Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Openness to Children Essential to Godly Marriage?

This article contains some sensitive subject matter and is not for young readers.

"Freedom from Fear" by Norman Rockwell

In recent years, I have heard many differing opinions on procreation and it's relationship to marriage. Sadly, there are situations in which a married couple is unable to bear children of their own--my parents were nearly one such couple with the only resulting pregnancy of their union being me! What I wish to discuss now does not come to bear on these couples. Such circumstances are in the hands of God, and He is the only one who can bring sense, meaning, and healing to couples who suffer from infertility. But, let's assume that a couple is both young and healthy enough to procreate. They've fallen in love. They're ready for a lifelong commitment. They get married. Generally, at this point, the marriage will be consummated through sexual intercourse. Does procreation have a place, yet? According to God, Holy Scripture, and the Church, the answer ought to be yes. For many couples, however, the answer is no.

Before we take a look at the stance of the yay-sayers, let's give a fair hearing to the "no"s out there. What are some of the understandable (though unbiblical) reasons to begin a sexual relationship (in marriage) with the intent to avoid procreation? Please note that I am not advocating these points of view, I am merely giving voice to what many people feel, feelings that are in and of themselves valid and should be considered seriously and compassionately. The following list in no way includes all of the reasons that married couples choose to avoid procreation, but they are the most prevalent arguments that I have witnessed, personally:

  1. Marriage--and sex within marriage--is intended for companionship and love. This is the primary goal. Therefore, sex should have as its primary purpose fostering intimacy and love in a marital relationship. All other purposes are non-essential or at least non-central.

  2. Children demand a lot of time and attention--both of which would have to be diverted from the marriage relationship to the care of children. This could have a damaging impact on the life of the marriage.

  3. You need time to enjoy your spouse before children come along and become the center of your universe. If you don't have this time of intimacy before becoming parents, it's likely that your marriage will suffer or even dissolve, especially after the kids leave home because you won't know what it's like to be together without children.

  4. Children require a lot of money. Financial difficulty is the primary cause of divorce in the first five years of marriage. It therefore makes sense that you should wait until you have your finances under control and have established yourselves as a married couple before children enter the picture. Besides, you need to be sure that you have all the resources necessary to care for a child--what if you need to pay for hospital bills from a premature birth? You've got to be prepared before you have children.

  5. I want to have time to establish my career before I have children.

  6. We're not really "kid people."

  7. You owe it to yourself and your spouse to take a few years to do all the things together that will fulfill you as a couple before the kids come along. What about that trip to Europe you'd always sworn you'd take? Or that back-packing trip? What about the marathon you wanted to run together? You could never do those things with small children in tow. You don't want to wake up forty years from now and realize that, perhaps like your own parents, you never "did anything" with your life.

In tackling these points, I'll start from the top and work down. As we go, I'll be bringing in some Scripture and Church Tradition to illustrate my points so that you know I'm not making this stuff up.

The first bit of this argument is completely true. Children do take up a lot of time and attention, and yes, that means that as you give your time and attention to your child, you will have less time and attention than you otherwise would have for your spouse. Still, it begs the question: what couple has said, "You know, my job takes up a lot of time and attention; I think I'll take a few years off to establish myself in a marriage relationship so I don't divert valuable time and attention from my spouse." Now, we all see this as being foolish, and I'm sure many of you are ready to shout at me, "Well, you need money! You don't need kids!" Possibly, but my point is that we are willing to give up our time and attention otherwise devoted to a spouse when it is being diverted to something we value. Something that is a priority in our lives. Now, one only needs to take a brief survey of Scripture to determine whether money or children/people are more valuable to God. Should this sort of argument hold water for the godly couple?

Moreover, I have a final point to make on this first argument against procreation. I have heard time and time again--from wonderful God-fearing people--that having children "too soon" will damage your marriage. They say it with an air of certainty. When we announced 10 months after we got married that I was pregnant, one of our friends from church confessed that he was truly concerned for our marriage and thought we were "crazy." Most people couldn't believe that the pregnancy was not only desired by planned--we were trying to get pregnant in the first year of marriage! *gasp* It seems that most of society, godly society included, is suffering from convenient amnesia where procreation is concerned. Until about forty-five years ago, birth control of any sort, including barrier methods was not only banned by every major Christian denomination, it was illegal in most states. So, unless you wanted to go around defying the church and the law, sex=procreation (except in cases of infertility). When you got married and started having sex, babies were not an option; they were an expectation. God cares deeply about marriage. It is a sacrament of the faith. Hebrews 13:4 tells us, "Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure..." To be quite frank, if having children early on were really an imminent threat to the health of a marriage, God would have come up with some other way to beget them than by the sex act which consummates a marriage almost immediately following the wedding.

