On Children

When I was in the business of looking for a wife (what the unsophisticated might call “dating), my methods were a little bit different from what you might expect. Usually, I think, a man figures that the hard part is getting and keeping the girl’s attention. So he tracks a girl down whom he thinks is pretty and with whom he has a few interests in common, and sets about trying to impress her, and keeping her impressed. Honestly, I looked at my character, and figured that I was sufficiently malleable, that I was sufficiently good an actor, or even a liar, that I could probably get and keep the attention of any girl in the world, at least for a little while.

But from the very beginning, I wasn’t looking for a really good date, or a few weeks of happiness. I was looking for a **wife**. So I asked myself, if every woman in the world was at least a potential spouse, how do I pick the *right* one? And so I set about thinning out my options. (Apparently, I was *very* successful, for Valerie and I are far and away a better match for each other than anyone ever could have dreamed. But I credit that to God’s mercy more than my machinations. Nevertheless…)

In my process of “thinning out the options,” I had two powerful weapons in my arsenal. The first was that I wouldn’t even consider what I called a “rich girl” by which I meant a girl who was unused to hard work, who was unfamiliar with financial hardship. I had a good friend who would tell me, “remember, it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich girl as with a poor one. In fact, it’s easier.” But that’s just the problem. You can fall in love, but then what happens? I knew the life that the Lord was leading me to wasn’t filled with a great deal of quick prosperity. So I needed a wife who wouldn’t be shocked by the experience.

The second weapon was that I would talk loud and often about children. I love children, and I want a large family. “Children are a gift from the Lord,” the book says, “they are a real blessing.” Also, a great number of families I have genuinely admired have been particularly large: the family from Cheaper by the Dozen (the book, not that awful movie), Dennis Jernigan, several pastors and missionaries I have known. Inevitably it seemed, those families that struck me as modeling Christian character most fully would turn out to be particularly large.

On the other hand, most American women these days don’t want children. Most don’t want very many, quite a few don’t want any. They usually want a good many other things instead, very few of which fit very well with the kind of family I want to have. I remember particularly a good friend of mine, just before she was married, mentioned to me in passing that she didn’t want any children at all. Ever. Her biggest reason was this: if I have children, my husband’s attention will be divided, and I want him to coddle me. Those were almost her exact words. She was, on all other accounts, a very high-minded Christian woman, but on this issue – very selfish.

So here was an opportunity to kill several birds with a single word. I want children; most American women do not. American women who don’t want children are usually also the sort of women I wouldn’t want to marry for other reasons as well. So I practiced the obvious: within a few minutes of meeting any woman, I would casually mention in the conversation that I wanted a lot of children, the same way I bring up the fact that I’m married now. When asked how many I was thinking exactly, I would make up a number designed to terrify, “Oh, I don’t know, a dozen?” The woman I marry, I thought, will be the one who can look such a possibility in the face, and smile.

I’m happy to say I found one.

Now I find that the shoe is quite suddenly on the other foot. *My wife* is the one who is agitating for a baby, and *I’m” the one who is falling into the roll of the “voice of reason,” saying wait.

I don’t like saying wait. ’Tis against my nature, as anyone who has seen me study knows. I’m still the one who wants more children than she does. But I’m no fool, and it’s silly to have a child without an income. If we get pregnant, I need to drop out of school immediately and start making money. With both of us having loans to pay off, I would probably have to set my earnings goal in the general vicinity of “lots” if ever I hoped to get back to the things I think the Lord has called me to. Fortunately, Valerie’s no fool either, and I don’t have to say “wait” very forcefully.

Frankly, the situation that we’re in frustrates me. It’s not the way things are supposed to be. I don’t mean that I feel that my situation is unpleasant. Honestly, I’m quite content the way things are going. But the whole western worlds-system is contrary to God’s design. It’s systematically conducive to depopulation. There are a million ways it does this and another million why it’s wrong and doesn’t have to be this way, but I’m afraid I don’t have time to discuss them all right now.

However, there were a few sentiments expressed in the comments on Valerie’s last [post](http://www.neumatikos.org/older-parents/#comments) that struck me as odd, and I thought I’d take a little space to play around with why.

First of all, please understand that, despite anything that may have sounded otherwise, we aren’t at all trying to have a baby right now. Valerie is still, quite placidly, chemically altering her body in order to prevent the natural thing from occurring. She’s doing this with some trepidation, since we learned recently that chemical contraception runs a slight chance of inducing abortion in the event that conception does occur. Since we have a very strong stance on abortion, this is a very grave concern for us. We have considered using non-chemical methods, but then that would significantly increase the chances of the natural thing occurring. We have every intent of waiting until my last semester in school before having any children. That way, Valerie can quit her job just in time for me to start mine, and the income situation is steady. Unless, of course, the Lord wills otherwise.

But this brings me to the second sentiment. Several people in the comments stressed the importance of waiting on the Lord’s timing, and not making the question of when to have children “our baby” (if you’ll excuse the double meaning). And the answer is, of course! “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” God gave Abraham and Sarah children, though they were almost as good as dead, and he will make his own plans known to us in his due timing. We should always be careful, lest, in our zeal to do what we “know” is God’s will, we go about it in our own way and produce “an Ishmael.”

