I've read many of your articles on the Boundless website, appreciate the insight you share, and wonder about your opinion on one conflict between my boyfriend and myself.
We met at a church in June, started hanging out more and more, and started dating in September, to cut the story short. He and I are both Christians and definitely are on the same level when it comes to seriousness about loving, knowing and serving God. He's 31 to my 22, often garnering an "oh!" from friends and acquaintances, but it isn't a concern inasmuch as I believe we're headed toward marriage, eventually.
Our family backgrounds are very different. I've been privileged to grow up in a Christian home, with parents who are loving to each other and their two daughters. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and she homeschooled my sister and me all the way up through high school.
My boyfriend grew up in a Christian home as well but not as solid and with conflicts between father and mother, and father and sister. His mother stayed at home for a long while, but returned to work when her kids were still young. He's had a much less "sheltered" life than I have.
That's just to give a little background; of course, there's a lot more to it, but the one problem I'm having right now is about kids. He loves kids, and they love him. I love kids and have always wanted a large family.
Recently we've talked about having children, and he's confessed that he doesn't think he wants any at all. Like I said, he loves kids, but he's scared of 1) raising children in this world (all the mess, violence, trials they'll have to face), and then 2) of raising kids that you love so much, only to see them not know Christ.
For these reasons, he tells me "we could always borrow someone else's."
One thing really hurt, when in the heat of discussion he asked me, "Why do you want kids so badly? So you can stay at home and not work?" Which made me really think about my reasons for wanting a family and thinking that maybe I'm selfish to want this so badly. It's been one of my largest dreams; it's painful to try and let go of, and I'm not sure that I should.
I've tried to talk to him about what a blessing children are, how they not only bless the parents they're given to, but what an influence a godly home is on people who see it. I've also tried to ask him where God fits into family planning — is he willing to put it all in God's hands and trust that He can decide whether or not we even have children, and save them. I don't know what else to say.
Thanks for writing and for your encouraging response to what we've published in the past on Boundless.
I do think you're right to be concerned about the seeming impasse with your boyfriend over having children. Were it not for this red flag, I'd spend my column cautioning you about your age difference posing a potential hurdle to clear on the way to marriage. (It's certainly not a given deal breaker, but it could cause trouble. As I mention in an upcoming podcast Q&A, I'd encourage you and anyone else dating someone that much older or younger than themselves to get the input and blessing of parents and trusted mentors before proceeding.)
Now to your question. Actually I see several. Is it OK to proceed in a serious relationship with someone when you fundamentally disagree about whether or how many children you want after marriage? Is it OK to reject the blessing of children because you're fearful that the world is too dangerous, depraved or devolving? Is it OK to remain childless because you know it's possible that your children might reject faith in Christ? And finally, is it selfish or wrong to want children badly?
I'll save the first question for last. The second and third questions are different versions of the same one: Is it OK to not have children because you're afraid. I don't believe fear is ever a good reason to do anything, even less so for a follower of Christ. Scripture says repeatedly, "Do not be afraid":
"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation" (Isaiah 12:2).
"The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1).
"When I am afraid, I will trust in you" (Psalm 56:3).
"In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" (Psalm 56:4).
"... in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 56:11).
"The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6).
"... when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet" (Proverbs 3:24).
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
"So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31).
"... because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Romans 8:14-16).
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4: 18-19).
Jesus, Himself, encouraged us saying, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Not only are we to fear not, but also we are called to embrace children. God's call to "be fruitful and multiply" was part of His blessing on Adam and Eve; He continues to desire a godly seed (Malachi 2:15).
What a tragedy it would be if we all thought like your boyfriend and decided it was just too risky to continue procreating. We would be the last generation, believing or otherwise. Yes, it's possible that our children will choose to reject the faith, but that's only because God made us with the possibility to do so. When He made us in His image, giving us the freedom to choose to obey or not, He took on the very risk your boyfriend is rejecting. It was good for God, surely it's good enough for us.
Now to your question of selfishness. While it's possible to want children for the wrong reason, strength of desire for babies is no evidence of that. Scripture is full of examples of women who longed to be mothers. My favorite example is Hannah. And God's answer to her desperate prayers (so impassioned were they, the high priest thought she was drunk!) was not to turn her away for being self-serving, but to open her womb and make her fruitful.
I think it's safe to say that if you deeply desire children and your boyfriend does not, you have the makings of a deal breaker. If you are able to work through these issues — especially his temptation to make decisions based on fear — and come to an agreement on how you will respond to the possibility of children, then you may have the makings of a good match. If, however, you're not able to work this issue out, I'd advise you to end the relationship.
Like issues of faith and finances, being of one mind when it comes to family is no small thing. All three have the power to fuse a couple together mightily. But they also have the power to divide and painfully so.
May God give you the ability to discern the health of your relationship, the maturity of your boyfriend, the motives of your own heart and the nature of His will for your life from this day forward.
Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.