Now, let's take a look at the second argument: Children become the center of your universe once their born, pushing the marital relationship to the background of the parental one. If you do not have time to establish the marital relationship strongly before having children, once the children are gone, you will not know how to maintain the marital relationship. Well, life experience will show how utterly foolish this argument is. I have personally known many couples who waited many years before having children only to find once they were empty nesters that they still didn't know how to have a healthy marriage. A few years of child-free wedded "bliss" is certainly no guarantee that you'll have a healthy marriage once the kids move out. For one thing, people grow and change. Even if you had only one child, you can't possibly think that you and your spouse will be the same people when the child is eighteen and moves out that you were prior to giving birth. You will both have changed. If you're not working during the years when you have children in the home at continuing to know each other and grow together as a couple, then you will be at a loss when the kids hit the road, no matter how much time you spent "kid-free." Additionally, it is not biblical that children should ever take priority over marriage. In Genesis 2:24, we read, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Jesus confirms and emphasizes this point in Matthew 19. We see plainly that from the time God ordained marriage in Eden, spouses would become one flesh--leaving their parents and cleaving to the new husband or wife. The spousal relationship must take precedence over the parental relationship--though never to the neglect of the parental relationship. God foresaw the problem that spouses would face when their children left home even from the time of the first marriage covenant. He wisely instituted these familial priorities precisely to safeguard the sanctity of marriage with regard to it.

Moving on to argument three. This is, perhaps, the most prolific and seemingly wise argument against procreation. In fact, it is the one that I have heard touted as "truly" biblical. Acting "wisely" and being "good stewards" are both biblical principles, therefore, some argue, wisely delaying children until we are ready to adequately provide for them must be biblical. I have even heard this argument used as the ultimate de facto biblical choice regarding procreation--that having children too young or with not "enough" money in the bank is deemed actually unbiblical because it is "unwise."

Now, I have seen this argument addressed from the viewpoint that we truly do not need as much money to raise a child as our generation seems to claim. We do not need to put our children through four years of college; we do not need to give them the latest gizmos and gadgets at Christmas; they do not need the nicest clothes, the best furniture, the top-of-the-line video game system, or the latest CDs. This point about the excess to which we indulge children in our current culture--which many experts are now proclaiming as actually detrimental to the child's character, which defects are carried into adulthood--is worth paying heed to. However, let us assume that you are not the sort of couple that would indulge children to such a degree. You paid your own way through college, and though you may set some money aside for your children's schooling, you presume that they will either take out loans or achieve scholarships as you had to in order to attend the college of their choice. You don't mind that they have to "do without" at times; it builds character. But, you ask, don't you need to have some semblance of financial stability in order to support a family? Particularly if you hold with the viewpoint that it is vital for a child's development that one parent remain home to care for the child at least for the first few years of life?

This is an extremely valid point. Let's say you have come to a reasonable and godly estimate of how much you need to "have" in order to support a child. You need a safe home (of any sort, really), the ability to clothes and feed the infant, money for emergencies, and (in the United States) some form of adequate health care not only to waylay the costs of prenatal appointments and delivery but in the tragic event that the baby becomes ill and requires treatment. Some people would even say that these requirements are, while ideal, unnecessary before choosing to embrace procreation. In my opinion, though, this is the bare minimum that is advisable before having children. However, I do not advocate avoiding marital procreation before these goals are reached. I would advise avoiding marriage before these goals are reached. Having a home, the ability to provide food and clothing, and access to health care should be priorities before you enter into a marriage relationship. I'm not saying you need a two-car garage, money to eat out whenever you wish, or top-of-the-line insurance. I am saying, however, that when a man asks a woman to marry him, he ought to have some way of supporting her. In addition, if you are married and you are having sex even if you are using every birth control method available avoiding pregnancy is not guaranteed! You can get pregnant. In such a case, it would be wise to be prepared.

This is in no way intended to place judgment, blame, or guilt upon those who were married before it might have been fiscally advisable. Rather, it is advice for those who find themselves contemplating marriage and saying, "Well, we'll barely have enough to live on, but let's go and get married--we just better not be having kids for a good, long time!" Since a baby is always possible within a sexually active relationship (such as marriage!), it is always a wise decision to be ready to support a baby before engaging in acts that might result in one. Of course, if you are married and short on cash (who isn't feeling the pinch these days?) it is important to remember that though finances can be a reason to prayerfully consider growing your family or not it should never be the de facto reason to postpone or prevent pregnancy. Diligent prayer and an open heart to do God's will ought to be the focus of questions of all sorts, including questions of family planning.

Argument number four addresses the desire to establish a career before children. This one usually comes from the women/wives in the crowd. Men never seem to think about establishing their careers before having children. Even when mothers choose to go back to work immediately following the birth of a child, they will statistically still bear the brunt of housekeeping and child care after working hours, and this can lead to legitimate fears in a woman's mind that she cannot compete with her male counterparts in the workforce once she becomes a mother. Now this is a primarily upper- and middle-class issue. Working class women have traditionally thought more about "holding down a job" than "building a career." There is a great deal to be said about this issue that I don't think I'm going to go into right now. I'll just point those who wish to read more about it to the following link to start getting the mental juices flowing. It is worth noting that most women will not have successfully "established" themselves in their career until the age of 35, after which fertility, particularly for those who have not yet born a child, drops and continues to drop at an exponential rate. In addition, the risk of birth defects rises after such an age. NPR had an excellent segment on this if you'd care to listen. My point here is: Will you someday look back and wish you'd had the career or the kid? Because you may not be able to "have it all," no matter what our modern feminist culture would like to convince us of. Sometimes the biological clock literally runs out--earlier than you thought.

