"Mom, did you want to have five kids?" my oldest son asked me the other day. We were in the car, driving home from an awesome afternoon at the beach. I'm not sure what prompted his question, but I was glad both myself and my husband were in the car to answer it. "In the beginning, we didn't know what we wanted," my husband said. "We just knew we wanted what the Lord wanted to give us."
"We trusted God and placed our hope in Him," I added. Because having children is always a radical act of hope.
I'll never forget several months after I had my first baby and an older, Godly woman asked me when I was having more (by the way, people never stop asking "Are You Having More?" I've just gotten better at answering!).
"Only one more!" I announced. "I don't want a big family!"
She smiled at me and said very quietly, "Don't hinder God from giving you the blessings He wants to bless you with."
And yet, I couldn't deny the priceless gift of the daughter I held in my arms. She had cracked open my heart in ways I could have never imagined. The love I felt was vaster than anything I had ever experienced. In fact, witnessing my husband's unconditional love for our children helped me begin to understand God the Father's unconditional love for me.
When the Lord gave me a second baby, my heart was opened even wider. That's when I learned the heart has an infinite capacity to love. How could I deny God blessing me with children when what that really meant was His desire to bestow love, love and more love upon me?
Our third child was conceived during a very difficult time in our lives. In fact, it was the darkest time I've ever experienced in my life. By all measures, it was a terribly inconvenient time to become pregnant. The day I saw the positive pregnancy test, I wept.
We named that child Jude and it was only later that I discovered St. Jude is the patron saint of desperate, lost causes. I now see the undeniable, loving hand of God intervening in a most difficult, desperate time in my life to give me the precious gift of a child--even though I didn't understand it at the time. My son Jude brought a Providential beam of sunshine into my life at exactly the right time.
I had always known and believed that one of the primary purposes of Christian marriage is to be fruitful and multiply, to raise a Godly seed. It was after the birth of Jude that I began researching this even further--especially as I began receiving critical comments from other Christians about whether I was "done" having children.
How had so many Christians adopted the secularist view of children; ie. that they are optional or even unnecessary to a Christian marriage? I was dismayed to discover that almost every single Christian denomination had compromised the historical understanding of Christian marriage.
Christianity has never viewed the intentionally barren marriage as an acceptable option for Christian couples. Certainly it's permissible for parents to space their children or delay childbearing for a variety of serious medical and economic reasons--but that is quite different from choosing NOT to have children simply because a couple doesn't "want" children.
Even if a couple is infertile, caring for abandoned, orphaned or fatherless children is one of the purest ways a Christian lives out his/her faith.
God did not give us the gift of sex merely for pleasure. Sex is the most powerful creative force given to humans by which we cooperate with God in the creation of eternal souls. To say that sex is simply recreational is to degrade and deny its eternal significance (paragraphs 2366-2373, specifically).
For Christians, then, our guiding principle ought to be shaped by how Scripture views children: as a priceless gift from God. Scripture consistently views children as an heritage from the Lord, as a reward from God, as an unequivocal blessing. This is not to say that the small family or the infertile couple is NOT blessed by God, it is simply to state that a fruitful family has been blessed.
This belief is in direct contrast to our society's prevalent view of sex: ie., that it is primarily for pleasure. In this view, children (the natural result of sex!) are seen as inconvenient/optional "side-effects." Abortion, sterilization and intentional childlessness are more readily justifiable when you have the children-as-side-effects mentality.
God gave me the gift of twins right after I accepted, in obedience, the Scriptural view of children.
I call that a double blessing!
*Disclaimers: 1. I am speaking about general guiding principles NOT specific, individual exceptions; 2. You may have a valid exception. Awesome. Rock on. 3. Quivers come in different sizes, yo. 4. Yes, I have seen how these general guiding principles can be misapplied. However, misapplication and/or changing cultural trends, views, mores, etc. etc. do not invalidate Scriptural principles, vis-a-vis "Children are a gift from God,"; 6. I'm just a chick with a blog. I'm not the Pope (I just agree with the Pope). Now, go do your own research because I need an aspirin!!! Phew!!!*