One of the highest-stake decisions that we can make concerns baby-making (birth control? no birth control? rhythm? adoption? artificial insemination? and on and on…). Oddly, despite the life-altering outcomes, we must make these decisions before we are fully mature, wisened, and silver-haired. (Ah, just another opportunity to rely heavily and humbly on God!)
Regardless of our youth or limited understanding, when our heart’s priority is truly, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” God does supply the wisdom, guidance, and circumstantial grace that grant our request (James 1). One of my favorite descriptions of our almighty God is: “He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40). Needless to say, I count on this protection every day of my life… especially regarding our family, our children.
This particular topic is so difficult to think about communally because it does look so different in each person’s life (no wonder so few pastors attempt to address the topic on Sunday mornings!). I don’t know why we all must wait our lifetimes to find out why we can or can’t have children, do or don’t marry, are able to or unable to adopt, etc., but I do know that whatever our circumstances are, God offers us guidance for life and godliness (2 Peter 1). It is possible to please Him; it is possible to rest peacefully in His perfect will. I guess that’s why Ryan and I are in search of wisdom regarding God’s will and vision for our little family…
And that’s why I’ve been throwing out some posts about this baby-making, family-making issue. I figure it’s kinda unfair of me to ask for your thoughts on the issue without offering my own. So, for starters, here’s what I thought about the Voddie Bauchman podcast and Piper article that I posted this week:
I believe that “Thy will be done” is at the heart of both Bauchman’s and Piper’s seemingly-contradictory messages (did you listen/read them yet?). So, their views are not perfectly opposed since they both desire God’s kingdom to come (just in slightly different ways).
I can’t say, though, that I fully agree with either argument. I don’t know about you, but I found their arguments beyond Scripture not perfectly logical. Bauchman seems to over-emphasize population growth (in one teaching, comparing the number of dwindling Christians to a hole in a bucket that must be patched and filled), while Piper too closely compares our stewardship of the earth with our stewardship of people.
At this point in my life – limited experience, circumstances, and all – I think I mostly agree with the multi-generational view and in most cases, would encourage Christians to have children (not necessarily “as many as they can!” nor necessarily limiting the number based upon our very-skewed understanding of finances, education, a full house, and “other ministry work”). ‘Cause, after all, we are to “be fruitful and multiply” (not just remain stagnant at 1.8 children per family), children are a blessing and inheritance from the Lord, children are the people who will join us in Heaven, children show us how to receive the kingdom of Heaven, and children are an amazing vessel through which we learn about God and become more like Christ. Of course, “having babies” in and of itself decidedly does not advance God’s kingdom (I’m sure we can all think of convincing examples); building families full of people who love God requires complete and lasting heart-changes amongst mothers, fathers, children, and others. More than encouraging any person to have or not to have children, I mostly just want to encourage people to seek God’s will for their families; to raise those one, two, or fifteen little ones to love and obey Jesus. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done!
At this point in my life – limited experience, circumstances and all – I question some of the reasoning in Piper’s argument (even though I agree wholeheartedly with some of his other teachings). For example:
* A stalk of corn does not equal Vivienne.
Piper references the Dominion Mandate in Genesis 1 to justify using our human wisdom to control human birth just as we use human wisdom to control crops. I fail to see the comparison. God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” is distinct from his command to “subdue it: and have dominion” over the plants and animals. I believe that God grants us dominion over plants and animals in order to wisely provide for our growing families. Throughout Scripture, God continually claims divine responsibility for pre-ordaining, creating, and fashioning humans. Although Scripture like Psalm 128 are not formulas, they repeatedly emphasize the pattern of a fruitful eternal family being a blessing from God. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have never noticed as many (any?) references to non-eternal crops being as important to humans or God.
That said, it is virtually impossible to make decision without some element of human manipulation and control (after all, God gave us the privilege of dominion and action)… In this argument, I just mean that I don’t think we can necessarily justify birth control with farming practices (or the choice to remain single, for that matter).
* Just because God can over-rule birth control, doesn’t mean we should test Him on it.
Didn’t Jesus even make a decision based upon God’s command that we not test Him (Matthew 4)? Of course God can over-rule any of our decisions, but we strive to please Him and do His will because He loves us… and we love Him. So, popping a pill, or scheduling a surgery, or even calculating on a calendar are not light matters. All I know is that we must sincerely ask Him to search our hearts and guide each one of us in His perfect will; and then, we obey Him and peacefully rely on His grace when we simply can’t see the whole story.
* We do not know our own hearts; we do not know how God wants to change us or what He has planned for the future.
In light of this, I tremble at the thought of making any “final” decision regarding our ability to have children without overwhelming divine peace and guidance to do so. I’m just not sure that I can fully embrace the popular idea that our perception of how many children we want or are suited for trumps the strong possibility that we could be completely transformed tomorrow. Perhaps we can’t comprehend how we would change and fall in love if God blessed us with more. As is usually the case with humans, so many exceptions arise (health issues being amongst the most serious), but I think as a general rule, we should deliberately keep ourselves transformable, moldable, and moveable, agreeing with Solomon that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases” Proverbs 21:1.
Last, but not least…
In closing, I do want to emphasize that these are simply my thoughts and my interpretation of Scripture; they reflect the way God is calling me and our little family to live. I’ve at least learned that beyond what God has revealed to me through Scripture, I can’t make any assumptions to know the vast voice and will of God as He guides and builds up the other members in the Body of Christ. Nor can I judge anyone: sure, I might jump up and down and try to convince you to at least consider loving some little ones (can you really blame me?), but may I always be more concerned that you, too, pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”
I offer these thoughts to you humbly and would love to know yours, too!