One of my personal favorite arguments against procreation: "We're not really kid people." Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 19:14 "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." If we don't "like" kids and do not spend time with them, then how will we learn to be like them, as Jesus calls us to be? In both Matthew 10 and Luke 18, Jesus emphasizes this point further: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Clearly, observation of children ought to be important for those seeking to lead a godly life. In fact, God has quite a bit to say about children in the Bible. What is the great tragedy of biblical women? Barrenness. How does God reward these women: by granting them children. Children are a tremendous gift! In Deuteronomy 6, the Lord commands the Jews to teach His commandments to their children: Children are the legacy and future of the faith! Psalm 127:3 proclaims, "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." Proverbs, the book of Wisdom says in Chapter 17, verse 6, "Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children." And, of course, my favorite verse concerning children, Psalm 127:4: "As arrows are in the hands of a mighty man, so are the children of the youth." Children are a blessing. Children are an inheritance. Children are a gift. Children are a treasure. Children are to be desired. This is the message that we hear again and again from the pages of Scripture. This is God's attitude toward children, and it ought to be ours. If we find that we are not "kid people"--and I confess, there was a time when I was not, though that may be hard to believe--we should find a way to become "kid people." God is definitely a "kid person," and we should strive in every way to imitate Him, to desire what He desires, to cherish what He cherishes.

I almost don't feel that the final argument is worth addressing. It is true that once you have children, you will not be able to do all of the things that you want, when you want to, in the way that you want to. Even making it to an evening bible study or going to see a movie can be difficult. At the very least, it's not as simple as it once was. But, one objective look at this question reveals that it is bred entirely from selfish thought. Such desires--to travel Europe, for example--are not evil per se. But, to feel entitled to such things, to ignore the will of God in order to seek after our own pleasures should never be the goal of a godly life and certainly not the goal of a godly marriage. A God-centered marriage does not revolve around the spouses' own entertainments and hobbies and desires but around the desires of God and service and obedience to Him. Trust me, if your marriage is built on these latter things,a lack of the former is never going to harm your marriage, even if you do find yourself wishing one day that you had backpacked through Switzerland. Hey, I wouldn't mind doing that myself! Maybe one day--maybe with the children!

In the Catholic Church, there are some forms you sign before a witness when you are looking to get married. In addition to name, hometown, and all that general information, there are some questions on the back that are considered essential for giving solemn and informed consent to marry. One is that you believe that marriage is a life-long commitment. Pretty important and basic, wouldn't we all say? Considered on the same level of importance is the question of whether you will be open to life. Basically, are you open to having children from the time this marriage commences? No form of artificial birth control is permitted for use by Catholics and using it is considered a grave, or mortal, sin--putting one out of communion with God and the Church, for which one must seek absolution in sacramental confession with a truly contrite heart and a resolution not to sin again. (The Church does permit the use of Natural Family Planning, commonly referred to as NFP, when a couple has prayerfully concluded together that there is a serious reason to avoid pregnancy, at least for a time. This method uses the God-given biological cycles to avoid pregnancy without using "birth control." Some people dislike NFP because it has the potential to be used as a form of "natural" birth control. If used as the method is intended, this is not the case. Obviously, each person and married couple will have to search their own hearts to know whether they are using NFP, if they choose to use it, to the Will or God or in opposition to it.)

Biologically, sex is for children. God made it this way; He ordained it this way. Married couples do and should have sex. God considers children to be always a blessing, never a burden. God made sex for marriage, and he made sex for procreation. Where sexual intimacy is practiced within the loving confines of God's commands, we can trust, as His children, that it will build up our marriages, never tear them down. If you are currently in a marriage relationship where you are not open to procreation, I would encourage you to start praying and spending some time in God's Holy Word with this issue in mind. He has a lot to teach us on this subject, and I know that His Holy Spirit will guide you if you seek His will truly.

I'd like to end with a final thought. It seems that many people view the issue as choosing when to have children. The subtlety of the other side of the coin escapes many: If I am choosing not to have a child now, I am making the choice that a certain child who might have been is not to be. Each person must consider in his or her own heart, through prayer, whether it is right or wrong to avoid having children, but we must never overlook the fact that not making the choice to have a child is indeed making a choice.

* The Bookworm's Library has been updated: Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II

36 comments:

  1. On the one hand, sex is obviously not "just" for procreation. Intimacy in marriage is a blessing even in situations when conception is impossible, such as for example when the wife is already pregnant.

    On the other hand, children are the very natural consequence of intimacy between husband and wife, and that's how God meant it to be for *most* couples. Some will struggle with infertility for reasons that are, truly, beyond us.

    If people thought you were crazy when you were pregnant 10 months after you were married, imagine what *we* heard after getting pregnant in the very first month of our marriage! Some people allowed themselves to make rude jokes about my husband's "outstanding performance" and such... oh horrors.

    I'm particularly puzzled by the argument that says, "once you have children they become the center, so you should wait before having them". Umm... so will it mean my marriage will be inevitably neglected when I have children? Does it matter, then, that it will happen three or four years later? Obviously, the answer is different: marriage should ALWAYS remain our top priority, even when children come along - no matter when this happens!

