Whose Children Are These?

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.

–Colossians 1:16

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.

Rev. 4:11

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.

–Proverbs 16:9

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

–Psalm 127:3-5

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.
worthy

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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rebecca
    Twitter: momsmustardseed
    January 16, 2013, 7:45 am

    Cindy, you have captured all of my thoughts about children and shared them so incredibly well. Our children are a blessing and none can be created or born without the will of the Father. I learned this when we lost our first child. I sat and begged the Dr to bring back to life the child in my womb…he had no power. Our first born, we went through very similar situations – so many times I left the Dr’s office prepared to lose this baby that could not be saved. I sat and watched my Father In Law – die and held my Mother’s hand as she left this earth. To truly understand God’s power and sovereignty of life, we can’t just witness birth, but death in which we truly have no control. My Mom’s Birthday was yesterday. Her life was not easy. She was the 11th child born out of 13 who lived – others were born and died. As I sat and pondered her birth (which I did not witness) and her death, which I did – I thought about God and how man has breath only because of HIS will. I am thankful my Mother carried me – I am thankful she did not listen to many who told her to abort me – after all, she was in a situation many would have run from. But, she chose life – she chose God’s will – though her future was uncertain, though she was living in hell on earth – she trusted him. Me, I”m thankful she read his word, loved HIM more than herself….and now, I’m off to spend the day with my three blessings. Last week, our first born would have celebrated his/her 13th birthday. That child existed to no one but me, my husband and our Father. Our children know about that babe and there are days they set a place at the table… Life is here because of God. We may never fully understand his ways, His truth or His love and that is why Faith is a gift…. thank you for stepping out – you are a blessng!

  • Rachel @ BubblyNatureCreations.com
    Twitter: BubblyNature
    January 16, 2013, 8:02 am

    Love it! You speak the truth boldly… thank you!!! My fb status from the other day was similar to what you are saying here. I was linking up an article about contraception and it being possibly abortificiant and this is what I said: “Should we “as Christians” be willing to give something up “if” there is even a chance that something could end life??? Most people are unwilling to talk about this type of thing, but doctors have even stated that it most likely prevents fertilization after conception. God’s ways are not ours… a life is a life to Him and I would argue that life begins in God’s mind… it begins within His will and we are just a small part of that equation.”

    Of course someone said that my statement was judgmental. I have no illusions thinking that everyone that saw that article would have a changed heart, but I can’t just stop proclaiming the truth! I would not have 3 kids right now if someone else hadn’t done that for me. :P

    Anyways… all of that to say… I agree and I am so glad that I don’t look at life in the same way I did before I had children. They are such blessings!!!

    • Cindy January 16, 2013, 8:28 am

      If somebody says the j-word, you know you’ve hit pay-dirt! :-)

    • AbbysMom January 16, 2013, 8:27 pm

      Rachel,

      I don’t think your statement was judgmental, but it might be somewhat inaccurate about the mechanism(s) of action of at least some hormonal birth control. I’m not up-to-date about Evra or the patch and so on, but the estrogen/progestin birth control pill actually has three mechanisms of action, in order of probability of occurrence:
      (1) It prevents ovulation.
      (2) It thickens a woman’s cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for the sperm to swim up to meet the egg that might be released if ovulation did occur.
      (3) Should egg and sperm unite, it thins the woman’s uterine lining and makes it more difficult for the fertilized egg to implant. (I’m only using the term “fertilized egg” here because I can’t remember when the young’en becomes a blastocyst, an embryo, etc.

      WRT to the pill becoming abortifacient, I would assume (1) and (2) wouldn’t be a problem, but (3) could be, because as you state “Should be ‘as Christians’ be willing to give up something up ‘if’ there is even a chance that something could end life???”

      • Rachel
        Twitter: BubblyNature
        January 17, 2013, 1:54 pm

        The article I was referencing stated it just like that. It was an article from the gospel coalition . My statement was In reaction to the article which clearly outlined all the mechanisms. Hopefully the article was actually read .

