Please note: It is beyond the scope of this post to address the very real and painful limitations of infertility—a biological reality under the curse. This post focuses on the heart posture: what we believe and feel, our attitudes towards sexuality, child-bearing, and child-rearing and how that attitude affects our actions. For any who might read this for whom the unrequited longing of their heart is to have children of their own, I pray with you for the Father to reveal His tender purposes in you, and that your heart’s posture would have a beautiful impact on the community around you. He does not waste a thing.
John Stonestreet’s segment on The World and Everything in It on Friday, September 30th drew out excellent observations of our current cultural climate, raising questions that I want to try to approach:
How do we disciple our kids about having kids? What does this mean for how we act as well as how we speak to them of the value of life, the worthiness of self-sacrifice, and even the practice of sexual intimacy?
Let’s start with human sexuality.
Secular culture’s idolatry of sex takes it outside the bonds of relational commitment and redefines it however it wishes. The root is always: “I’m in control of my body. My body is for my pleasure alone.” While the Father intended sex for pleasure, He never meant it for self-gratification. He designed it for relationship. It is popular to promote consent as a basis for “free sex,” but as Janie B. Cheaney recently noted, the sexual revolution “hasn’t freed anyone.” In all the talk of mutual consent, secular culture has missed the beauty of mutual giving, mutual commitment, and mutual sacrifice. It has missed the freedom and rest found in forsaking all others…in forsaking self.
Sex as intended has an “others” mindedness. When I use the plural here, I do so intentionally—to highlight that God intended one’s sexuality to benefit one’s spouse, one’s progeny, one’s community (and on into the entire created world!).
A Christian expression of sexuality blesses one’s spouse, equipping him or her through intimate, unconditional love. This love equips because with it we go out into the world from a place of acceptance, partnership, peace. It blesses our children with their very lives, and then blesses as a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for His church. Similarly, our view and expression of sex has influence over our community—building and shaping it after the Father’s vision for humanity: a fruitful community, a self-sacrificing community, an interdependent community.
A Biblical practice of sexuality fundamentally ties into our value of human life. How we think, feel, talk, and act regarding our sexuality links intrinsically to our thoughts, beliefs, and actions regarding procreation.
Meanwhile, the news reveals Western nations continuing to diminish not only the value of human sexuality but of life itself. As sex becomes more casual and common, human life itself loses its preciousness in our eyes. The attack hits both sides of life’s spectrum, from the unborn to the old and infirm. Western society has begun to legally treat precious individuals as expendable encumbrances, measured by their usefulness to society or the economy or by what we can comparatively achieve without them in our way. Through abortion we rid ourselves of the inconvenience of carrying and caring for a baby; through euthanasia, we shake off the burden of those who can no longer care for themselves (or who no longer want to endure life’s pains as with this young woman).
Unfortunately, we and our kids sponge these cultural waters. At the very least, they dilute our thinking or dampen our emotions. Cynicism and jadedness take the place of appropriate responses like grief and anger. We have all been influenced on some level. We need to intentionally wring ourselves out and start afresh.
A part of our wringing needs to be an actual weeping over what we have seen, heard, even experienced. You know how it feels when you’ve had a good cry? It serves as an emotional and mental reset. Not only for that reset but also for discipleship’s sake, we need to let our children see our tears and have their own weeping affirmed. We need the tears of grief over our culture (as with the weeping prophet Jeremiah) to wash over us and do their cleansing and re-orienting work.
Then, we need to name what we’ve been believing and saturate ourselves in the beauty found in the Biblical worldview, soaking in the provision we have in Christ by His Spirit to faithfully live it out.
Some of the waters of secular culture in which we have been swimming is the “you do you” mantra—a self-serving maxim that justifies egocentrism. What can start off sounding like taking responsibility for our own choices and increasing our agency in the world (godly ideas when under His authority) end up in the godless expression “not my problem.”
The Bible shows Jesus washing His disciples feet and telling us to go and do likewise. As we think of how that applies to child-rearing and discipleship: Washing stinky feet reminds me of other dirty duties. How are we tending to those tasks? With patient loving-kindness, or with audible and exasperated sighs? Our attitudes towards these tasks are contagious. How can we live out the gospel, modeling discipleship principles even in washing stinky little bodies?
Is there anything more lovely or compelling than the tender care displayed by a person of strength bent in service towards another person broken, fragile, or weak? When we engage our children tenderly, we name them as “very good” and demonstrate for them that child rearing is a worthy enterprise and calling. Our attitudes and our actions speak louder than our words.
These ideas are challenging. They fly in the face of secular culture’s vision for autonomy and “personal fulfillment” and often confront our own plans for the same. Fulfillment for the Christian relates to personal expression, yes—but it is only a very narrow portion of what truly fulfills—and it never stops with the individual alone. I would argue that a part of our design (with few exceptions) includes having and raising children and raising the children in our lives with that expectation. For the believer, personal fulfillment is found in exploring and enjoying everything God designed for us, for His glory, as we await His return. We were created to flourish and multiply.
Each of us is in a learning process, working out with sanctified curiosity (most aptly described as “fear and trembling”) the Father’s purpose and will in our lives. We have the provision of abundant grace to work out what we believe, interrogate scripture, and even wrestle with the Father about what it means to answer His call. For a more specific, pastoral discussion of these matters to aid in your process, may I highly recommend John Piper’s work Are Christian Couples Required To Have Kids? For a deeper theological study, read here.
How do you talk to the kids and students in your lives about the Father’s purposes for sexuality, child-bearing, and child-rearing/discipleship? Through what intentional ways do you model (demonstrating in your attitudes and actions) a biblical expression of these things? What secular or sinful waters have you absorbed that need wringing out? How is He replacing in that wrung-out space His vision for your life? Questions, comments, concerns? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org —I’m listening!