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  2. Thank you for a well though out post! Glad Ladies Against Feminism posted it. There's one more issue I'd be interested in hearing your opinion on - child spacing. What if a family wants more children but wants to space them so they aren't 13-14-15 months apart? I ofeten get comments about how close together my children are and have been seeking a biblical response. Thanks!

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  3. Anna- I agree wholeheartedly that sex is not just for procreation, but (as you yourself have said on your blog) I also deny that sex was created merely for pleasure. I like to think of it as a beautiful marriage of the two, which is how I believe God intended it to be. I also agree that the cases of infertility are very tragic. That is why I began my post by stating that what I had to say was not about those couples suffering from infertility but about typical healthy couples. I agree (yet again!) that marriage should always be the priority. Perhaps the child-centric home is more a phenomenon of the United States and Western Europe than it is in Israel. American mothers are constantly pressured to do EVERYTHING for their children, and it is scandalous here to proclaim that your first duty is to your husband. Since most of my readers are Americans, I wanted to touch on this point.

    Catherine - Thank you for stopping by and posting! I always love to meet new faces. And your baby in that profile picture is adorable. What a smile! As to child spacing, I think you have to take the same attitudes that I have already laid out when considering when to have another child. There are cases 0when couples may prayerfully come to the decision to "wait" before having another child. Some reasons I have heard before are a mother who has had a particularly rough pregnancy/delivery and needs time to heal. Or, perhaps the child just born has some severe health issues that need to be addressed. In such cases, a couple may decide to postpone another pregnancy. This is where I think NFP is so valuable. Each month when the fertile period comes around, a couple must decide together, with God, whether or no they will have intercourse at that point, knowing that a pregnancy would be possible. If there is a serious reason to avoid, then they are simply abstinent, mutually--for a time--hopefully in prayer as Scripture advises. I believe, however, that the attitude of openness to life must remain the same even if a new baby has just been born. A godly couple should always lean toward the side of life, though there may be situations where avoiding pregnancy for a time (and occassionally for good) are necessary, at least in the eyes and conscience of the couple, which should never be underestimated or undervalued. Of course, there are those like me who simply cannot have babies that close together! I breastfed my daughter until she self-weaned at 11 months and didn't start ovulating again until then, so I wasn't going to be able to have Irish twins no matter what I did! I hope that is helpful.

    ~Bethany

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  4. Another Catherine here : )

    The money thing is what bothers me in my own situation. It's quite possible that people could say with some accuracy that my husband and I should not have gotten married in light of our financial situation, but it's too late and our first child is a month from being born.

    It is a valid argument but it just seems so unfair sometimes. I am not settled on this matter. I struggle with more anxiety about our lack of financial security than almost anything. Was my husband disobedient in marrying me since we can't afford health insurance? Not saying you are saying that, I just think it sometimes.

    On one hand people say to have faith that God will provide (when there seems to be no evidence of that happening) so go ahead and have babies. Then on the other hand my husband and I are just irresponsible fools.

    I can't think too much about this stuff or else I get upset but thanks for writing a thoughtful article.

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  5. Catherine R- Thank you for writing in with your situation. I think it is very important to remember (and you gave such a wonderful reminder) that we must never fall into the error of the Pharisees and care more for principles than for people. I think that, perhaps, it is unwise to make finances always a necessity for marriage or having children, but certainly they must be considered. There is some truth to the old maxim, "God helps those who help themselves." I think that we must each work to find the balance of trust and prudence that God leads us to in our own sitatuions. I hope that you and your husband find peace as you seek that balance in your own life, and I hope that I have not offended you. My intent in bringing up the issue of finances was not to guilt those who got married without what they believed were adequate funds to raise a family, but rather to make the point that such an issue should ideally have been addressed before marriage and not used as an excuse to bar the fruits of that marriage. Does that make sense? Again, this is not meant as judgment but advice.

    ~Bethany

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  6. A first time reader here -- I felt compelled to comment! Thank you so much for a lovely, Biblical post. I am absolutely convinced that our American viewpoint about children is seriously skewed by materialism, to a degree that we can overlook the obvious attitude of God's Word, which you pointed out so well. There is nothing in the Bible to support a view of children as burdens, or even challenges, only as visible blessings. The only place I can think of in which children are spoken of negatively is when they lack discipline or even do evil and the parents do not exercise their authority.

    I could go on and on. However, let me just give a word of encouragement to those who are still struggling to overcome the mindset you detailed in this piece: God will never desert His people, and if He gives you children, He will give you all you need to raise them for Him. And what if you are not sure you could love children? God supplies every good thing; if you continue to stay close to Him, He will give you a bigger heart and a more tender love than you could ever have believed possible in yourself.

    I speak as a mother of six children ( $6 due anyday!) who often wonders how we will provide for the future, and yet we have never slept in the street yet. My husband is a public school teacher and I stay home. He is an ordinary man who has become, through grace, an extraordinary father. And I am not the same selfish person I was at 25 when I married. We have received miraculous grace many times over as a result of allowing God to be in charge of our fertility.

    God really is in charge! Praise you, Lord Jesus.