    • Anne January 17, 2013, 8:26 am

      Most new hormonal birth controls prevent ovulation. Some, like a copper IUD, simply make the uterus inhospitable to sperm. The birth control tricks the body into believing it is pregnant, so an egg is never released.

      I’m not really buying this whole blog post, mostly because I don’t think we can alter God’s will. God knows what is going to happen to us, and if His plan were altered by our using birth control, well then that’s just not a very powerful God.

      Besides, you are ignoring the fact that some women will die if they have children, due to an illness or other condition. Choosing to use birth control is not choosing to not rely on God’s protection; it’s using medical tools that God has given us, through scientists, to save your own life.

      • Cindy January 17, 2013, 9:43 am

        If you think I said “we can alter God’s will”, and that’s why you’re not buying the blog post, then I’d suggest you read more carefully. I didn’t say we could. Try again. (Just in case you’re still unable to understand, here’s the money quote:

        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.

        • Dawn January 19, 2013, 6:29 pm

          Sorry Cindy, but I can’t ignore something else Anne said. FWIW, the uterus is never made inhospitable to SPERM. Sperm have nothing to do with the uterus. They travel to the fallopian tubes to meet up with a beautiful egg. Birth control makes the uterus inhospitable to a HUMAN. The egg has already been fertilized by the time it makes it’ way into the uterus, therefore a human being is trying to implant into the uterine wall, not sperm. I think that’s a detail worth noting.

      • Kelly January 21, 2013, 8:28 pm

        Anne,

        “God knows what is going to happen to us, and if His plan were altered by our using birth control, well then that’s just not a very powerful God.”

        Do you really believe that? Do you live the rest of your life like that? So, if don’t bother to turn off the stove and my house burns down, I don’t serve a very powerful God? If I leave my baby in the bath tub and he drowns, if I drive recklessly and I die, if I ignore His laws and reap the consequences, all of that is because we serve a puny God?

        I’m not buying that AT ALL. God gives us over to our foolish choices to reap the consequences. That’s what it says in the Bible.

  • Stephanie Crosby January 16, 2013, 8:13 am

    You rocked that. Keep up the good work.

  • Meg January 16, 2013, 10:09 am

    Thank you for this post. I watch this phenomenon with newly married couples and am sad for them- we keep encouraging them that they will never have all the circumstances right. It is like trying to control the temperature of a lake before you dive in!

  • Janalin Hood January 16, 2013, 10:14 am

    This has been on my heart lately as well. My facebook post from two days ago read, “Today I pray for mothers and mothers to be that struggle with birth control. We have raised a generation of women (my past self included) who fear their fertility and either want to suppress it or control it to the n-th degree. I pray that these women will see the gifts that children bring them and generations to come.” 13 of my 850 friends “liked” it. We live in a culture of control, and this concept is barbaric to most. Sad.

  • Vertical Mom January 16, 2013, 10:20 am

    Look at you, throwing the kitty into the bathwater! Good stuff to ponder. I have a parallel situation in that I hear people all the time tell me, “You have five kids already, why do you think you can take in a sibling group from foster care! You need to take care of your own!” Hmmm…makes me want to put into play a line that my former boss once told me he liked to use, “Your opinion, while interesting, is completely irrelevant.” Or, in this case, unbiblical.

    • Cindy January 16, 2013, 11:54 am

      Poor kitty. LOL. I’ve been thinking long and hard about adoption or fostering myself. It breaks my heart to think of all those little ones with no mama. Of course, God would have to provide a financial situation where those authorities who look after all that would be willing to let us take someone in first.

      • Pam January 16, 2013, 12:13 pm

        We just went to the Orientation meeting for fostering. In our county, you do not qualify if you already have 6 children living in your home.

        • Cindy January 16, 2013, 2:39 pm

          That’s kind of sad. Expected, but sad.

          • Vertical Mom January 17, 2013, 3:34 pm

            Yeah, we “only” have 5 kids at home so we technically still qualify. In our state, if you can get in under 6 then they *might* be willing to give you a family size limit waiver IF you can find a caseworker who won’t break into a rash at the mere thought of a large family. There are states that won’t even crack open our home study if the number of kids about whom we’re inquiring for adoption would put us over their state limit. It really is sad. Thank you, Octomom, for putting visions of crazy, welfare bilkers in their heads.

