The idea that that having children is a big decision and one not to be undertaken lightly is so common in our times that it has become cliché. Thanks to the language of the contraceptive culture, no responsible couple ever just gets pregnant. No, we talk about getting pregnant, then we think about getting pregnant for a little while longer, then we research getting pregnant, and then, if we don’t let our anything scare us out of it, we decide to get pregnant. After the birth, we research the best ways to stop this traumatic thing from happening to us again until the next time we decide we want to do this. All of this sounds perfectly reasonable to non-Christians, as it should. They walk alone, and on a very confused path.
Unfortunately, this has also come to sound perfectly reasonable to a large majority of Christians. (Which means that practically nobody is going to like this post very much. Whatever. I believe I’ve caught on to something wonderful here, so I’m going to roll with it. Bring your best Bible and refute it if you can.)
One of my favorite quotes–at least, it used to be, before I gave it some sustained thought five minutes ago–is this:
Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body. –Elizabeth Stone
I have a daughter. She has my dirty-blonde hair, my mouth (in both looks and loudness), and my insatiable appetite for cranberry sauce. She is also my husband’s daughter, and resembles his side of the family in a hundred different ways. She is a blessing to us, from the tip of her pretty head to the toes inside those ballet flats she’s always wearing.
But she is not primarily our child. She exists, physically, because my genes and my husband’s had a happy meeting and intertwined to become a unique set of DNA. However, she does not exist because we willed it. She exists because God willed it, from the foundations of the world.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Since God exists outside of time, eternal, this verse means that God created everything that ever will exist, from the moment He spoke the words “Let there be light” to the Last Trumpet, including the children that we humans like to pretend we made on our own.
My daughter does not exist for my pleasure. I enjoy her. We play dolls and talk about things that boys would never understand. She and I are great friends (some days), and barring some tragedy, I expect her to be a blessed part of my life until I die. Of course I enjoy her! But if she existed for my pleasure, then whenever she failed to please me in some way, I would have the right to exact whatever harsh punishment I like. Or to end her life. After all, she would be violating the purpose of her own existence by displeasing me. But she exists for God’s pleasure, not mine. (This is also a fine case against harsh and unloving “discipline” that is based in anger, rather than loving correction. But that’s another post.)
My daughter does not exist for my purposes. While my last post seems to have confused some commenters, who thought that I was saying my children are my financial plan, they do not exist for the sake of my own purposes. There are many benefits to having a tightly-knit, loving family, but if those benefits are dampened by the effects of the Curse (illness, death, financial difficulties, stress, etc.), that still wouldn’t give me the right to reject her. She is not here simply for my sake.
Does she at least exist by my will? Since technology gives us the option of not having children, hasn’t it finally become a big decision that we make, as the Elizabeth Stone quote says? Because we have this power, shouldn’t we use it to make the best possible world we can for ourselves and whatever children we decide to have?
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.
In this verse, the heavenly host is singing to God about the whole story of the universe. All things. By His will. However, we live in a fallen world, where disobedience is not only possible, but normal. The language of choice (which is the language of defiance of the created order) has convinced us that that we, ourselves, hold the keys to our own future. The cultural attitude that springs up from this “choice” mentality is one of ownership of our children, as if they were merely expensive pets, rather than eternal souls whose existence is for purposes that we can’t even fathom. We’ve wrested the power of Creation from the One who rightfully controls these things. But we don’t really control as much as we think we do.
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
So now we have kind of a conundrum on our hands, don’t we? If God is really in control of all of this, then why do we have this ability to resist participating in that creation? If God willed this child into existence, then didn’t he also not will those lives we’ve decided not to risk forming, for whatever our personal reasons are? And the answer is, I think, yes! And there is no good news in that answer. He willed this generation to have that choice, and He has willed us to take it.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the childrenof one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate
Children are a blessing, so we could reasonably call childlessness a curse, could we not? (Again, I speak not of the tragedy of infertility, but of chosen sterility.) Our unfettered control over the creation of our children, America, is a judgment, not a happy technological boon that God has granted us. He has handed us over to our selfishness, and we are already beginning to reap the bitter fruit of that childlessness in this generation, as the demographic time bomb ticks down to zero. The next generation, the one that was supposed to carry on where we leave off, hasn’t shown up for work.
We’ve taken our Godly heritage, which he has clearly explained to us in the Bible, in the very language of Creation (It is good.) and smashed it against sharp rocks, breaking it into bite-sized pieces for our own personal enjoyment, instead of taking it in its full wonder and meeting its challenges with joy and thanksgiving. We are paying for this now, as a nation, and we will pay for this in the future.
Please note that I don’t speak of any individual’s heart, as I don’t know anybody’s heart–even my own. This is, at this late date, a collective failure of understanding. I’m speaking of a massive confusion that many well-meaning Christians of our generation have stumbled into due to a lack of confident and fearless preaching on the subject. However, collective guilt is built on individual guilt, and we must own our faults when we see them in our own hearts.
We don’t really, as a culture, believe any of these verses about God’s hand in Creation or procreation anymore. We don’t believe that God is in control of much of anything anymore, if He ever was. If we did, we’d let Him lead in the creation of His own favorite work: Mankind. He has “crowned him with glory and honor”, and here we, Christians, are behaving as though people are a scourge! He has given us the blessed responsibility of nurturing these relationships, and we are treating them as if they are a burden! Our lifestyles may impose burdens. Our broken hearts and bodies create burdens. The brokenness of our children even imposes burdens. But they, themselves, are not burdens.
Our families are blessings. We say it, we think we mean it, but we behave every day as though it weren’t true. I think it’s about time we knock that off, Christians. They are blessings. Open your hands and accept them.