When Are You Having Kids?
- August 22, 2019
- Chris Lawson
As a married Christian woman in my mid-30s, I get this question a lot. It is assumed, particularly in Christian circles, that if you are married then you will have a family. That is something that I also assumed for much of my life. When you are a young girl you are often socialized to “play house”, to play with baby dolls, and to picture yourself as a mother. This is by no means a negative thing. The majority of women and the majority of couples will have children and that can be a wonderful blessing for them and their communities. When we consider the idea of family planning however, I think we often start with the wrong questions. We typically make it about ourselves, our timing and our desires. I think we would be better served to start instead by asking what God’s calling in our lives might be and how to offer ourselves to the Lord’s wisdom and providence.
It is quite arrogant of us to assume that the decision of when and how to have children lies in our power. When we are making plans for our lives and potential families, it is so easy to forget that God alone is the author of all life. None of us can bring a life into the world unless the Lord causes it to happen. I have thought for a long time that the stories of barren women in the Bible (Sarah in Genesis 17, Hannah in 1 Samuel 1, the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4) are to remind us that human life is a gift from the Creator alone, it is God who calls us into existence. We have the blessing of participating with God’s authorship, but we are not the main decision makers.
With this in mind, in my mid-20s I started thinking differently about what my life should hold. I started moving away from my default assumptions and into a posture of discernment of God’s calling in my life. Does God want me to be married? If the answer is no, can I be ok with that and still believe that God is good and generous? If I will be married, am I even biologically able to have children? If I am, does that automatically mean that is what God wants for my life and resources? Am I willing to submit my body and my plans to the will of Christ? Because for women especially, understanding our bodies as belonging to Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20) carries a double implication. It is not only about our lives but our willingness to carry and bring forth another life. (Of course this is a question that men must consider as well, it is simply that the stakes are higher and more costly for the female body.) Women’s bodies are wired to be interdependent, our literal biology is communal. That biology fosters and necessitates a coinciding mutuality with Christ. Modeling to the wider community of faith what it can look like for each of us to be interdependent with the Lord.
This is a delicate topic, one that our society is still very much wrestling with. I think a Christian response ought to be one that is leaden with compassion and empathy. To live in submission to Christ is a profound calling, one that not everyone will choose or desire. And so we must choose it with hope and demonstrate the ways in which Christ shows Himself worthy of our trust. Because the only way that we or others can take that kind of risk is if we believe that God is for us and not against us. That giving every part of ourselves to the Giver of Life will not be easy but will be deeply good. It may be that God calls us to singleness. It may be that God calls us to marriage with no desire for children. Or we may desire a biological family and struggle with infertility. Or have a child/children with special needs. Or have the family we envisioned and still need to depend on God’s patience and protection everyday.
Ultimately we all make our best-laid plans and then acknowledge that there is very little we can control. We are much better off relinquishing our desires to plan and control and invite Jesus more and more into our “decisions”. This goal is not for everyone to make the same decisions, but to allow our decision-making to be directed by Christ. To offer every aspect of our lives to the Lord and be willing to follow His lead, whatever that may be. This is a costly obedience and a hard-won faith. Will we allow the Lord to be sovereign in our bodies and our relationships? Will we believe that He is good in whatever that brings? No matter what, we have been bought with a price, and we know our future is secure.