  • Mary Jo January 16, 2013, 10:34 am

    It all goes back to the lie in the Garden, doesn’t it? “Ye shall be as gods.” Satan is still peddling the same old drivel. We can be gods, we can control our futures and our families, all we need to do is defy the Created Order, assert ourselves over the Sovereign God, and we will find a seat for ourselves on Mount Olympus. It is sad how few professing Christians have ever come to the place of King Nebuchadnezzar who acknowledged that, “the Most High rules in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What are you doing?’.”

    I really, really appreciate this post. Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about families who worship “the family” and attempt to derive happiness from their children. As the children grow, it causes grievous turmoil because parents won’t relinquish their demands on their grown children, and they make their children feel horrible because they aren’t making mom and dad “happy.” In Christian circles, good character traits like submission and obedience are used as whips to make young adults bow to the every whim of the parent, and to guilt-trip them into doing what their parents want. But if we can approach child-rearing from the perspective that these children are merely entrusted to us by God, then we can do our best to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and trust Him to make straight paths for their feet.

    In regards to “family planning” I have to agree with C.H. Spurgeon who said, “There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty.” I have had to learn that sometimes trusting God with our family planning means being content when He says, “no.” He knows best and does well…. always.

    Thanks again for this post. I needed it this morning! =)

  • Ashley
    Twitter: oliveonandon
    January 16, 2013, 10:58 am

    Gosh. I have so many thoughts on this. You’ve got me wanting to study more on the subject of God’s will. I already know where I stand on various forms of birth control and, obviously, abortion. But you have me considering even more questions about how much “control” over our fertility we should exert. Even the most diligent natural family planning seems to result in a large number of offspring. Especially if the couple doesn’t decide to opt for a surgery to end their fertility after an “acceptable number” of children. And as soon as you surpass 3 or 4, people start to assume you are either irresponsible, a religious nut, or both. And as long as we care more about what God thinks than man, I guess we can resist the temptation to be acceptable to the world in our family size. Do you think it is ever appropriate for a Christian to opt for vasectomy (for example)? I’m not trying to start a ruckus, I’m just interested as my husband and I have discussed these issues before and not been sure. You can reply in email if you prefer. (Or not at all, as I assume you are quite busy :)

    • Cindy January 16, 2013, 11:51 am

      “And as soon as you surpass 3 or 4, people start to assume you are either irresponsible, a religious nut, or both.” I just roll with the religious nut assumption, myself. Christianity makes us all do crazy things. As far as vasectomies, I have still never said what I think any individual should do, and I still feel pretty confident that I shouldn’t do that. I will message you, though. ;-)

  • Christine L. January 16, 2013, 11:07 am

    I have seven children. I am so grateful to have been willing to “heed the call” to have these children. And I hate the fact that I’m even considering not being willing any more. “God gave you those children, but He also gave you wisdom not to have any more.” I’ve heard that a lot. I think it’s the most horrible sentence ever. I believe as you seem to, that the children are not mine. They are God’s. He just put me in charge of raising, teaching, and loving them. They are to return to Him when He is ready. Since He provides for the birds, He truly will provide for His children. So I don’t need to worry about that part.
    What is MY failing is MY inability to keep the home straight. My husband and I are struggling to lead our home in Christ. We are both struggling with personal issues that are affecting how we demonstrate the love of Christ here. Our children are not exposed to their loving God the way they should be. We have come to a point where we are asking ourselves if being willing to have the children is enough. Doesn’t God require of us as parents to “not lead the little ones astray?” The deacon of the church is to make sure his own house in order. At least, that’s the line I’m feeding myself right now. I’m trying to use “wisdom”.