But there is a very important disjunction here. Sarah and Rachel and Hannah had one thing in common with each other that was very different from my wife and I, and that is that they weren’t chemically altering their bodies in order to *prevent* conception. All *they* were asking was for the natural thing to happen in the normal sort of way. We, on the other hand are going out of our way to prevent the natural thing from happening. How then can anything we do be said to be waiting on God’s leading? Our prevention trumps anything less than His miraculous intervention.

Again, the cultural norm in America today is to engage in some form of contraception for the first few years of marriage, and in humility and in light of the fact that our lives thus far have been led according to other American ideals that seem to necessitate such measures (e.g., continuing education on into the thirties), we are following that pattern. But I want to play up the fact here that the whole package is striking me as… odd. This cannot be living according to a Godly model: a whole generation of women have deliberately induced upon themselves a state which any other generation would have called accursed – barrenness! We have deliberately and knowingly entered into a situation where, if God wants a person to reproduce, it will take a miracle. How then can we say that we are trusting God in any way in this matter, when we have taken all control into our own hands? How is this any different than the Jews demanding from Jesus “a sign”?

This is most perplexing! On the one hand, I don’t want to tell God that I will accept nothing from him short of a miracle. On the other hand, forgoing contraception, that darling of our age, appears to be nothing short of forcing God’s hand. It seems unfair then to expect God to communicate his will merely in terms of action. Shall I turn then to prophecy and expect him to speak to me directly about when to have children? But how can I ask for the “word of the Lord” when his revealed will for married couples is the first command in scripture: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Why should I assume that his desire is any different for me? (It is worth noting, though perhaps not worth building a theology upon it, that the only reference in scripture to any kind of contraception led to God killing the one who did it.)

Frankly, I’m becoming convinced that contraception for young couples should be by far the exception rather than the rule. There may be medical reasons for it, but personal reasons should be highly suspect. The problem is that personal reasons don’t come on you suddenly. They *creep*. Our reasons for banning pregnancy from our home boil down to the fact that we think at least one of us should have a job before having children, and that we want to finish our education before getting jobs. But that hardly answers the question. Couldn’t I have gotten my education sooner? Yes I could have. Why didn’t I have my financial state in order before I ever got to marrying? Didn’t I have time? The answer is yes, I did.

So, because of a lack of long-term planning on my part over a space of several years, I am now engaging in a practice that I think is probably questionable at best. My only excuse is that nobody ever put it to me in that light before. It never occurred to me that, as a man who hoped to one day have a wife and children, I ought, in anticipation, to take life in a grapple hold and wrestle it to the ground. I was waiting for things to sort of… happen to me. But now it seems that there are certain biological imperatives for women that make this kind of passiveness inappropriate in a man.

What is my solution? Do we jump off contraception immediately? That is one way of doing it-and it could be done. I could earn my way up whatever ladders I come across, all the while working on my education one class at a time. But despite a cumulative error stretching back ten or 15 years, I feel that God’s command was still clear: Go to seminary. Putting off this imperative would simply be compounding the problem.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So with due and proper trepidation, aware of the perils at every side, I’m working hard to complete the task at hand, so that we can finally say with confidence that we have put God in command.

12 thoughts on “On Children”

  1. Kyle,

    I understand your contraception quandry. I honestly do. I am “accursed” by barrenness that was not self chosen. I knew that I would have problems conceiving before marriage, (however, I never knew it would be pretty much impossible for me) and I explained this all to Eddie before we married. He was firm that he was marrying me for me and not for any children I could give him. I dated a guy pretty seriously for a year before dating Eddie, and he wanted children very badly. When I revealed to him the fact that all was not working normally for me that’s when he started pulling away from the relationship, and it made me feel that because I possibly could not be a child producer for him that I was “cut from the herd” so to speak. While I don’t think that anything is wrong in your convictions or your approach to marriage and family I don’t believe that I’m any less of a woman, nor Eddie and I are any less a family because I cannot conceive. Contrary to what many may think even in today’s society barrenness is looked up on as a curse. I must respectfully disagree with your statement that most American women don’t want children. It may be more prominent in non-Christian society, but all I see at work, in the community, and especially in church is couples (and single women) procreating like crazy. Maybe, I see this through a barren woman’s eyes, but I think American women in just about as great of numbers as the post World War II baby boom are having babies (I don’t have stats to back that up). Just my two cents.

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  2. This was a lot easier to understand in print than in a series of 7 phone calls. And Valerie can know that she’s not alone in wanting a large family. Or in philosophies.

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  3. As to large quantities of procreation, there are also large quantities of women having abortions.

    Psst.. on a sidebar, Pro-Life Memorial Day is on October 2.

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  4. Ces, I agree. The abortion rate is horrendous (one elective abortion is a horrendous rate to me). Many barren couples would LOVE to hold and raise those babies that are being murdered, although adoption of older children is needed too and something my husband and I may be looking into in the near future.

