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Topic: Parenting

Your Response to Children Reveals Your Heart

March 11, 2016
By Emily Jensen

The first time I loaded up our young children in a shopping cart all by myself, I mentally prepared for the challenge ahead. Though the potential for whining, grabbing, hitting and pleading was very real, my biggest anxieties surrounded people’s reactions to my cart overflowing with children. You see, in less than four years, we’ve had four kids. Not only are they close in age, but they are also all boys, and include a set of twins. While we’ve gotten used to the makeup of our family, and truly feel blessed by their noise and commotion, it’s become evident that not everyone agrees.   A trip out in public isn’t complete without stares, comments, and the inevitable conversation with a stranger. So as I pushed my miniature bus through the sliding doors, I resolved to be cheerful and not let my heart race when I heard the whispers of onlookers.

Not everyone who sees us has a thought, opinion, or word to share. (I don’t want to be so self-centered to think that each passerby cares about our family planning.) But I have made some observations about the comments people make about our children. Largely, they fall into three polarizing categories:

ONE: You guys are crazy.

This common phrase that we hear is sometimes worded more politely like, “I bet you have your hands full.” But body language, tone of voice, and wide eyes communicate the message, “I’m so glad I’m not you.” The assumption here is that our life is a pretty bad chaotic mess, and they are so glad they’re not a part of it.

TWO: I could never do that.

While I always expected the assumptions of craziness, this one still catches me off guard. There are people who think we have parent super-powers, able and interested in doing something that normal people aren’t capable of. My husband and I would argue that this isn’t the case – we are in need of just as much grace and help as the next parent (in fact, sometimes more!).

THREE: You are so blessed.

Finally (and I’m thankful this is the majority), people go out of their way to approach us with comments of joy and affirmation. They say things like, “You have such an incredible family. What a wonderful thing! Your boys will have so much fun growing up together!” And occasionally, older couples will confess that they wish they would have had more children or valued their family time instead of grumbling through it.

Our Comments Reveal Our Hearts

Before I go and make heart judgments and applications, let me first say that I’ve also made these statements and felt these feelings. Depending on the day, I might exclaim, “Ugh, our life is so crazy!” or “How do other people do this?” or even “I love these boys so much and I’m so thankful for them.” Family is a complex issue, riddled with sin and brokenness. Even those of us who want to count children as a blessing, sometimes stumble into a spirit filled with groaning. I regularly need to examine my heart in light of scripture, repenting when I don’t agree with God.

Responding Differently to Children

So how should followers of Christ respond to children in a culture that is growing increasingly hostile toward fruitful childbearing? Well, I think it begins with believing what the bible says to be true about little ones:

  • They are a blessing, a reward, and a heritage from God (Psalm 127:3-5).
  • They should be welcomed generously and not despised (Matthew 18:10, Mark 10:14).
  • They are the precious workmanship and plan of God, known by him before birth. (Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5).
  • They are worthwhile instruments of glory in the kingdom of God, needing good teaching and training (Ephesians 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:7).

These are just a sampling of truths that indicate God’s intense love and purpose for children. They aren’t burdens to be avoided, messes to be evaded, or obstacles to be circumvented. When God gives children to a couple, they are a gift to be treasured, a tool for sanctification, a weapon to be wielded in God’s kingdom, and a soul to be molded. This is not an awful task (as much as it might look or seem that way at times). Followers of Christ, first and foremost, need to feast on this truth and stand firm in it, even when our culture and experience tells us otherwise.

Secondly, these truths need to change our response to children. Followers of Christ shouldn’t be the strangers in the store (or the friends in the church lobby) eye-rolling the woman who is pregnant “again”. They shouldn’t be swapping horror stories to one-up each other about who has it hardest with little kids. While there is a place for authenticity and helping each other love children more, it shouldn’t be done from a spirit of complaining.

This is hard-hitting truth. Because the bible says that what comes out of our mouth reveals what’s actually in our heart. So if we regularly find ourselves poking fun at people who want to bring in more arrows (biologically, adopted, fostered, or otherwise), we need to examine ourselves asking, “Am I really believing what God says about children, or have I adopted the message of the culture?”

Instead of being the people who approach strangers and friends heaping comments of craziness, let’s be quick to say, “This is such a blessing!” Which I promise, is more honoring and encouraging than, “Oh man, I bet those kids are a lot of work!” Maybe they are, but they are work I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

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