    • Jenn January 16, 2013, 2:16 pm

      Hi Christine,

      I also have 7 blessings and we are also at the same cross in the road of “letting God lead” and it can be a scary thing. It’s also VERY unpleasant to hear the comments and different jokes that come our way. But…I believe we need to allow God to take control of not only our lives, our children’s lives, & trust that His Ways our not our ways. I also believe that Satan wants us to feel discouraged that we can’t do it. That we aren’t “good enough” parents, and that just isn’t so. There is NO perfect parents! If we see there is areas that we need to improve, we need to hand it over to the Lord and allow Him to strengthen our attitudes & our walk with the Him. Satan is alive and well and wanting to discourage Christian families in more ways than one! Blessings to you!

  • Liz January 16, 2013, 5:46 pm

    Totally agree (and your posts are SO fun to read ;) ). This was a good reminder for me as well-that my children are on loan from God and don’t exist for my personal pleasure or to make me look good. My views (and my husband’s) have changed so drastically in regards to children and birth “control” over the last 8 years of our marriage. Interesting how ingrained the concept of taking control in this area is to a lot of us who were raised in a typical family where the average number of children was 2 or 3. I hardly knew anyone who had 4 (unless a set of twins had slipped in). If someone did have 4+ kids they were thought of as “weird”. Now I’m one of the weird ones; 4 little ones 5 years and under. If God wills we have more, we will be thrilled! There is a song we sing in church about surrendering all to The Lord. Yet, as we sang it the other day I began to think of the areas of my life that I still didn’t want God to have control over, children being one of them! Goes back to what someone else mentioned, the lie that “we will be like God”; we want that control-we don’t want to be told what to do by anyone and certainly not God. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from having more than the average number of children (and so close together-my goodness!), its that my reliance on God and His ability to sustain me increases. It MUST increase. And that’s where He wants me-totally trusting in Him for everything and loving Him above all else. It makes me sad when I hear parents say “I’m just not cut out for it” or “well I just don’t have a lot of patience, haha…” Trust in The Lord! He will show you how to learn patience and how to be that mother only He can make you to be! He certainly doesn’t give us children and say “here’s another blessing for you! It’s going to be hard work-have fun!”
    I am curious about a question asked earlier-about when someone makes the decision about permanently being done with children like a vasectomy. I am shocked at the huge number of friends my husband and I have who have already made this decision or are considering it after only 2 children-it seems to be a trend (and this is all within the church). I’ve had people ask what I think about it and while I know I would never want to do it I don’t have a real clear answer. I’m curious what your opinion or research into Scripture has led you to come up with. I don’t want to start a fight either-just asking. :)

    • Cindy January 16, 2013, 8:20 pm

      OK, since two of you have asked, I might just write another post. The long answer is written in this blog post! The short answer is that “all things are lawful…but not all things are expedient”. It’s not my call to make for anyone but myself, but the principle seems clear as a bell to me.

  • Mary January 20, 2013, 7:56 pm

    I just found your blog due to a reference to your article on “breeding” which I enjoyed. Regarding children had or not had, God gave humans free-will. He knows what He planned and wants as the best way for us to come to the end He wants for us which is eternal life in Heaven. Through our free will, he also knows who will reject his plan. He knows, and one day all will know, what He had planned for all of the children rejected and not born due to the use of contraception. As the daughter of an 8th child, I am glad my maternal grandparents were open to life. I also wonder if one of the reasons why I only have two children living on earth, is due to the contraceptive mentality that came into my parents generation.
    Children are a blessing and scripture testifies to the fact that parents can and should take joy from the children with which they are blessed. We do that in keeping with the fact that, as you noted, the children are God’s first. We need to speak and proclaim that blessing in a society which now sees children as an optional choice there for the benefit of the parents wims and desires.

  • Kelly January 21, 2013, 8:31 pm

    Per-fect.

    Today a lady in the store saw a couple with 6 children, turns to me (expecting our 10th) and says, “you know he probably doesn’t have a job with all those kids…except the one in his bedroom”. Wha? And the point of your post is all I could think about on the way home. How we treat people who are experiencing the most natural of events like freaks.

    • Cindy January 22, 2013, 6:14 am

      Oh, wow. That just blows my mind. I hope you had something pithy to say to her. I’d have been speechless.