Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Procreation in Marriage, Part II

"Mother and Child" by Pablo Picasso

Recently, I wrote a post on the importance of openness to procreation as part of a godly marriage. Though I received much support and encouragement for writing the post, upon taking the time to think over what I had written, I realized that I myself had some criticisms of my own viewpoint. Call me a waffler, if you will. I am noted (at times notoriously) for changing my mind continuously. I suppose it's what makes acting so easy for me: it's so easy for me to see the other side of the coin sometimes--almost too easy--aggravatingly easy!

Certain points that I made before, I stand by. I'll run through those first.
  1. If you are getting married (and therefore presumably having sex) and are not sterile, then there is a chance you're going to produce offspring. Going into marriage with the presumption or insistence that children will not enter the picture, at least for a certain period of time, is playing with fire. Just as it is playing with fire to have premarital sex without wanting to have children. Sex between fertile people of the opposite sex can produce children. Period. To assume that you can have one without the other is potentially asking for trouble. So, a certain openness to children in any sexual male-female relationship and particularly within marriage is not only a wholly biblical option, it's just plain good sense. Most pointedly, couples need to at least agree on their feelings about children and be prepared not to place blame if an unintended pregnancy should occur. How many times is a woman blamed by her partner because she conceived? This is utterly reprehensible and wrong. It takes two to tango. And sometimes, 1 + 1 = 3. This is basic biology and blame should never factor into the picture. No one person is at fault, least of all the resultant child.

  2. Children, no matter when they arrive, should never come between spouses. If a couple wants to remain healthy, particularly once their children have left the nest, then they need to make their marriage a priority during the years of having children in the home, and no matter how much "preparation time" a couple has before having children, it will never make up for a lack of growing a healthy marriage during the child-rearing years.

Now, where I come to disagree with myself is on the validity of my points being reasons to have children. What I come to find is that I believe they are all valid reasons to consider having children. What I said at the end of my post is, I believe a truth that most of us overlook in our current society. It is something that I myself once overlooked:

"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."

This is an important point. In our age of "Planned Parenthood" and the "wanted child," we tend to think only in terms of the parents' desires and choices when concerning children, rather than the potential for human life to be created or not even in the indecision and against the desires of potential parents. I think that this is an important viewpoint for our culture to reclaim. In any case, I feel it is a viewpoint that we ought not to ignore, if for no other reason than it is true. When it comes to something as important as life is there any stone that we should leave unturned?

But, free will and divine providence are partners in a blindingly mysterious dance. There is, perhaps, no more profound form of this dance than the creation of human life. The free will of two people, combined with the divine will to create a life and soul results in a human child. Cliched though it may be, birth is truly a miracle.

However, when I consider the place I was approaching my previous post from, I realized that it was not with objective eyes but rather with the eyes of a young wife and mother who, through her own free will coupled with her husband's, chose to participate with God in conceiving a baby ten months into marriage, at the age of twenty-two. From this place, I witnessed the joy and wonder of many dear friends and family as Brian and I prepared to welcome our daughter into the world. But, from my vantage point, I have also witnessed bewilderment, judgment, ridicule, patronization, and misunderstanding from those who believed our daughter was "an accident" or who, knowing that the pregnancy was planned, determined that my husband and I must either be irresponsible in the extreme, or just plain crazy. It is from this place that I wrote.

What I see now is that I was wrong to conclude that the points I put forth in my post should be used to ascertain that constant and complete openness to procreation in marriage is the only biblical option. Rather, I ought to have used them in defense that those who choose to be constantly and completely open to procreation are following a biblical path and are neither irresponsible nor mentally unstable. The same may be said for those who choose to conceive under circumstances that others might deem "unwise" for bearing children: recently married, low on finances, still in college, or whatever the case my be. At the same time, I concede that to choose to avoid conception may also prove to be a biblical choice, provided that the method employed to avoid conception is in keeping with God's Will and natural law (ie. Natural Family Planning).

The important thing for a godly couple, I believe, when making such a choice is that it is biblical--that prayer and study of Scripture are employed in making the decision--and that it is a choice. By this, I mean that the couple chooses thoughtfully, prayerfully, what-have-you to avoid conception or to embrace it--and to accept any and every child as a gift, even if that child was "unplanned." Our societal standard has made the choice almost null-and-void for many couples. I know many married couples who go into marriage simply assuming that they will wait--for several years; until we have such-and-such an amount in the savings account; until we're both established professionally, etc.--to have children. Not to choose is to negate our free will, because it is neglecting to employ it. Would we rather be swayed by that beautiful dance between Man and God--free will and Providence, or would we rather dance without thought or care to the drumbeat of society? There are also instances where a person goes into marriage assuming they will never have children--only to find out down the road that their partner desperately wants to be a parent. Is it even necessary to point out how such an important thing as whether or not to have children should never be assumed when contemplating marriage. Yet, due to our society's presumption that conception will at least be avoided for the first few years of marriage, numerous couples find themselves in just such a place five to ten years down the road from the altar. We must stop assuming and begin considering and making informed choices.