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  7. Bethany, sadly, child-centeredness (is that a correct expression? :-)) can be encountered just as often here in Israel, so I know what you're talking about. I saw how it works (it doesn't) and I believe it can have really tragic consequences for families AND children themselves.

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  8. Bethany, I came across your blog as a link from LAF. I appreciate what you have to say. It is well written. I am curious, regarding your remarks about infertility. Whether this is your intention or not, it sounds as if infertile couples must simply accept that they will be childless. My husband and I are infertile, yet we adopted three beautiful children and are working on adopting a fourth. It is a Scriptural mandate to care for the widows and orphans, and how better to care for the orphans than to take them in as our own. I understand the point of your post, but I also feel that it is not right to consider infertility a dead-end regarding a woman's hope for a family. God can build families any way He chooses, and adoption is definitely smiled upon in Scripture.

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  9. Kristen- I am terribly sorry that my post came across that way to you. I do not at all think that infertility means that a couple will be childless. What I believe I said was that this article was not referring to the situation of infertility. I did not anyone who is suffering from infertility to read it and, like my mother got for so many years from those around her, feel that they were supposed to feel guilty or "not Christian enough" because God hadn't blessed them with a family. I think that adoption is extremely biblical and as great a gift to the adopted child as the gift of life is to the biological child. I have many, dear adopted friends, and an adopted cousin. My husband's aunt and uncle actually adopted newborn triplets fifteen years ago! I thank you for sharing this perspective in case others felt that I have been erroneous in not touching upon the subject. Again, my intention was not to ignore the situation of infertility on purpose, but in order to not make this post into a book, I felt that I needed to address only issues of fertility at this time.
    ~Bethany

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  10. Thank you, Bethany, for clarifying this. I didn't think you meant what I thought you meant. But, I just wanted to be sure.

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  11. Thank you, Bethany, for clarifying this. I didn't think you meant what I thought you meant. But, I just wanted to be sure.

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  12. Hi Bethany. I really enjoyed looking at your blog. I found a link to this post through LAF. This is a very thought provoking post for me, as I have been really thinking about this subject lately.
    Thank you :)

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  13. I disagree with you but respectfully. Jesus is Lord not our ability to procreate. How I interpret the scripture was that Jesus wants us to be kind and caring to the children who are here. He also wants us to have a childlike faith. Remember Jesus said that the only way to the Father is through me. He never said procreation is other way to the Father. God will welcome all His children into the kingdom who loves Him.

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  14. I noticed that all the comments posted are praising YOU. Someone comes along and respectfully challenges you and you don't post it. Hmmm!!!

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  15. Georgia,

    Thank you for your comments, though I am very confused as to why you would think that I think our "ability to procreate" "is Lord". I do not think that procreation is a way to salvation. If I thought so, I would have said it. Rather, I believe that Jesus ought to be Lord of our ability to procreate. Additionally, I was not avoiding your comment, and I am honestly hurt that you would jump to such conclusions. I have posted every comment I have received about this post, as a matter of fact. My internet has been down for several days, and I didn't have time to check it elsewhere as I have a young daughter to care for. Again, thank you for your comment and your visit.
    ~Bethany

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  16. Bethany,

    Thank you for your post(s) and the discussion on this topic. It hits close to home and has been very much on my mind lately.

    Let me explain, I was married September 27th. My husband and I discussed ,at length, birth control options and instead settled on essentially what is NFP. We did this out of dislike for hormonal bc, dislike of barrier methods and in general wanting to be more open to what God would have for us in terms of children. I don't know anyone around us who shares similar sentiments; and we've been told multiple times to put off children.

    We are 24 and 25, both still in school, with decent jobs but not really 'financially stable' according to most. So needless to say, the past few weeks have been interesting ,when friends have asked what kind of bc we were using. I won't lie- part of me is terrified that we'll get pregnant right away, but when I've examined the feelings behind the fear, I notice something. Most of them revolve around facing comments and judgement from family & friends. Some deal with money, too...but its mostly fear of judgement because I love children and would love a baby whenever ( or if ever) God gives us one.

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  17. I appreciate the thought and time you've put into this post.
    God be blessed for giving you clarity and discernment.

    My struggle with this is a little different than the scenarios you have here though.

    I became a Christian three years ago. I began a family before I was married, having my first child at 16. We now have 7 living chilren, two have passed on, and we all live off of my husband's modest income.
    We can't afford a home, and my husband has just recently asked his boss to take away his dental plan because under that plan we had to pay a portion of our dental bills, and we couldn't afford to pay for our children's dental care. We're now going to apply for government dental coverage (which I'm pretty sure is unbiblical). There are plenty of times that we've had to pray our dinner on the table.

    I 29 yrs old now, and so far I've averaged becoming pregnant by 1 yr after each birth. My husband was booked to get a vasectomy after the birth of our last daughter who is 4 mos old now, but I couldn't let him go through with it. I felt guilty and afraid of what that would do to our intimate relations.

    We're now relying on God to do something, because I'm at the point where I don't have adequate time to get everything done, and my marriage and my children are suffering. I can't keep up with homework, housework, maintaining my marriage, not to mention bible study and family devotions. I can barely get dinner on the table and the laundry done.
    My uterus has grown weak, and the doctors are beginning to tell me that I'm elevating my risks with every child I have.
    Still, my conscience convicts me and my husband is not sure, so we can't go through with a vasectomy.

