You may think your reasons for having babies are biblical, but if you're like me, you've absorbed a lot more culture and a lot less Bible than you realize.
Do you hope to have children? That's the question I've started asking the young married women God brings into my life. It's not as bold as the question Mary Morken asked me — "What makes you think you'll be fertile when you're finally ready?" — but it gently opens the conversation about babies, enabling me to go, by God's grace, where most would say angels fear to tread.
Why press for information about such a personal decision? In part because I know how much I needed someone to ask me that question. Once married, Steve and I were on a path of delay. I also ask because we live in an age when there are a hundred reasons not to have babies and very little encouragement to have them; and because I'm convinced, from Scripture, that by God's design, babies are not only uniquely the work of marriage, but also a blessing from God. I want to encourage Christian couples not to miss the blessing.
What do women say when I ask? Their answers go something like this:
- "Oh, yes, we hope to have children someday."
- "We're focusing on our marriage right now."
- "We're saving for a house first."
- "We want to finish grad school before we start a family."
- "We want to pay off our loans before we conceive."
It's pretty much the same answer I gave Mary when she asked me about our plan for babies. I think that's one of the reasons I feel compelled to ask. We didn't really have a plan, but our non-plan of waiting till we reached some fuzzy financial goal was a plan of its own. Our plan was to delay. Fourteen and a half years and five pregnancies later, I know how in-the-now and incomplete our reasons were for putting off babies in our first year and a half of marriage. We thought we were being responsible, and because we deeply desired a family and were looking forward to having children someday, we assumed we were being biblical in our thinking. But we had absorbed a lot more of the culture around us than we realized.
We live in a world where people take great pains and lots of pills to prevent babies when they don't want them, and spare no expense to get them when they do. According to our culture, babies before you want them are an accident, mistake or crisis — a result of a birth control failure. And if you can't have them naturally when you decide you're ready, they're treated like a commodity you have a right to buy, as long as you can afford the price tag. Birth control is no longer a noun, something we use to prevent pregnancy; it's an adjective describing our whole culture. We live in a birth control culture, the key word being control.
Good Reasons to Ask the Question
Mary's question, "What makes you think you'll still be fertile when you decide you're ready to have babies?" jolted me because it offended my sense of control. I figured I knew best when I'd be ready to be a mom. Even though I wasn't on the pill, I was very much in the birth-control mindset. I thought this decision was up to Steve and me. We believed we were in control. Her question hit me like a bucket of ice water.
What if we're not in control? What if by saying no to children now, we miss our window of opportunity? What then? These questions raced through my mind, and later that day, they raced around our family room as we hashed them out with the Morkens. God used them to challenge our assumptions. Steve saved his best counter for last: "But, Dr. Morken, we can't afford them." Dr. Morken didn't waste time looking at our balance sheet or examining our checkbook. He knew we weren't paupers, but even that wasn't the issue. (He and Mary had a fraction of what we did when they got married and started their family, as have most human beings for all of recorded history). The point is that it's not about money. He went to the deeper issue: "Babies are wealth," he said. "Budget for everything but babies."
You can't measure the worth of a baby — a human being made in the image of God — with a spreadsheet or calculator the way you would material things, entertainment, travel or education. People have intrinsic value and worth that is unlike anything else in creation.
The truth is we weren't living on much of a budget, and we weren't really being intentional about getting out of debt. We just knew we liked our current life, our freedom to spend our double incomes the way we wanted to, to have maximum control over our schedules and time. Having a baby would certainly spin us out of control. But not like a car wreck. More like a Peter-walking-on-the-water-and-needing-to-keep-looking-at-Jesus-so-he-wouldn't-drown wreck. This would be bigger than us. And we knew it. We didn't want to lose control.
But we never had it to begin with. Ephesians 1:11 tells us, "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will …" (emphasis added). Isaiah 46:9b-10 says, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…'" God is sovereign over what happens in our lives. Every bit of it.
The control we think we have is an illusion — something we realized once we started trying to get pregnant and it took longer than we imagined, and again after we had two babies, when we encountered secondary infertility. We really did think we'd be able to make babies if and when we were ready. We believed it was ultimately up to us. By God's grace and through the Morkens' challenge, however, we realized it wasn't. We stopped assuming our timeline was best; stopped basing our decision primarily on our comfort, ease and consumption patterns; and started asking God when He wanted us to start our family. We started seeking God's wisdom instead of the wisdom of men (Colossians 2:8). Scripture is sufficient for all of life — even the how, when and why of baby making (2 Timothy 3:15-17, 2 Peter 1:21).
Good Reasons to Have Babies
The world says babies are expensive, that they diminish your happiness, and that they limit your spontaneity. They are, they do, and they will — just like a whole host of other things (some worthwhile and some not) that you'll say yes to in your lifetime. Those negatives are not the whole story. And they're not reason enough to delay starting your family. Babies are wealth. They increase your joy, and any challenges they may bring are God's means for your sanctification.
Babies are God's blessing. God's first words to His newly created man and woman were a blessing but also a command, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Children are a reward from God. "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward" (Psalm 127:3). The blessings God promised His chosen people in the Old Testament when they entered the land always included the fruit of the womb: babies (Deuteronomy 7:12-14).
Babies are part of God's good design. The only thing that was not good at creation was man being alone (Genesis 2:18). We were designed for community, fellowship and family. Sex and babies were part of the created order, and the procreative process was in place before sin entered the world. Having babies is part of the normal order of creation. Why?
God wants the earth to be full of people. Isaiah 45:18 says, "For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): 'I am the Lord, and there is no other.'" And how will all these babies come to know God and worship Him?
Married couples are called to make babies — disciples of Jesus Christ. All Christians are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), that is, spiritual children. But Christians who are married have the added calling — where God enables them — to make physical offspring (Malachi 2:15). Couples are called to be fruitful and faithful to raise children in the fear and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), to the praise of His great glory. And where will that glory be fully realized?
Heaven will be full of worshipers. Only people are made in God's image. Every baby born is an eternal being made in God's image, with the potential to praise Him. We know that one day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). Babies born and given hope through Christ are those people who will one day enter heaven. Where there will be "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9-10).
The Bible is full of glorious motivation for having babies. Steve and I just weren't in the habit of studying those passages. We didn't even know about a lot of them until after we started researching for our book Start Your Family. It's not that we weren't reading the Bible. We were, but we were reading with an eye toward what we hoped to get out of it, rather than coming to it to learn what the Bible says about God. We are people of our age — influenced by the world around us that says you read the Bible for what you can get from it. God calls us to something different. Scripture tells us that we are responsible for studying God's Word, for hiding it in our hearts, for knowing what God commands and obeying Him.
You don't have to be married to answer the question, "Do you hope to have children?" It's helpful to start thinking about it now. Recognize where the desire for babies comes from. Then submit your desire to God, and let Him shape it to conform with His will, resisting the pressure around you to conform it to the pattern of the world. He'll change you in the process, making you more like Him. And that's one of the best things about His good gift of children: the way they point us to our Father.
Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.