by GraceAnna Castleberry
I sat in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office with my newborn. Across from me sat a mother with two rambunctious boys and a new baby adorned in pink. As we chatted, her sons’ behaviors escalated. Finally, when she could take it no longer, she shouted, “Boys, STOP IT!” She gave a deep sigh, rolled her eyes, and curtly said to me, “We’re done having kids. We’ve got our girl now and we are done!” Her voice was mixed with anger and frustration and a tone of relief. As she got up to leave, I held my newborn close. I felt sad. Her words had hurt me somehow. I wondered if I would feel that way one day — so fed up with motherhood that I might blurt out to a stranger, “This is our last. We’re done!”
All About Perspective
When I was little girl, I often heard women ask my mom the question I am often asked now, “How many children do you plan to have?”
Her response always pointed to the Lord in some way. As a young child, it made me feel loved when I heard her say things like, “We want whatever God wants for our family.” I knew she considered my life and the lives of my brothers as gifts from God.
Now that I’m a young mom, my mom’s perspective gives me strength. Even though her pregnancies weren’t always easy, she trusted that God was sovereign over her womb. She had five c-sections and while pregnant with me, was on strict bed rest for months when my life hung in the balance. She knew fear, especially after her pregnancy with me, but she trusted in the God who had a plan beyond what she could see.
Embrace God’s Plan
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a wonderful example of a young woman who trusted that God was sovereign over her womb. She was betrothed (an even more-binding commitment than engagement) when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and give birth to Jesus. Her life was suddenly turned upside down. The Scripture records that Mary was afraid of the Angel’s presence at first, but it never says that she was angry or resistant to God’s plan. Mary’s words may sound ancient to our modern ears, but her response pierces right through the worldview of many modern young women, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38).” Her heart was in such submission to her Lord that her only question was, “How can this be possible?” Her question was very different from the doubting question of Zechariah that found him struck dumb by the same Gabriel, and opposite the sentiments of many young women today: “This timing really isn’t convenient for me right now,” or “This isn’t part of my spacing plan.” Because of Mary’s humble obedience, God blessed her in ways she could never have imagined. She had the privilege of being the mother of the Son of God.
If the Lord Wills
When it comes to our fertility, God commands us to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). Children are described as blessings and gifts that should be received with great joy (Psalm 127:3-5). Large families should not judge small families and small families should not judge large families (Matthew 7:1-5). God’s Word also teaches that our lives are not our own, we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthains 6:19-20). So whenever it comes to anything in our lives, we should always say, “If the Lord wills (James 4:15).” As in, If the Lord wills, we would love to have a baby. If the Lord wills, this may be our last child. We should not be led by selfish desires or adapt to the world’s manner of thinking, but submit our desires to God and trust His good timing.
I often wonder how Mary was able to obey the Lord the way she did. How did she find strength to endure the scorn she most certainly received from others? Where did she find courage to go about her daily life when she didn’t fully know what lay ahead? Mary obviously had great faith in God and knew His promises as revealed in her Song of Praise in Luke 1:46-55. But it’s encouraging to remember that she was just an ordinary woman. Set apart yes, but in need of a Savior just like you and me. It was God who saved her and it was God who enabled her to carry out the task He had given her. God’s grace in Mary’s life is seen in that the very baby she carried in her womb is the one who saved her from her sins. And even in Mary’s darkest hour, as she watched her son die, Jesus was taking care of her (John 19:26). There was a purpose in her pain — the death of her son would bring salvation to the world. In times of great blessing or unexpected trial, God is near and He will strengthen those who put their trust in Him.
I recently read a story about Elias and Mary Ann Ayres who buried all eight of their children. Some were taken in infancy, some in the toddler years, some elementary age, and some in their teens. After the death of their fifth child, Elias and Mary Ann were still blessing the Lord and recognizing Him as both the giver and taker of life. Little Cornelia’s tombstone (16 months) reads, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Even through great tragedy, the Ayres still praised God because they trusted Him.
A Gift We Don’t Deserve
One day when my hair is gray and the baby clothes have long been put away, I don’t want to look back and wonder “What if?” What if I’d really sought God about the size of our family? What if I’d trusted that God was sovereign over my womb? I want to declare with full assurance like Jacob did in the Old Testament, “Look at the children God has graciously given me (Genesis 33:4).”
I don’t want to get sucked in to the cultural mindset of children. I want to pray hard with my husband and acknowledge God as the giver of life. I want to eagerly submit to my Father’s will and know that His gifts are always good and best for me. I don’t want to judge other women, but seek God’s plan for the family God has given me. And most of all, like young Mary, I want to declare to a watching world that God is sovereign, even over my womb.
GraceAnna Castleberry is a wife, mother, and worker at home. She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband Grant, who is pursuing a M.Div. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can find her on Twitter @gacastleberry.
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