Moreover, I wish to stand by the point I made previously, that children are always a blessing and never a burden. As a parent, I am keenly aware that we live in a society that is, at times, outright belligerent to children. Nursing mothers are degraded and accosted in public. Planes do not allow for changing facilities for children--and for a time, mothers were not even permitted to bring breastmilk or formula onto planes to feed their little ones. Children are barred from many public arenas. When dining in certain restaurants, my husband and I have found ourselves ferretted away in remote corners so that our daughter (who is remarkably well-behaved in public) will not "bother" other patrons. Not to mention the many derogatory nicknames for children that our society employs: "snot-nosed kids," "little monsters," etc. Additionally, in recent years with Planned Parenthood's campaign that "ever child be a wanted child," we have cemented the concept of the "unwanted child." Even if a child was unintentionally conceived by his or her parents, that child was not an "accident" in the eyes of his or her Creator. We ought to remember that all human life is precious in the eyes of God, and that no child has ever been a divine accident. More than that, we should strive to ensure that every child truly is a wanted child: not that we seek to avoid, at all costs, all children who are unwanted by their parents, but that we seek out the unwanted children and show them how precious and wanted they are. We must not neglect to be the hands and hearts of God to such little ones.

So with these clarifications made, I wish to extend my apologies to anyone who felt judgment from my previous post. I assure you it was not conscious or intended, though it may have come through all the same, as I am merely human--and young, at that. I ask forgiveness from anyone whom I have offended. I would like to end by amending the challenge that I put toward the end of my previous post:

If you are currently in a marriage relationship, I would encourage you to start praying and spending some time in God's Holy Word with the issue of procreation 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. Not that you would come to the conclusion of embracing conception, but that you might enter into the marvelous mystery of birth by considering whether or not God has called you to receive this tremendous blessing from and with Him.

Peace, blessings, and much thanks for entertaining my often divergent thoughts.

* The Bookworm's Library has been updated: Twilight Saga, Book Two: New Moon; Twilight Saga, Book Three: Eclipse; Twilight Saga, Book Four: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

9 comments:

  1. Thank you, Bethany. I did not know how to respond to your previous post. It did not have the clarity you usually employ. This I can understand and follow. Good post.

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  2. The previous post didn't have clarity--or you didn't agree with it? :-P Love you, Mom!

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  3. I have just discovered your blog and quite enjoying it! A question, prefaced with the disclaimer that I have no children, and I have no groom in sight: must every sexual act intend procreation, or is it enough that the marriage generally intends (and welcomes!) it?

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  4. Hey Bethany,

    I enjoy reading all of your posts, and this one hit especially close to home for us these days. ;) I really liked a lot of your perspective, but did have some things I wasn't as sure about, so I like your amendment. And thank you for your willingness to make it - I wouldn't call it waffling, but maybe clarifying. =)

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  5. I just came by from a link on LAF and I had to let you know how much I enjoyed this post - and I wanted to say "hi - it's nice to meet you" here in your corner of cyberspace. My hubby and I married really young and our first child was born a year and a half after we were married - I was 18 when he was born. Needless to say, we experienced more than our fair share of comments and attitudes from "people". It was most frustrating to be treated like an idiot by people with certain kinds of power - like doctors for instance. (My oldest son is a high functioning autistic, so we've had more than our share of doctor experiences.) I whole-heartedly agree with you - the prejudice against young parents and large families needs to stop.

    Peace be with you,
    ~Jenny

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  6. Well said. Thank you! :)

    The "every child a wanted child" mantra has especially irked me for years. I thought your response quite appropriate.

    Blessings,
    Michele :)

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  7. Thank you for your post - I found you through LAF as many of the ladies commenting here. It's been a pleasure to visit your site!