    What is your opinion on situations like this?

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  18. Desley,

    As I wrote to Ali in a comment from the second post on this topic, I am not sure that I have the authority to give advice on your situation. As you yourself said, I come from a different place than you do. I have had different experiences, and so I am not truly qualified to know what it is to be in your shoes.

    I do feel capable of giving one bit of advice, however, and that is to listen carefully to what God and God alone is telling you. Not me. Not a certain pastor. Not a reknowned biblical scholar. God. From my own (admittedly short so far) life experience and from my knowledge of Scripture, what I know about God is that there are rarely complete absolutes--as much as we, His followers, would like to latch on to something solid. God is bigger than rules and regulations. Remember when Jesus is accused of breaking the Sabbath? He broke the third commandment! But, He says that healing a man is more important. God is a healer.

    It has been said that the chief end of man (or woman) is to bring Glory to God. A fish brings God glory by swimming. A bird, by flying. In other words, we bring God glory largely by living within that nature He has created us with and by being most truly ourselves, with reverence to Him as our Creator. What I mean to relate by all of this is that you bring Glory to the Lord in a way uniquely yours. By following someone else's dictates, though they may appear at first glance to be biblically sound, you may in fact be falling away from the path that brings God the greatest Glory through you.

    Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Trust that God wants to grant you rest and healing. I do not deny that God often grants us hardship; it is a part of our process of sanctification. But, sometimes, God wants to relieve our sufferings and toils, and we must be ready, when He lifts our burdens, to let them go and to find our peace in His salvation rather than in our sanctification.

    As I said, I cannot tell you what to do, but I would remind you that God can. And will. And does.

    Blessings,
    Bethany

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  19. Excellent post, ma'am! It is hard to find people irl who will say those words (at least, in most crowds), but it is so good to "hear" it being said online...

    Thank you for voicing the Church's stance on the matter so nicely.

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  20. I want to thank you for such a well written piece. I agree whole heartedly with what you have said. I have been blessed with 4 beautiful children. My last daughter was a C-Section and without my knowledge or consent, my tubes where tied. Apparently my doctor felt justified in doing so as 4 children were clearly enough for anyone. I didn't find out until 4 years later when my husband and I suspected a problem as fertility had not been an issue. That is when I learned what had happened and that I was not the only "victim". We were devastated and saved to have the surgery reversed. My surgery was planned for May, but in February of the same year I suffered a serious car accident, (broken neck in 2 places)steriod medication caused a metabolic disorder (PCOS) that would cause further infertility. Years have gone by and that longing and loss have NEVER subsided. My husband and I have considered In Vitro but worry if that goes against God's plan. My husband has since suffered some health problems and we are getting up in age. I look back and wonder if us NOT having more children is His plan. Our youngest graduates High School and we have 4 beautiful grandchildren, and yet I still grieve. You seem to have such wisdom on this topic. Any thoughts to my situation?

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  21. BethAnn- First of all, let me just offer my sincerest condolences on your situation. Forced sterilization is such an outrage against human dignity; I am infinitely sorry that you have had to suffer this attack upon your own person and family from doctors who thought they knew better than you or God.

    In answer to your situation: It sounds like you have been in prayerful consideration about this for sometime. I would encourage you to keep on praying, opening yourself up more and more to the grace that God has to offer you. I don't know how that grace and His blessing will manifest, but I know that He is using your diligent prayer to open you more and more to receiving it in its fullness.

    As far as IVF is concerned, as a Catholic, I cannot condone the practice, though I have two beautiful cousins who are the result of IVF, and I treasure them as much as my "normally conceived" relatives. They are precious children from God. Still, the Church is very clear that each child deserves to be conceived within the sanctity of the marital act. Of course, there are plenty of children who are not so conceived who still belong wholly to Him and were created by Him, but our goal as Christians is to act in unity with God's design. IVF often requires several acts which are against Catholic teaching: stimulation of the husband outside of the marital act in order to retrieve sperm, fertilization outside of the martial act, and finally the potential destruction of life in abandoned embryos. All of these are very serious strikes against IVF for the Christian parent seeking to conceive. I do not wish to accuse or bring guilt to anyone who has undergone IVF, but the Church is very clear in its teaching on this practice, and I strive to uphold that teaching when I share here.

    If you still feel that God is calling you to have children, BethAnn, perhaps He has another method that He means. Adoption may be an option. With all your children grown, you may be prime candidates for foster care and potential subsequent adoption. Remember, too, that even the single are called to be parents by the Father: SPIRITUAL parents! All of us Christians are called to this type of parenthood, and it is just as important as biological parenthood. Perhaps there are those that you are being called to "mother" in the faith or to "give life to" by bringing them TO the faith.

    Again, my heart goes out to you in this situation, and I pray that the Lord will bring you peace and discernment as you seek His Will.

    Blessings,
    Bethany

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  22. Bethany,

    I've enjoyed this post and your current series on openess to life. I am wondering what was the attitude of society in general towards children 50 or 60 years ago before contraception became so widely and easily available? To clarify, did families with four or more children worry so much about having more children? Were families with many children - six or more looked down upon as I feel they are now?

