to adoption. I didn’t give her words much of a chance, but I didn’t really want to go that route – I wanted a sure thing, I wanted a child…now.

    Adoption had been on my heart for years. I don’t think He ever intended for me, personally, to give birth. It still stings a little if I think about it much, but then I think about how He had other plans for us, good plans, three awesome little plans, and that alleviates the sting. Adoption isn’t His plan for everybody. I had a peace about it that most going through infertility don’t have. I agree with you in that God is still ultimately in control. When we chose to adopt, we chose the easiest, most direct route at the time. It still wasn’t a sure thing even though it seemed like it. I had to keep reminding myself of that – that God was in control and that He loved me, no matter what the outcome would be. There were so many variables, so many unknowns that it became obvious quickly that I was dependent on Him. I really had no control.
    Kate Hall recently posted..A Tea Party Is the Best Place for a Fart Joke

  5. I am praying for you both as you go through this hard time. And I believe that because you are still acknowledging God as the Giver of Life, it means that you are not ‘playing God.” You are using resources and technology that God has allowed to develop for His purposes. Now when we start playing around with genes to make sure we get certain traits–a boy or blue eyes or no chance of heart disease, then we will be in the range of playing God.

    My brother and his wife struggled with it, too. They had to go through two IVF procedures before they were able to conceive. It is definitely still in God’s hands. May God give you the desires of your heart.
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  6. As one of the fertility doctors said to me “we can only do so much, you still need magic”. For magic read God.
    Best of luck with your attempts.

  7. As a surgeon, these types of analogies are interesting. I fix things. I fix rotator cuff tears. I fix broken hips. I fix torn ACL’s. I don’t heal anyone. There is something that happens when I fix things that I don’t understand. Most rotator cuff tears heal. Some don’t. And there are times I don’t know why. For some people the surgery is incredibly painful. For others there is hardly any pain at all. And I don’t know why. These mysterious fill me with awe. We often think we know so much in 2014. I’m less interested in what we do know and more interested in what we don’t know. 1,000 years from now, science and medicine will laugh at much of the things we do.

    I think I am helping you prove your point.

  8. I agree with what you are saying about “Playing” God.

    I read a joke once where a group of scientists told God that they didn’t need him anymore, because now they could also create life from the dirt, like in Genesis.
    The got a pile of sand, and put it into a machine, and God said “Stop cheating. Make your own sand.”

    We might think we can “improve” on what he has created, but we are really just tinkering in the dark.
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  9. My husband and I have walked the difficult road of infertility and struggled with the question of when are we playing God. We decided that when the attempts required the body of someone outside the marriage relationship (donnor sperm or egg or surrogate) then we were insisting on our desire to have a child over his sovereignty to bring forth life from our marriage. This was nearly 20 years ago and now we have three teens who joined our family via adoption. In each of their stories we see God’s fingerprints of bringing them to our family. There have been some hard seasons, but also season of Joy. And daily God shows us His grace and mercy.