Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Having a large family: a blessing or a curse?

With the birth of the Duggar’s eighteenth baby, many people are wondering: why? What would cause a married couple to want to have so many children in this day and age with birth control so abundant, and large families looked down on? America is not set up for big families. Even at McDonald’s, the most popular children’s restaurant, the largest table will seat six. Most houses only have up to four bedrooms. It’s hard to find a dining room table for your home that will seat more than eight. America is just geared towards families only having two or less children.

So what would entice a couple to forgo birth control, and let the children come as they may? There is actually a term for families like this, “quiverfull”, taken from Psalms 127:3-5: “Children are a gift of the Lord: they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them.” As a quiverfull mother of ten children, seven biological, two adopted, and one foster child who will soon be adopted, I can offer up a few reasons from a woman’s point of view:

God puts the desire to have children into a woman’s heart naturally. It’s the reason the world stays populated. Usually from the time a female is small and can play on her own, she dreams of being a mother. It’s normal to see a little girl with a doll under her arm. She will naturally enjoy playing house and caring for her baby doll. As this young girl grows into her teens, her dreams expand to include the father of the baby, and she will yearn and dream about marriage, a house, and a growing family. That is, if no one convinces her that she can yearn for ‘better’ things, like more education, and a career. The movies and TV shows she watches, the magazines she reads, and the people who influence her can soon squelch the natural desire for marriage, home and children in a female, and that’s too bad. A woman who has become captive by the idea of needing many material goods will also come to believe she should limit her family size and get a job so she and her husband can afford all the good (material) things the world can offer. She will fall into the trap of thinking her family needs designer clothes, a TV in every bedroom, expensive electronic equipment, and everything else commercials convince us we cannot or should not live without.

But left alone, and channeled in the way it should go: marriage first, a home, and a babies, a female will almost always continue to desire children. The desire for expensive material things will come a distant second to her nurturing instincts. This is natural. It’s a God given desire. So many times a woman will have her two children, many times in her twenties or early 30’s, with many childbearing years still left ahead of her. She doesn’t know what to do with the desire to have more children. She will wonder what’s wrong with her, and will even resort to surgery or chemical use to keep the children she thinks she should not have from coming. She or her husband will get ‘fixed’, something that should actually be called ‘broken’ since what they have done is broken something that was working like it was supposed to in the first place. Menopause will be a more stressful time, because she has not used her body like it was intended to be used. Breast that don’t nurse for the many years they were intended to nurse are more prone to cancer, as is the uterus that continues to have menstrual cycles rather than carry babies. It often brings to mind the scripture in Romans 9:20 “Who are you, o man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?”
Don’t we wonder why God made us like this? Do we think we have to help him along by changing the way he made our bodies?
Malachi 2:15 tells us what God had in mind when he created man and woman, and marriage: “Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union.”

The Bible tells us we are engaged in spiritual warfare. In the scripture quoted above, God calls children ‘arrows in a warrior’s hands’. He needs Godly people in his army, to win souls to him. When Christian people began to follow the ungodly, and they begin to limit their families along with the rest of the world, then they are diminishing God’s army. Rather than be afraid to ‘bring more children into this awful world’, let’s bring more children, train them up in the way they should go, then launch them out into the world, to win as many souls as possible before the end.

You may ask, what about women who for some reason or another cannot have children? As a foster mother myself, I can tell you there are thousands and thousands of young children in America’s foster care system who need a safe shelter, either temporarily, or forever. Could God have intended to use this woman’s desire for children for this purpose – to raise the children, either forever or temporarily, who do not have homes? You may parent these children for a short time or a long time, or adopt, and raise them up in your home. Either way, rest assured you are assisting God in a great ministry. The Bible tells us in Matthew 25 that when we take care of the ‘least of these’ we are also caring for God himself.

A large family is nothing to be afraid of. It’s nothing to wonder about. It’s actually the more normal way to live, the way our bodies are made. It brings about a contentment you will not find in material things or a career. It is work, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as we sometimes tend to make it. A large family will anchor you. It will make you work harder to keep your family together. It will keep you home more, which means you will actually get to know your family better than a smaller family who may be constantly running from here to there. The older children will learn responsibility and will be real assets to your family as they help you, which will build their self esteem and sense of self worth, and prepare them for their adult years. This will be so much better for them than all the designer clothes, Wii’s and Xboxes you can buy them. As a close knit large family, no one will ever be lonely; there will always be someone to play with, and someone to stand beside you when you need it.

I will end this article with a quote by Doug Phillips: “The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing. But in our culture we apply for the curse and reject the blessings. Something is wrong with this picture.”

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