    This particular post hit "too close for comfort" for me. :-) I have been struggling with being open to more children ever since the birth of my first (a son) 13 months ago. Feeling pressure from my church and my husband to have more children as soon as possible only made me angry, and my emotional health was "on edge" you could say for a while. Let me explain... my beautiful son was born with an unforeseen birth defect - his stomach and intestines were on the outside of his body at birth(medical term is "gastroschisis"). We (and HE!) went through more than I desire to remember. I get emotional every time I think about it. I couldn't hold my son after birth. The "blissful feeling" that I hear women talk about when holding their baby after the birth experience was non-existent for me - in its place was frustration, anxiety, confusion, separation from my child and husband, and empty arms. He was in the hospital for a month. I could finally hold him after he was a week old, but had to watch him cry from hunger and a dry mouth for almost two weeks before he could even be allowed to eat. Then when he could safely digest, I could finally begin to try to breastfeed him.
    God healed our son of his birth defect miraculously, AND He also saw fit to bless us with an amazing breastfeeding success story as well! He gave us a valley to pass through, but He passed through it with us, and brought us out of it singing His glory and praises, hallelujah! However, we are now dealing with serious life-threatening food allergies... a trial that is more "long term," and harder to deal with in some ways than our first trial. We've had several close calls and have been in and out of the hospital. We haven't been able to lead a normal life because I can't let my son play with other children who might even have milk residue on their hands or clothes. But, we are praying faithfully for healing, and have been encouraged by some improvement. Our doctor strongly encouraged continued breastfeeding, though, as long as 18 months to 2 years of age. My question is, what would you say to a couple in our position? We feel secretly embarrassed or guilty when other couples gush about their unwavering resolve to never employ any form of birth control or planning in their marriage - I am sometimes jealous of their faith - then we look at their perfectly healthy children and listen to their text-book birth stories. I realize no one means to hurt our feelings. They often times add a little "We have to have faith in the tough times, and realize that ALL things, good and bad, are from the Lord" for our benefit. I realize they're effort is meant to encourage us, but faith in certain issues is much easier to talk about than to exercise, ya know? Anyway, it is sometimes very discouraging for us and it's too easy to get caught up by feelings of guilt, jealousy and self-pity. (God is so merciful with me and my spiritual immaturity! I have so much growing to do!)

    Basically, the crux of the issue is this: My feelings of protection and love for the child that I presently have are stronger than the feelings I have about the children I hope to be blessed with in the future. Is this wrong? I feel like I must do what I can to protect my son's health and give him the best chance for healing, but I struggle with the thoughts, "am I living out a life of deception and abomination by not trusting God in this matter" vs. "'Family Planning' for this season in our life is the only option that I feel I have as the loving mother of my son." I am constantly tormented by the thought, "you just don't have enough faith in God to provide for you and your son."

    I would appreciate any wisdom or encouragement from you and your readers. It is easier sometimes to talk about these issues with people whom you've never seen and can't look in the eye - know what I mean? :-)

    Your blog is a treasure - you're using your gifts to the glory of God and the edification of His saints. Bless you!

    In His Grip,
    ~ Ali

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  8. Ali,

    Thank you for sharing your story. You asked for advice, and the only thing I feel qualified to say is that I have not been in your position, and so I do not feel qualified to give you any. But, here is what I feel I can say:

    First, there is nothing wrong in your feeling stronger for your son than any potential future children. God gave you THIS child. He has not granted you any others (at least not yet). Of course your loyalty and love should be for him and not for children that don't even exist yet. Many women worry that they will not be able to love a second child as much as their first even while pregnant with the second child, so there's nothing abnormal or wrong in what you are feeling.

    Secondly: You should never feel that because you are trying to make the best choice as a child of God and as a mother to your son that you do not have enough faith. I find it despicable that people can even allude that those who are in different situations than they and may make different choices than they therefore do not have faith--or not enough faith. We are answerable to God, not Man. It is your business to be at peace with God. It is no one else's business (except perhaps your husband) how that comes about. If you find peace with God in avoiding pregnancy, at least for this time, then it is not up to anyone else to tell you that you are wrong, that you are sinning, or that you lack faith. That is arrogant and judgmental in the extreme. God knows your heart, and what He finds there speaks so much louder than any actions you take. Trust Him, yes. But, trust where HE leads you, not where others tell you He wants you to be led.

    God bless you, your little boy, and your husband. May He lead you to a decision that brings you peace. I am sorry I could not give more specific advice. There are plenty of folks out there, I'm sure, who would be happy to tell you what to do. But, I have never been where you are. God has never led me through the valley He took your family through. The faith it took to walk through that has been tested in ways mine never has. I could never judge how strong your faith is. So, I cannot judge where it will lead you.

    Blessings,
    Bethany

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  9. Ali:

    I pray for your child and your family.

    With the disclaimer that I am unmarried and have no children, and less knowledgeable than Bethany on God's Word, I suspect there is a difference between a fallible human telling you God wants and what God Himself wants for you. I know that I can only know what God wants for *me.* (And it's tough enough to discern just *what* that is without figuring out what God wants for others!)

    Be content that the only the Lord knows your heart and your needs, and be comforted in knowing that He will guide you.

    And I hear you about being jealous about others' faith. It is something I encounter everyday. I ardently wish I could just be like Ruth and just fling myself forward, but, for whatever reason, there are a few roadblocks. I'm embarrassed about the jealousy, yes - but not my faith. Total trust is a struggle. But what is faith without doubt?

    I'm going to borrow from Aerosmith here: "it's a journey, not a destination."

    Allison

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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.