    But I wonder what was society's view, say during the Depression when things were really hard on families to even provide basic food and shelter? Did people say, "Oh, that couple is pregnant again! How could they be so foolish when they are just able to provide for the children they already have?" Or did people just find a way to feed and provide for more children?

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  23. WF- I do think that people worried about their large families in the Great Depression; not that it necessarily stopped them from having more children. But, I think the reason for it was much different: they were afraid of watching their children die or be separated from them. Today, people are "afraid" if they can't give their kid a free ride to college and the latest gaming system. (I'm being fascetious, of course.) Though we were less child-centric as a country 50 years ago, I think we were also more aware of the amazing blessing of children. Another thing to consider is that parents were much less career-centric than they are today, for the most part. Most people were more concerned about "keeping a job" than "making a career." So, children didn't stand in the way of parental ambition...often, raising a strong family was ambition enough.

    I know that in my hometown (largely Catholic) it was not considered weird or uncommon to see families of five or more kids until around the late 70s. In fact, before that time, seeing a family of two or three kids was considered odd...and families felt sorry for only children. But, I don't know if this translates to other areas during the same time period. I should do more research on this topic.

    ~Bethany

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  24. I found your blog when I found LAF ~ what a day! I have been a follower of Christ for 19 years (most of my young life - I am 23 years old), and I find that each day brings a new and fascinating subject to my attention; sometimes sobering, sometimes euphoric! Anyway, fertility and family planning have been central over the last two years, as I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and PCOS (hormonal imbalance causing cessation of ovulation) in January of 2008.

    My husband and I decided to stop using birth control (I used pills) after what may have been an early term miscarriage two months into our marriage. I did a lot of research and discovered that while BCPs are 99.9% effective at preventing pregnancy, they are less than 84% effective at preventing ovulation - more than 13% of the time, ovulation occurs, and of that percentage countless babies are conceived, and then aborted due to the inhospitable climate created in the uterus by the pill. I was horrified! We considered other methods, but in the end I just couldn't justify it - well before I started reading about letting God plan your family, I felt His hand on my heart, prompting me to find another answer.

    Anyway, I don't mean to write a book! :P I just wanted to tell you that your article is an encouragement to me, and that I am glad I found your blog! :) I know that this post does not speak to (or condemn, lol) people with fertility issues, but I would be very interested in hearing more of your thoughts on the matter (I read what you said to the other commenter). I am working hard to correct lifestyle issues that contribute to infertility, and just in the last two months I finally found that - while I still desire to be a mother - I am content to wait on the Lord in this. It was such a relief and joy to realize that I had finally released his burden to Him!! I am filling my days with learning all that I can about being a godly wife, and preparing my heart and home to hopefully one day be a godly mother as well.

    God bless and keep you! ~AB

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  25. I think this is a very interesting post. Not sure where I stand on the issue but a few thoughts came to mind:

    --I agree that people think it costs a lot more to raise a child than it actually does. People can rent rather than buy, buy a small house rather than a large one, drive used cars, buy used clothes, and get creative about college. Of course, some budgets will still be tight.

    --For most of human history, and still for most people around the world, people lived in extended families and not just nuclear families. If people had that kind of material and practical support, I bet you'd see more people choosing to welcome more children.

    --Women feel like they need a career because it could be a backup in case of divorce. Of course, it's awful to have to fear that, and I wish we had a 0% divorce rate. But we all know it's much higher than that, so that motivation is not totally off base.

    --The biological design is for most babies to nurse for years, not months. This is why, even in remote African tribes, children are generally spaced 3-4 years apart, naturally.

    Interesting blog! I'll be back. Julie

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  26. Deut 24:5 When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: [but] he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.

    What do you think of THAT!

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  27. farmlady- I'm not sure I know what you are driving at. I have always undestood that passage to mean that a man was supposed to be at home to enjoy his wife (and any potential offspring) before going off to war. Presumably, it was also a way to ensure that he would have some offspring, should he be killed in battle. Obviously, the end of the verse also addresses the importance of bringing joy to his wife with his presence before the very difficult pain of a separation.

    I don't really understand how this relates to the post, though. Have I missed something?

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  28. Hello,
    I just found this post through LAF and wanted to ask a quick question.
    (Disclaimer: I agree with the basis of your opinions and applaud you!)
    But my older sister is engaged, and makes me really question a lot of what people say about birth control, etc. You see, she is diabetic. Until a few years ago, it was highly advised that diabetics never become pregnant-it was simply too risky. Now many diabetic women are having children, but to not use birth control could result in horrible blood sugar ups and downs which could, of course, lead to illness or even death. So would saying that birth control is wrong and NFP should be only temporary deny people like my sister marriage all together?
    EP

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  29. EP - I would say that this, as with all questions of vocational discernment, is a personal matter between your sister and her Lord. I just wanted to clarify one point, however, which may help you: NFP is only meant to be used in cases of "grave concern." Your sister's health is a grave concern. However, she may choose to conceive anyway (as you said, many diabetic women do), or medical advancements may make it safer for her and her children. However, as long as the grave concern is there (and God would guide her and her future husband in this discernment), NFP is permissible. This is one of the main differences between the teaching of the Church on fertility and the teachings of, say, the Quiverfull Movement. The Church recognizes that some who are called to marriage will also be called to rightly use their sexuality in periodic abstinence and the use of NFP. Regardless of whether your sister ever bears children in her marriage, however, all husbands and wives--all Christians, really!--are meant to be parents, spiritual if not biological. Being open to life is so much broader than just bearing as many children as possible! If your sister has this attitude and rightly uses her sexuality according to God's Word and command, then I am certain that He will guide her well and that her marriage will, indeed, be fruitful!

