Big Family Problems: Things People Say, But Shouldn’t
Surrendering Our Desires in Favor of God's Design
A few years ago when we had just five children, a good friend of mine and I joked around about getting custom-made t-shirts with the answers to all the rude questions people asked about our, then, modestly large families. T-shirt slogans like “yes we know how babies are made” would come in handy. Now, as a mom of seven (so far), I confess that I haven’t always been fully surrendered to God’s will for our big family, and the social criticism, even within the church and among Christian friends, has made our decision to submit this area even more difficult.
Wherever we go, people seem to think it’s ok to discuss family size, sex education, and birth control with us. My husband has frequently been told he should “get snipped,” but something about choosing to break something God created didn’t set right with either of us. We’ve also been told we are ruining our lives and causing climate change. [Sigh. Eyeroll.]
The most unfortunate thing is when these comments come from the church. I can’t expect modern day Americans, or even our own families, to comprehend that every child is a blessing, as scripture says. I can’t expect them to understand God’s design for reproduction. I can’t expect them to understand submitting even these most personal areas of our lives to the will and purposes of God. But I’m surprised that I can’t expect those things from believers–at least in theory. And I’d wish I could even expect support and encouragement for the decision to let God design our big family, from the one place I go for spiritual encouragement for every other area of our lives.
When I was in my 30s, I read a book that completely changed my world view. It called into question everything I believed, every area I thought was and should be controlled by me.
Is Family Size MY Decision?
Certainly, the decision of how many children to have, when to have them, how far apart to space them… surely these were MY choices and not something I should leave to chance — or to God!
We live in an era of secularism, humanism, feminism, and cultural relativism. We have been indoctrinated into the world’s beliefs through education, the media, entertainment, and even social interactions. We have been taught to serve our own desires, follow our heart, do what feels good, and that we each get to decide what is right for ourselves.
So, while our culture says 2.5 kids is enough, do we choose to go with the cultural flow, or do we go against the grain here as well and inquire of scripture.
For some women, motherhood comes naturally. They have systems and blanket training and they cheer for each and every positive pregnancy test. They may love breastfeeding and enjoy diaper changes and bath times, and they even love pushing double strollers to the park. If this is your image of all mothers with several children, erase that idea right now. Some of us [ahem, me] are a hot mess. When it comes to family, I’ll admit that never, ever, did I think I would be a mom to seven! I never wanted a big family. I spent years living a life I designed, doing things that seemed right to me, but God says …
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12
“In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” Proverbs 16:9
So again I ask, ought we not look to scripture to guide us, even in this?
I Still Struggle With My Big Family
After seven, I still struggle with the idea of having more children. After being pregnant or nursing my babies for a dozen or so years, I want to be done. I want to close up shop. I want to seek my own desires. I want to have my body back. I want to have my hands free of babies. I want to start pursuing things I’ve wanted to do. I want. I want. I want.
I sound a little like a child, don’t I? And when my children come to me whining about all that they want, I look at them and remind them, “be thankful for what you have.” I know that regardless of all their selfish desires, they have all they need, and it’s my job to decide what good gifts I give them. It’s their job to trust me, to submit to my authority and not to force their wants on me.
The trouble is that as Americans we’ve taken the “have it your way” philosophy to heart even when it comes to faith, when all along we should be submitted to having it His way.
I know what you’re thinking: “The Bible doesn’t tell us we can’t plan our families, the number of children, or decisions about birth control.”
Oh, but doesn’t it? Doesn’t the Bible command, “Be fruitful and multiply?” Doesn’t the Bible call children “a blessing and a heritage?” And if you want to look for scriptures where it says we get to make those decisions, a place where it says “be fruitful and multiply until…” You won’t find that.Doesn't the Bible call children 'a blessing and a heritage?' Click To Tweet
Interestingly, there was a time I thought I’d never conceive. Four years of struggling to have a baby, followed by a surprise blessing. Followed by becoming a single mom. Followed by a new husband. When we married, I brought my daughter and he brought a son and a daughter. We were an instant family of five. I’d planned to return to earn an advanced degree and never considered having more children. However, in spite of my efforts to prevent pregnancy, God had other plans. Suddenly, I was pregnant and my education plans were on terminal hold. And that’s how God showed me that He is the Author of Life; He makes the plans.
It is He who decides to give life, prevent it, or take it. It is He who can cause a new life to be formed, to delay or even prevent it. I saw that when I tried to conceive, I could not, except by His will; and when I chose to prevent the creation of life, I could not against His will.
Figuring that God is going to have His way no matter my plans or efforts, I surrendered this area to Him, although not without difficulty in my own rebellious heart. We chose to neither prevent, nor try for any additional children and just let God give life or not, as He chose.I saw that when I tried to conceive, I could not, except by His will. Click To Tweet
Not surprisingly, this choice was met with a great deal of skepticism by our friends and family over the years. Even our church friends have questioned why we haven’t put a cap on our big family yet.
Since we made this decision, we have had three more amazing, beautiful blessings, and we have made great friends who also have big families and do support us. But in the interest of full disclosure, my submission to God in this area has wavered considerably over the years. In fact, each time I am pregnant, I spend weeks knowing that secret before I allow myself to really believe it via a pregnancy test. I may spend additional weeks before I tell anyone, while I steady myself emotionally. In my last pregnancy, I’m ashamed to admit that I waited a full month before I told even my husband.
While I love all my children, I don’t enjoy sleepless nights, changing diapers, or breastfeeding. Nor do I look forward to more runny noses, poopy diapers, mounds of laundry, noisy toys and broken everything. None of that appeals to me. All of it is an extreme and daily struggle against my flesh.
My flesh says I am done. My flesh says no more. My flesh says I just can’t. In my flesh, I text my husband one word: “Vasectomy”, while he is out with friends. In my flesh, I plead with God for no more children.
Then God, whispers, “Surrender.”
Are You Finished Yet?
And another church friend asks the inevitable question, “Are you guys finished yet?!” I barely want to respond. My flesh rears up and says, “Definitely!” and God continues to whisper, “Surrender. I am sufficient.”
I try to negotiate with God. I try to explain to Him how I struggle physically in pregnancy, how tired I become, the aches and pains, the energy it takes to just cook dinner, the queasiness, the middle of the night bathroom runs, my mood swings…
And God doesn’t relent. He wants me to surrender EVERY. SINGLE. AREA. of my life. So, I must. I must say, “Your Will, Lord.” Because surrender is always a choice. It’s always an action. We can’t ask God to surrender us on our behalf. We can’t ask Him to make it easier for us. We have to surrender or not. So, in this area, though, I’ve struggled with it, I give up. Though I wish for no more children, I will graciously receive every single little blessing He gives us with open arms and I must choose joy. I choose from here on to be joyful in motherhood, to kill my flesh once and for all.
So as you ask the most common question: Are we done yet?
We aren’t. We aren’t done surrendering everything to God, including our big family. We aren’t done choosing His will over ours. We aren’t done obeying and remembering that He created us, that He has a plan and purpose for our family, and that might not look like what I want. It might be better. It might mean more babies or it might not. And I am ok with that. In the end, it’s all about surrender. It’s all about Him! Do I trust my Savior? Do I submit to my Lord? Regardless of whether the world around me mocks us, questions our sanity, or wonders why on earth I’d consider leaving this decision up to God, I choose His way.
Now, I gotta go run and take a pregnancy test. (Just kidding!)