(mom to 9)
The idea of “letting God plan your family” is one that seems to be gaining some recognition lately, particularly in the homeschool circles. Many couples are reexamining their ideas of birth control and family size. This journey may be different for each couple and they may come to different conclusions as to what's right. Let me share a little of what my husband and I have learned as we've studied and prayed about this.
The first thing we discovered was that this is a topic that most Christians – ourselves included – never really evaluate from a spiritual/Biblical perspective. As newlyweds, we just did what we assumed any wise couple would do. We never studied the scriptures, or even prayed about it, I simply went to the doctor and got a prescription for the birth control pill. We didn't really talk about how many children we wanted and when we should have them. It was just assumed that children would be something we'd deal with later! Eventually we did go off birth control and our first child was born shortly after our 3rd wedding anniversary – pretty “normal” for the young Christian couples in our circle. It was when our daughter was about 5 months old that our whole way of thinking was radically shook up and we'd never think the same way again!
It all started with an article in Christianity Today. The article was an excerpt from a book written by Max Heine, Children, Blessing or Burden?. The main message we got from that article was to think of having children as a good thing, not a burden. When you think about this, it's so simple and yet so profound! I believe we as Christians have failed to fully grasp this idea. As my husband and I began to see this simple truth it began to affect our thinking. Why were we preventing the conception of children if we truly thought they would be blessings? We began to see how scripture over and over again refers to children as gifts and blessings. We began to examine our view of children and realized that we saw “family planning” in the same way that unbelievers did – children are a good thing only if we can afford them, only if our career is well established, only if the pregnancy will be easy, etc…and definitely only when there's just 2 of them!
Within a matter of just a few weeks we came to the decision that we should quit trying to prevent the conception of children and trust that God would bless us as He saw fit and that we would accept those blessing for what they were – gifts from God…period.
It's been 13 years since we threw out the contraception and God truly has blessed us – not just with the literal blessing of 9 children, but with the blessing that comes from trusting Him to provide for us and trusting Him to give us, His children, good gifts. With the birth of each child, we've seen anew the goodness of God and the beauty of His creation and how wonderfully His plan works.
It's not always been easy to go against the grain! Many well-meaning family and friends, and really the Christian community in general, suggest that having all of these children doesn't show common sense. It's suggested that it's hard on mom's health, it's hard on the kids who may not get the attention they would in a smaller family, we have our hands full, etc. When I have doubts and begin to question what we're doing, I go back to the basics. Are children a blessing? Would child #10 be any less of a blessing than child #1? Does God give me more than I can handle? And the biggest one for me: are the babies God has given me really the source of the stress I may be feeling – or is it my flesh – selfishness and lack of spiritual disciplines that are the real reasons I'm tired, stressed-out, etc. Would having fewer children really mean I'd have my act together, have more money, be full of energy, do more for the kingdom, etc.? Asking myself these questions always brings me back to the reality that God indeed did know what He was doing when He planned my family!
Are there ever valid arguments for birth control? Perhaps. Some would say no, even if the life of the mother truly is in danger. Personally, I don't think my heart is right , however, if I'm looking for reasons to prevent children. This should truly be an exception and not the norm. In most marriages today, the question seems to be “why should we have more children” and I'd challenge couples to ask the opposite – “why shouldn't we have more children” and then hold their answers up against scripture. (For example, if we think we shouldn't because we can't afford it, then how does that fit with God saying that He is the one who provides for us. How foolish of us to think that we take care of ourselves! If we think we just “can't handle it” then why? Are our current children undisciplined? Are we too busy with things that really don't have eternal value? Are we selfish?)
After studying this for several years it seems to me that God's idea of family planning was established from the beginning. Man and wife marry and are united together physically. The natural outcome of that physical union will often time produce children. Eventually, the woman's body “shuts down” its reproductive capacity and no more babies are born. Sound simplistic? It is! Perhaps it only gets complicated when we try to intervene!
Founder of Quiverfull Digest