How Shall this Be, Seeing I Know Not a Man? #CopingWithCOVID19

When Mary is told that she will give birth to a son, she responds logically with “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34) Fair question. Rather than chide her for a lack of faith, Gabriel takes her seriously and answers her question. Serious questions about how God will fulfill improbable promises deserve serious answers.

Stained glass image of the Annunciation – Public Domain

God has promised me children. Every day, this promise looks harder and harder for God to fulfill. I’m single. I’m in my late 30s. There’s a global pandemic going on that has required people to stay away from each other – I haven’t even had a date in over half a year. I exclaimed to my cat one day “You can’t get pregnant from six feet away!”

Even science is failing me. I’ve considered freezing my eggs to press the snooze button on the biological clock and buy time for my tragically tardy husband to materialize, but non-emergency medical procedures aren’t all that available now either.

We hear about the people who have died from COVID-19. Some people talk about those who will die from the secondary effects of the pandemic – suicides, domestic violence victims, people who die from other diseases that would have been preventable if they could have accessed care, those who will starve because of the economic devastation. But we don’t hear about the people who won’t be born because their parents have to stay at arm’s length.

I still have faith, and I still have hope, but it’s not easy. In a church where children are seen as markers of righteousness and divine favor (how many times have you heard over the pulpit variations on the phrase “I’m so glad God trusted me with these precious souls”?), this pandemic is making me appear unrighteous. I don’t believe it, but when it permeates the air, it’s hard to avoid wondering. I’m really not looking forward to the twice-annual “single and childless pulpit-shaming fest” at general conference in October. I didn’t choose to be single in the middle of a pandemic; it just happened.

Gabriel answered Mary’s question. God has not yet answered mine. How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?


Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their house in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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11 Responses

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Great post, Trudy. Thank you for speaking about what many are feeling. 💗

  2. Mary says:

    Trudy, I have a life that is anything but successful by Mormon standards. Neither of my sons have gone on missions. They didn’t got to college. They aren’t married. At the start of the pandemic, they didn’t have jobs. They were both living with me. I am not a grandmother at this time and I could be.

    I got free of an abuser who telecommuted several years before this pandemic hit. I face massive backlash over it, too. When I realized there would be women quarantining with their abusers, I was grateful I’d made the choice to get free and stuck with it, despite the backlash. I also sent a donation to a shelter, because that was all I could do. I also looked at my non-social distancing neighbors with more compassion, because statistically speaking, some of them were getting a break from their abuser.

    When quarantine started, I suddenly became very grateful for my very imperfect “failure” of a life. I was not alone during quarantine and we were safe. My sons didn’t have to be pulled back from a mission or college. No tuition funds or rent were lost. My sons were my connection to getting things from the outside world and they did it cheerfully and still do.

    One of my sons now has a part-time telecommuting job that is a perfect start for him and my other son just applied for a remote position for an extremely well paying job. If that position doesn’t materialize, I’m sure there will be others. He is very good at what he does.

    I know I just told you about how wonderful my sons are and I don’t mean to rub salt in any wounds. What I am trying to say is this. You’re life may look very wrong in the Mormon world view, but I have every confidence your world looks very right in Heavenly Father’s view.

    • Stacy says:

      This comment is insensitive and irrelevant.

    • Trudy says:

      I’m glad you got out of your bad marriage and have a life you’re satisfied with.

      I’m curious why you feel the need to reassure me that God is happy with my life. I said in the post itself that I know my lack of children isn’t a mark of divine disfavor. God can be happy with my life and still promise more.

      Our baptismal covenant is to mourn with those who mourn, not to tell those mourning why they really don’t have any reason to.

      The point of my post is that God has made a promise to me, that promise requires certain facts of life that haven’t taken place yet, and I’m left asking how God will fulfill that promise. It’s a post of hope and faith, even if it’s mixed with pain. And it’s the pain of many righteous unmarried childless women at this time.

  3. Lily says:

    “The point of my post is that God has made a promise to me, that promise requires certain facts of life that haven’t taken place yet, and I’m left asking how God will fulfill that promise. It’s a post of hope and faith, even if it’s mixed with pain. And it’s the pain of many righteous unmarried childless women at this time.” This is a serious question for many of us. I and many of my post-menopausal friends have be wondering this for years, long before Covid. Unfortunately, I do not have any hope left.

  4. Allemande Left says:

    Trudy, I have thought about your post all week. Thank you for sharing your personal reality of longing in our COVID-dammed world. I hope the vaccine trials are successful and your deepest desires realized. Thank you.

  5. Caroline says:

    Trudy, thank you for your courage and vulnerability in posting your thoughts, pain, and hope during this time of COVID-19. What you are experiencing is so difficult, confusing, and stressful, and my heart goes out to you and other women who are in the same situation. Have you by chance seen the Israeli movie The Wedding Plan? It’s about a woman whose fiance breaks off the wedding a month before it’s due to happen, but she keeps everything scheduled, trusting God to send her a new fiance within that month. As a product of Mormon culture, I felt so much solidarity with this woman living in a Jewish culture that also places huge emphasis on marriage and fertility. I think you too would feel solidarity with her.

  6. Thank you for sharing this personal post.

  7. Kelly Ann says:

    Hi Trudy, Thanks for sharing this. The pandemic has all sorts of consequences. And while I am generally happy single, I have definitely felt more lonely. Wished I had that forever love to shelter-in-place with. I was kind-of-dating somebody until March (we were consistently hanging out, but not formerly dating). I haven’t seen him in five months because he deemed me too “high-risk” since I have housemates, and have had to go into work. He’s a tech guy who can work from home and lives with no one. Probably a bit OCD. While you could say that it is probably better that it ended it, it’s still been hard to have lost that. I had been quite hopeful for what it might become And to not even know how to re-enter the dating in the time of the pandemic. We’ve remained friendly, and I still chat with him a bit, and try to maintain connection with other friends, but it is hard when I really want to find something more with somebody, and don’t even know where to begin.

    Also, I’ve always felt like it would be great if I had kids, but also fine if I did not, it feels weird as I enter my early 40s, that that window is solidly closing. It would be highly unlikely at this point considering I’m not even dating. I hope though that maybe there are miracles out there for those, like you, who really want to get married and have kids. That maybe there are such a thing as pandemic love stories. And that God will possibly be in the details.

  8. SisterStacey says:

    God promised me kids too and a husband, but I’m punting that to the millenium. Celestial dating sounds much easier.
    I don’t know if this article is funny or serious. Maybe both. I just…be happy with you. I’m single. Never married. No kids. And I’ve been feeling great guilt, because I don’t want those things anymore. They seem like traps. I like my life. Is it terribly lonely? Heck yes! I moved and have been struggling to make friends. When you don’t have kids, it’s so much harder to make friends. And I do wish, sometimes, that I had someone with me during the long days and nights of being at home (besides the cats)… but I also look back on my 20s and 30s, spent trying to make myself into someone else, so that a man would want me. I stifled myself. I thought I had no value as a person because I didn’t have a ring or a baby.
    But I am okay with that now. I am okay with the messy person that I am. And maybe the blessing from God is to find the joy in being you. Sending you love.

  1. October 5, 2020

    […] The pandemic has put a stop to dating, so I was hoping that nobody would take the heartless step of berating singles for something entirely outside our control. (Not that it was totally in our control before, either.) Before conference, I prayed that nobody would say anything cruel to or about single people. […]

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