Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Married With(out) Children

Is marriage without children really the key to bliss?  This article states it as scientifically so.  And if you are childless by choice, there's a number of resources out there including websites, books and DVDs to support your decision.  However if you are already a parent, it's pretty safe to say that you couldn't and wouldn't want to imagine life without your children.  But we all now live in a time technologically-speaking where one could choose to marry and live their life without welcoming children into it.  This is a brave new world where we are given that choice - before now, forget about it:  if you had relations, you risked pregnancy.  Big time.  And the mere possibility of children always existed.  But the idea of not wanting children is not a new one and was even mentioned in the Old Testament (by the way, God killed him for that choice - ouch, Onan!).  So will God put you to death if you decide to have a childless marriage?  Of course not, however I think it's crucial to understand something. God, as the Creator of all things, also created the institution of marriage and family.  When God sets a design in motion, it's to our benefit to follow that design.

From the Making Home blog:
God's first command to the first man and woman was to "be fruitful and multiply". Children were an intrinsic part of the original *design* of marriage. Children are repeatedly called "blessings" and conversely, childlessness was always taken by biblical characters to be a curse, never a good thing. Jesus Himself modeled a receptive attitude towards ALL children when He chastised his disciples and said "let all the little children come to me." And these are just some examples off of the top of my head.

There is nothing in Scripture that remotely comes close to "well, it seems wrong to deny a person something GOOD just because she's not keen on following God's design". Rather, what we see over and over again in Scripture is the idea of taking up one's cross and submitting yourself to the will of the Father. A focus on personal "happiness" or "fulfillment" isn't ours to focus on... abundant life comes from following the will of God.

I have to admit (and I'm not proud of this) when I cross paths with a married couple who has no desire for a child, I become immediately suspicious.  In my heart, I am guilty of judging them as selfish, focused on their own goals in life, the careers they want to build, the fun things they want to do in life.  The casting off of the responsibility of children is one practice I just can't understand (and yes, I fully comprehend that when we do not understand something, it is hard for us to not judge or mock or any number of things that get us into hot water).  So God forgive me for being judgmental and I pray He gives me His heart instead.  However those few times when I glimpse His heart in that kind of situation, I feel sadness.  Sadness at the lost opportunities, the lost lessons and the lost legacies.  I mentally picture their genealogical tree abruptly ending - no more family name passing on to the next generation. No children to help care for them in their old age.  No Thanksgiving dinner table filled with joyful noise made by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren .

"Imagine a scenario where, on a Sunday afternoon, you sit idly for interminable hours slumped in your wheelchair in the tiny and stifling nursing home bedroom, which, due to overcrowding, you share with a cantankerous roommate. (Thank heaven she’s in the lounge for her weekly visit with her family!)
You think wistfully of your husband, now long departed. You begin to cry and your nose starts to run. You’d like a tissue, but you are tired and haven’t the strength to wheel yourself to the bedside table. Your diaper is wet, but you know the aide won’t be around for another 45 minutes. You know it is pointless to call for help; the home is chronically understaffed (you’re not sure why).
Enjoy the silence, the blissful quietude as you remember being part of a committed and adoring couple — without kids."1

Please understand this is not directed at those couples who can't have children, who have tried to have children, who have decided to wait just a bit before having children, etc*.  I'm talking about willful childlessness.  I am also definitely not saying for us all to be like the Duggar family and have as many children as your body will bear.  Or that a certain number is the right number for you to have.  Or that you can't use some form of birth control or family planning.  I can't even say that I fully agree everyone should have children.  What I am saying is for a Christian couple to deny the natural order of life ("first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage") is to deny the design God put in place for us.

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has this to say:

Christians must recognize that this rebellion against parenthood represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design. The Scripture points to barrenness as a great curse and children as a divine gift. The Psalmist declared: "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate." [Psalm 127: 3-5] 

Morally speaking, the epidemic in this regard has nothing to do with those married couples who desire children but are for any reason unable to have them, but in those who are fully capable of having children but reject this intrusion in their lifestyle.

He also states:

The Scripture does not even envision married couples who choose not to have children. The shocking reality is that some Christians have bought into this lifestyle and claim childlessness as a legitimate option. The rise of modern contraceptives has made this technologically possible. But the fact remains that though childlessness may be made possible by the contraceptive revolution, it remains a form of rebellion against God's design and order. 

Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in the biblical revelation. To the contrary, we are commanded to receive children with joy as God's gifts, and to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are to find many of our deepest joys and satisfactions in the raising of children within the context of the family. Those who reject children want to have the joys of sex and marital companionship without the responsibilities of parenthood. They rely on others to produce and sustain the generations to come.

For Christians, having children opens our eyes in a way we cannot do otherwise to the role of God as our Father.  When I had my first child, I became aware of the love that our Abba has for us and some of the same emotions we must share as parents.  This is a priceless lesson to learn and can teach us so much about Him and who He is.  Just as marriage can yield so many lessons in how Christ loves His bride, the Church, parenthood teaches us who our Father in heaven is, why He disciplines us and how much He truly adores us.  Like marriage, parenthood can be an opportunity to learn holiness, more than happiness.  There is nothing in life to teach one sacrificial love like the love learned in a family - of a wife toward her husband, of a parent towards a child.

Mr. Mohler goes on to say:

This epidemic of chosen childlessness will not be corrected by secular rethinking. In an effort to separate the pleasure of sex from the power of procreation, modern Americans think that sex totally free from constraint or conception is their right. Children, of course, do represent a serious constraint on the life of parents. Parenthood is not a hobby, but represents one of the most crucial opportunities for the making of saints found in this life.

Two purposes among many as to God's design of the family are so we can understand and love Him better and so we can become more like Him.

One last word from Al:

The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children. This reminds us of our responsibility to raise boys to be husbands and fathers and girls to be wives and mothers. God’s glory is seen in this, for the family is a critical arena where the glory of God is either displayed or denied. It is just as simple as that.

*I know there are always unique circumstances when a couple may decide against having children due to illness/handicaps, genetic factors, history of abuse, etc.  Those are the exceptions, I believe, and that decision must be made between a husband and wife along with their God.

** Click on link to read Al Mohler's blog post titled Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion with a New Face in its entirety as well as his follow-up Yikes!  The Hot Debate Over Deliberate Childlessness

1. From the article: Childless by Choice: A Decision You May Live To Regret.  This is a *must* read!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Here's the Church, and Here's the Steeple. Open the Doors and See All the People."

Our churches today are filled with the rich while the poor sit on our doorstep.  Where do the poor go when needing help?  Who do the rich give to when writing checks?  Thanks to the welfare system, all involved can now ignore their own spiritual condition.  Those in need never have to step inside a church to receive help, and those inside the church never have to step outside of it to give it.

Let's step out and see who we can help!

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