This post is a chapter from my ebook,
ConDeceived. I want to republish it sometime, but I’d need to rework a great deal of it. Guess who has time for that? Not me! But it was a useful little work. I might dust it off. If you want a copy, let me know and I’ll share it with you directly.
Lie: A Child is A Choice
“How many kids do you want?”
This is often the first question a newly married couple will find themselves answering. In fact, it is often the first question they ask each other before even agreeing to tie the knot. It is, after all, the height of irresponsibility to go into our marriages without a clear idea of how many years will be taken up in diaper-changing and face-washing. These things must be planned for, lest we end up in the poorhouse! It’s right there in the Bible in the twentieth chapter of…oh, wait. No, it isn’t.
The idea that that having children is a big decision and one not to be undertaken lightly is so common in our times that it has become cliché. Thanks to the language of the contraceptive culture, no responsible couple ever just gets pregnant. No, we talk about getting pregnant, then we think about getting pregnant for a little while longer, then we research getting pregnant, and then, if we don’t let our anything scare us out of it, we decide to get pregnant. After the birth, we research the best ways to stop this traumatic thing from happening to us again until the next time we decide we want to do this.
All of this sounds perfectly reasonable to non-Christians, as it should. They walk alone, and it is understandable that they feel a need to control their futures in this way. The once-born think they’ll only live once, after all, and after that, oblivion. They don’t want to mess up their one shot at perfect happiness with the wrong number of kids!
Unfortunately, this has also come to sound perfectly reasonable to a large majority of Christians.
One of my favorite quotes–at least, it used to be, before I gave it ten seconds of sustained thought–is this:
“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” –Elizabeth Stone
I have a daughter. She has my dirty-blonde hair, my mouth (in both looks and loudness), and my insatiable appetite for red foods. The only fight we’ve ever had was over the last spoonful of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. She is also my husband’s daughter, and resembles his side of the family in a hundred different ways. She is a blessing to us, from the tip of her pretty head to the toes inside those ballet flats she’s always wearing.
But she is not primarily our child. She exists, physically, because my genes and my husband’s had a happy meeting and intertwined to become a unique set of DNA. However, she does not exist because we willed it. She exists because God willed it, from the foundations of the world. If you think that one can ever really choose to have a child, ask someone who suffers from infertility how much of a choice she has had in the matter.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. -–Colossians 1:16
God exists outside of time, eternal, so this verse isn’t just referring to the beginning work of Creation. This verse means that Christ created everything that ever will exist, too. From the moment He spoke the words “Let there be light” to the Last Trumpet, He created it all, including the children that we humans like to pretend we choose to make.
My daughter does not exist for my pleasure. I enjoy her. We play dolls and talk about things that boys would never understand. She and I are great friends (unless there is cranberry sauce on the line). Barring some tragedy, I expect her to be a blessed part of my life until I die. Of course I enjoy her! I can’t even summon the image of her little face to mind without getting a thrill of joy all the way down to my toes.
If she existed for my pleasure, then whenever she failed to please me in some way, I would have the right to exact whatever harsh punishment I like. Or to end her life. After all, she would be violating the purpose of her own existence by displeasing me.
But she exists for God’s pleasure, not mine.
My daughter does not exist for my purposes. While there are many joys and material improvements that flow from the blessing of having children, she does not exist for the sake of my own purposes. There are many benefits to having a tightly-knit, loving family, but if those benefits are dampened by the effects of the Curse (illness, death, financial difficulties, stress, etc.), that still wouldn’t give me the right to reject her. She is not here simply—or even primarily–for my sake.
Does she at least exist by my will, then? Since technology gives us the option of not having children, hasn’t it finally become a big decision that we make, as the Elizabeth Stone quote says? Because we have this power, shouldn’t we use it to make the best possible world we can for ourselves and whatever children we decide to have?
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
In this verse, the twenty-four elders are singing to God about his command of the whole universe. All things are created by His will, even when we think we’re doing it ourselves.
The language of choice has convinced us that that we, ourselves, hold the keys to our own future. The cultural attitude that springs up from this “choice” mentality is one of ownership of our children, as if they were merely expensive pets, rather than eternal souls whose existence is for purposes that we can’t even fathom. We’ve wrested the power of Creation from the One who rightfully controls these things. But we don’t really control as much as we think we do. Only God is worthy to hold the power of creation in His hands.
The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. –Proverbs 16:9
So now we have kind of a conundrum on our hands, don’t we? If God is really in control of all of this, then why do we have this ability to resist participating in that creation? If God willed this child into existence, then didn’t he also not will those lives we’ve decided not to risk forming, for whatever our personal reasons are? And the answer is, I think, yes.
And there is no good news in that answer. He has willed this generation to have that choice, and He has willed us to take it.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate
The father of many “shall not be put to shame.” In contrast, when God’s judgment falls on a people, He takes away their sons and daughters.
25 “As for you, son of man, surely on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their soul’s desire, and also their sons and daughters…
Our unfettered control over the creation of our children is a judgment, not a happy technological boon that God has granted us. He has handed us over to our selfishness, and we are already beginning to reap the bitter fruit of that childlessness in this generation, as the demographic time bomb ticks down to zero. The next generation, the one that was supposed to carry on where we leave off, hasn’t shown up for work.
We’ve taken our Godly heritage, which is clearly explained to us in the Bible, in the very language of Creation (It is good.) and smashed it against sharp rocks, breaking it into bite-sized pieces for our own personal enjoyment, instead of taking it in its full wonder and meeting its challenges with joy and thanksgiving. We are paying for this now, as a nation, and we will pay for this in the future.
Please note that I don’t speak of any individual’s heart, as I don’t know anybody’s heart–often even my own. This is, at this late date, a collective failure of understanding. I’m speaking of a massive confusion that many well-meaning Christians of our generation have stumbled into due to a lack of confident and fearless preaching on the subject. However, collective guilt is built on individual guilt, and we must own our faults when we see them in our own hearts.
Christians don’t really, as a culture, believe any of these verses about God’s hand in creation (or procreation) anymore. We don’t seem to believe that God is in control of much of anything anymore, if He ever was. If we did, we’d beg Him to let us participate in the procreation of His own favored work: Mankind.
He has “crowned him with glory and honor”, and here we, Christians, are behaving as though people are a scourge. He has given us the blessed responsibility of nurturing these relationships, and we are treating them as if they are a burden, even to the point of preventing their very conception.
Our lifestyles may impose burdens. Our broken hearts and bodies create burdens. The brokenness of our children even imposes burdens. But our children themselves are never burdens. They are gifts. We should receive them as such.