If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes. –St. Clement of Alexandria
“So, do you have children?” the woman at the nail salon asks, casually. She is blowing on her nails, the question only a polite exchange of niceties as we wait for our manicures to dry. But as usual, I feel the slight jump of my pulse.
“Y-yes,” I falter, bracing myself for her reaction. “I..I have five.”
“FIVE?” she blinks at me in consternation. “As in…” she raises one hand and wiggles her five fingers at me. “Five?”
I smile and nod, wiggling my five fingers back at her. “Yep! Five!”
“But…but…you look so NORMAL!”
This makes me burst into laughter, my nervousness scattering in the air like bits of dandelion. Comments like these are so ridiculous they crack me up. And yet, I hear stuff like this the time. The responses I get from people range from offensive to outraged, from hysterical to hilarious, from stunned to curious, from ignorant to insightful.
Can you see why my pulse always races a little bit? I never know which response I’ll get. But I do have a bunch of replies ready (not that I EVER use them):
Are these ALL yours? (No, I just pick up random neighborhood kids and take them to the grocery store because it’s so much more fun this way!)
Did you PLAN on having five kids? (Nope. I really have NO IDEA how this happened!)
Do you know what causes this? (Yes, and I enjoy it)
You sure have your hands full! (Are you offering to lend me a hand, then?)
How do you do it?! (One day at a time!)
Mostly, I just smile and nod. People don’t get it–not even some Christians. They simply can’t understand WHY someone would CHOOSE to have a large family. Their reasons are usually as follows:
- It’s expensive.
- It’s inconvenient.
- It’s too much work.
- It’s scary.
- Nobody they know has more than 1 or 2 children.
For whatever reason, I was never bothered when non-religious people made impolite or even snide comments. I didn’t expect them to understand and I wasn’t about to apologize for the existence of ANY of my precious children. But it was another thing entirely when Christians made the same kind of remarks. Didn’t they believe, like me, that children are a blessing from God?
When did the secularist culture–a culture that is largely antagonistic toward large families–so effectively persuade the Christian community to hold the same perspective toward many children? At first, it was a stunning wake-up call for me to realize that while many Christians paid lip-service to the idea that children are blessings from God, their actions and their attitudes said otherwise.
It’s my opinion that the root of this is fear. Many Christians today aren’t having large families because they are afraid.
They are afraid that having children will interrupt their plans, disrupt their goals. They are afraid of the financial obligations. They are afraid they’ll repeat their parents’ mistakes. They’re afraid their children will inherit their problems. They are worried about the lack of guarantees. What if they have a child with special needs? What if they have difficult pregnancies? What if..?
I’ll be honest and say that there are no easy answers to these what if questions. In many ways, having many children is a completely illogical decision, which is to say, it’s not rational. It is an act of faith.
Yes, children are expensive. Yes, they do interrupt plans. Yes, there are no guarantees.
But to count the fears is to diminish the sacred privilege of parenting children. Just think: the act of procreation is participation with God in the creation of eternal souls! Having children–whether biologically or via adoption–is a radical act of hope.
And isn’t it hope that differentiates our worldview from that of the secularist?
Hope and faith enable us to look straight in the eye of uncertainty and say, “I still believe that what God says is true.”
Does this act of faith erase all doubt? No. But instead of finding dangers around every corner–faith provides a different perspective. Faith provides the perspective of hope.
I have many children because I said yes to God. I chose to act from a place of faith and trust and He has blessed me abundantly. No, it hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been the hardest challenge of my life. But it has also given me joy beyond my wildest dreams.
Aren’t children the very embodiment of their parents’ love?
Still, I would never presume to tell another Christian family how to live out the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. I have seen the dark side of that misapplication of theology and the heavy burden it places on the shoulders of mothers. I will never judge the decisions of each individual family–we must all make these decisions prayerfully and responsibly.
But I suppose I would say this: be not afraid.
Because when we make decisions from a place of fear we deny ourselves the joy of seeing hope fulfilled.
I’ve found it’s far better to make decisions from a place of hope and trust.
Let God take care of the what ifs.
Maybe, just maybe He wants to bless you beyond your wildest dreams.