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  5. First, I’ll get the witticism out of the way:

    Y’know what they call people who practice “natural” birth control? Parents. (rimshot)

    I know waiting stinks, but I think you guys are absolutely justified in it. Better to rear your children in the way that you believe you ought (which, means being, y’know, around most of the time) than to gain an extra three years or so of parenthood. I grew up with a mom who worked two or three jobs at a time to keep us off the street—a situation brought about at least partially by her lack of education. When your nine-year old daughter stays up until 3am on a school night to make you dinner because you didn’t have time to eat between jobs, something is amiss.

    However, I did say in my last comment that waiting for conditions to be optimal is perhaps not the best course of action. I can’t imagine either of you being 40-year old first-time parents, and waiting that long would break both your hearts. Bear in mind that you’re both students, meaning you’re living in abject poverty by your own choice. I don’t say this pejoratively; Nic and I have been doing the same thing for the past two years. My point is that post-education, your fortunes can (and will) change dramatically, which would make starting a family seem like a much more viable option.

    As for biological imperatives, I might gently suggest that your wife chill. We’re the same age, and she’s giving me a complex. 😛

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  6. If I sounded like I was lecturing the bible to either of you I am sorry. You both know the bible far better than I. My intent was to explain what I understand and offer comfort in common understandable terms.

    If it helpful to you I would like to point out that today’s fertility management options are among the many choices we have that were not available in biblical times. There are many other free choice options God has given us that were not available in biblical times. Not going into the same trade that your father did was one and most education for women is another. I have studying Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis in my small group. In it he discusses the more freedom we have to choose the more good we can do and consequently the more we can honor God. The problem with more and more choices is that when one says yes to some one says no to others. Another may make the opposite yes no choices. Both could be honoring God by following His lead in their personal relationship with Him. And both could doubt their choices seeing the blessing bestowed by God on the other that made the opposite choices. But that doubt is not from God.

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  7. Jon – no I didn’t think you were lecturing, and I hope I didn’t sound like I was reacting. I tend to process everything like a philosopher and analyze into the minutae everything I hear. I’m still thinking over the concept of “having children for selfish reasons.” My gut reaction is that people who do so generally have only one or two, and typically they are very bad parents. But Vicki’s comments about American women and children has got me befuddled. Almost all the girls I knew growing up wanted children to be a very small part of their lives. Or at least, they said so.

    You are right, though, that the kind of doubt you described is not from God. He sees the end from the beginning, and has different criteria than we do for defining “success.” That is, He often has different goals than we expect to achieve.

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  8. When you are both ready to have children, they will be beautiful. That is the one thing I wish Tommy and I could have had before he died. To have a little part of him still here with us all.

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  9. Kyle, Sorry if I caused you confusion. I guess my point of view is probably enhanced by the very painful fact that I cannot have children. I guess everywhere I look I see people having children. I guess I focus in on that because it’s a very unfulfilled desire of my heart. We even tried adoption three times, and each time the door closed. After a while the rollercoaster ride of emotions gets to be too much, and for the sake of your own mental health you have to choose to get off that rollercoaster.

    I, too, see people having children and not being good parents–taking their children for granted or as an afterthought in their lives…like they just had children because it was what they were supposed to do. They never put their own desires behind the wellbeing of their children. That really makes me sad and makes me wonder if everyone is “cut out” to have children. I believe if a person does not desire to have children then they shouldn’t, because it’s the hardest job you could ever undertake. God did say “Be fruitful and multiply” and that’s a good thing, but because of the fallen world we live in it’s not always good for some people to multiply.

    Again, you and Valerie will make wonderful parents!!! I pray that God will grant that desire of both of your hearts. It’s a blessing that not all of us get to experience.

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  10. Christy and I had just gone through the same debate, when it was pleasantly ended by two stripes appearing on our pregnancy test. (We were knowingly not preventing it at the time).

    All I can say is to wait for His timing. He has put it on your hearts to have children so He will make an opportunity. It is one of the highest callings on your life to leave something behind that will continue to shape the future for the Kingdom after you die. For many of us, that will be our children… Or you could write an influential best seller! 😉

    Having a couple of years at least to get to know each other is wise. But if you try to wait until life is “perfect” you could conceivably wait forever.

    I believe that when He gives you the OK, then He will make the provisions for you.

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  11. My My what problems you young people have! In my youth I was married at 21 and had my education and had taught one year. My husband was 26 and had a grocery business. We decided to wait one year to try to get pregnant, to give us time to get used to each other. Another reason was because the small minded little town thought the first baby did not take 9 months so I wanted to prove them wrong for watching me all the time! Ha When my husband quit using a condom(!) it was 3 years before I became pregnant. We were pleasantly happy to have 3 sons whom we did not know ahead of time would be boys! They were healthy and have good minds. So I pray for you and have no advice to give. Except the more advice you get the more confused you are going to be. Just pray and let God handle it! I guess that is advice after all. I love you both, Kyle and Valerie. You are special to me.

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