Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Reproductive Manifesto

I often have people ask me why I have so many kids. Or, "Are you done now?" Or, "How did you decide?" These are the nice questions. As anyone who has a large family can attest, there are always plenty of snide or aghast questions. And again, those that are supposed to be funny and original, but really ought to be allowed to die a peaceful death after their overworked lifespan.

(For a humorous response to those worn out questions see this musical anthology "quiverof7" put together.)

While these questions are certainly not original and sometimes tiresome, they are usually not ill intended. They are, however, indicative of the pervasive attitude within today's society for one to view oneself as the ultimate director of one's life. God works miracles all the time. He works out challenges that we sometimes think we can't get through. And He is ultimately in full control of our destiny. (That word, destiny, always sound like a bad seventies song. But hopefully you know how I intend it.)

I can immediately think of a quite large handful of people I know of who ended up with a different family than they planned. There are those who conceived a child while "on the pill," or after having a vasectomy or tubal ligation; children who were adopted after a couple was sure they were done; or any multitude of other family situations in which family size changes unexpectedly.

I know of women who are convinced they cannot bear children and men who have been told they'll never father a child, and yet they do. There are women for whom medical wisdom predicts or even seems to guarantee a difficult pregnancy, and they end up with a wonderful pregnancy. While some of these things are more miraculous than others, they are all unplanned and unexpected situations that God works into the lives of His people.

My point is that we just don't know. We can't say what will happen to us. Two Bible passages on this subject come to mind. Each is a favorite of mine. And both are excellent reminders that God in control and that our human wisdom is fallible.

James 4:13-15 so aptly points out both how little control we have in this life and also exhorts us toward the "God willing" attitude with which we must always seek to live our lives.
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
Malachi 3:10 is God's response to His people when they withhold offerings from him.
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
With that introduction to my views on family planning, I also offer this "statement insurance." I in no way cast judgment on another couple's decisions for their family size. With the exception of a few particular methods of birth control against which I feel no qualms about speaking, I will leave that decision to each couple to make prayerfully. I do, however, think the decision to plan pregnancies or lack thereof, is often made too lightly; and very often with the idea that we indeed control the outcome of such decisions.

My purpose is threefold. First, having seen the blessings God has heaped on me through my large family, I'd like to encourage others to give it a try. Test the Lord and see if He won't open the floodgates of heaven to you.

Second, I'd like to encourage any who are overwhelmed with what God has asked them to do in the area of family size. God will never give you more than you can handle (I Corinthians 10:13); He will never leave you or forsake you (Joshua 1:5); and His plans are to bless you not to hurt you (Jeremiah 29:11).

Thirdly, because often, in general conversation, I get the impression that others carry false ideas of why I have a large family. Some people think I'm some sort of super holy person, to accomplish this great thing. Others assume I'm self-righteous and legalistic about large families. There are some who see big families as a homeschool family corollary. And still others think its a plot to populate the world with descendants holding to my own "narrow world view."

In simplest terms, we refrain from planning our family, because it is a comfortable place for us. Does comfortable mean easy? Certainly not. It is comfortable in the sense that we don't have to worry about anything. It's easy in that way. We don't have to wonder if the kids are far enough apart, or too far apart. Or if we have enough. Or if a certain child would be better off with or without a sibling. Or if we're rejecting some little person God has in mind for us.

This is going to be hard to explain, but please stick with me. God not only knows what will happen, but also what might have been. Put that together with the passages that tell us that God sometimes gives people their own way, even though He might have better plans for them. This leads to the idea that God may have things in mind for us, and periodically not grant them to us, in order to allow us to pursue our own preferences, in contrast to the better thing He might choose for us.

Now we continue to those passages that remind us of our human weaknesses, especially those that point out our intellectual weaknesses. So how on earth could I possibly make the best decision in this. My reproductive capacity is just too big a thing to leave to my human whims and temptations and philosophies. What color to paint the house or what car to buy or what to have for supper? Yeah, that I can handle (although the supper thing is sometimes tough). But I just don't feel adequate to make the decision of how many kids to have.

There are many Christian couples who prayerfully decide to "try not to have children." They will often say something like this, "Well, if God wants me to have a child, He can overcome this deterrent I'm using and give me a child anyway." Absolutely true. But that truth can be turned on its head just as easily. "If God thinks this is not a good time to have a child, He can and will prevent me from having one."

So no, I did not set out to have ten kids. There is not some magic number or gender combination after the attainment of which we will "be done." I am not a supermom. I do not think birth control (except any abortifacient method) is sinful.

But I am a strong proponent of big families and the blessings they can be for individuals, and society, and God's kingdom.

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