Saturday, July 21, 2007

Children: blessing or burden?

When I just started thinking about marriage, which was quite some time ago, I had a very socially acceptable attitude about how I see my future family: the first few years of marriage should be spent without children, so that both spouses can invest in their careers, and also have time for their relationship. After settling down a bit and buying a nice house and a new car and traveling around the world, there's room for children – not more than two, of course.

This was what I have always been taught by the society and by my family. I'm an only child, and never knew anyone with a truly large family (or should I better say, anyone who allowed God to be in control of the size of their family – doing this might mean you have any number of children or none at all).

But as I studied and prayed, I started doubting. Maybe the way I was taught to think wasn't the only way? What does God think about children? Does God think children are hindrances to our personal happiness and having them should be put off as much as possible? Does God tell us that we can only be good parents if we have only a child or two, so we can shower them with all sorts of material possessions?

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127)

"Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table" (Psalm 128)

These verses weren't new to me. I've known them for a long time. But when I re-read them, I was struck anew by the beauty of God's vision of children: rewards. Arrows in the hand of a mighty man. Olive trees, a symbol of prosperity, of roots that go deep into the land of our fathers. What an astounding picture! There's nothing about children being burdens; about the 'inconveniency' of having children when it doesn't fit into our plans. I asked myself: do I think God would say, 'ah, but if you're getting that mortgage, of course it invalidates everything I said about children being a blessing'?

This was how I reached the conclusion which isn't really a novelty: if children are blessings and precious gifts, why on earth would we reject, postpone or limit the sweet rewards God in His wisdom might choose to give us?

And you know what the most amazing thing is? I realized that I actually used to think children are bondage – but the real bondage was precisely those thoughts! I realized how important it is to have children, but I used to view them as hindrances to whatever other plans I might have. I thought having fewer children will mean more freedom. But I really felt free only when I chose to submit myself to the will of my Creator and accept whatever He has in store for me.