"There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren and had borne no children."
Barrenness is a particularly difficult burden to bear, and in the ancient world it was often seen as a punishment for sin. Both the wife of Zorah, the father of Samson, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist were barren, and we can only imagine the pain they felt. No doubt both women were familiar with the words of Jeremiah who tells us that Rachel wept inconsolably because she was barren. For Jewish women not to have children meant they had no identity, no value, and no blessing from God. Zorah's wife in today's passage from Judges isn't even named. How great then the joy of both women when, in their old age, God blesses them with children whose role in salvation history will forever help believers to appreciate the greatness of God who blesses us when we least expect it.
In these last days of Advent, the same is true of us. Our roles in the ongoing story of God's love for the world, while sometimes muddy and confusing, are radically important to God. God wants to speak through us, to announce good news, not only through the strengths and gifts we each have, but through our willingness to endure weakness and suffering for the sake of building God's reign.
Today ask God to "fertilize" your heart, which so often seems barren, with the the hope only God can give.
Do you know what it is to be barren?