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  30. I respectfully disagree. One can still follow Christ and walk in His light without having children.

    Is the couple who chooses to not have children yet still live for the Lord less than the couple who do have children? In God's eyes, are they sinful, even though they follow what is taught in the Bible? Are they less Christian than the couple who have a multitude of children? I think not.

    It almost begs a sort of Christian exclusion for the couples who choose not to have children. And children are a choice. Jesus did ask the little children to come to him, and we are all children of God. Openness to children is ideal for some couples, but certainly not for all, and it should not be used to measure certain Christians against others. We should be united as one Christian family, rather than pressure couples who don't want children to bear them.

    -CF

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  31. hello everyone, i am here to share my testimony on how i conceived my baby. i have been married to my husband for 18years without no issue. my husband has been tested OK, i too have been tested. but no issue. i had problems with my in-laws even my husband started to have new affairs aside your marriage. it was a very terrible thing to bear. i became a laughing stock among my pear, i prayed and fasted and nothing happened. i was now seen as always unhappy. after many medical treatment and there is no way. i took it as i was born barren and i accepted every challenge that comes my way. i was even ready to pack out of my marital home and stay on my own because my husband was not given me any attention that i needed from him. i decided to focus on my job and try to live happy on my own.
    on this faithful day, i decided to check the net for updates on healthy living and i came across a story of a man who Dr EDIONWE helped his wife to conceive a baby. i decided to put a try because this has been my greatest problem in life. today i am a proud mom. words will not be enough to explained what this man did for me. he casted a pregnancy spell on me and i noticed i was pregnant on the 7th day after the spell. i am a happy mother, the pride of my family, a miracle in my town. i know there is someone in same condition and you feel there is no way. i urge you to contact him via email edionwesolutiontemple@gmail.com. This is the solution to every single mother around the globe. distance is not a barrier, he will surely make your dreams come trough. contact him today via email: edionwesolutiontemple@gmail.com. you want your lover back or any other miracle in your life, contact him today so the world can be a better place to live. bye!!!

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  32. My name is Camille bruno Valdez my partner and I have been trying for a baby for over two years now, We were going to a fertility clinic for about 5 months before somebody told us to contact this spell caster who is so powerful, We contacted him at this email; arewaspecialistttemple@gmail.com , for him to help us, then we told him our problem, he told us that we will either conceive in February 2014 or March 2014,but after two years of trying we were at a point where we were willing to try anything. And I'm glad we came to Dr Dahiru, Because his pregnancy spell cast put us at ease, and I honestly believe him, and his gods really helped us as well, I am thankful for all he has done. contact him via email: arewaspecialistttemple@gmail.com if you are trying to get a baby or want your lover back. he has powers to do it, he has done mine,

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  33. I am marckey, When I eventually found testimonies about this spell caster Priest Babaka, how he helped many people to get their lovers and broken homes back, i contacted him through his email address babaka.wolf@gmail.com because I was absolutely desperate to get my wife back. Life without my wife was a real mess for me and my children. i wanted a dramatic change and I thought magic could be the solution. After discussing the resolution with Priest Babaka, he gave me hope that he will restore my marriage. I felt confident that he will actually make my wife to return home and he did! It’s fantastic what this great spell caster have done for me, his help is priceless! I don't know what I would have done without Priest Babaka,he does his job so well he is organized and highly functional, i believe he is the best spell caster i can count on when it comes to all kinds of spell, I was floored that his spells worked, if you need help, contact him on babaka.wolf@gmail.com

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  34. Hello everyone,My name is Tina Grand.i am here to share my testimony on how i conceived my baby. I have been married to my husband for 3 years without no child. We have been to the doctor and it was confirmed that the both of us are in good condition. I had problems with my in-laws because of the child issue. I was introduced to MAMA DADA HERBAL HOME by a friend who lives here in America. I contacted her and explained my problems to her.MAMA DADA HERBAL HOME told me all that is required and i did it accordingly. I was very surprise to test positive after 2 weeks of contacting her. I gave birth to my baby boy four weeks ago and i am a very happy woman and a living testimony of this good work. Anyone who needs her help should contact her through Email.(mamadadaherbalhome@yahoo.com) and you will also testify to her good work.

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  35. I GIVE ALL THANKS TO DR WILLIAMS WITH HIS HERBAL PORTION I WAS COMPLETELY CURED FROM FIBROID
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    ReplyDelete

Hello! I'm so glad that you have come here to share your heart and thoughts. One quick word from me before you comment:

I ask all visitors to respect this as a place of peace. Disagreements are welcome, but please refrain from posting any ungracious comments. Thank you, and God bless.