I still remember the restaurant we were dining at when my husband jokingly said, “I hope that someday, we have enough children to go through a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and a carton of eggs every day.” Under two years into our marriage, this was the first I’d heard of his quiet desires to have a larger-than-average family. Sure, we’d had all the traditional talks during our engagement about the question of “how many,” but children had been a rather silent topic since we’d tied the knot. I thought we’d both agreed to wait many years to start a family, and when we did start one, that we’d land on a number slightly above the 2.5 average (without stretching too far outside of our comfort zones). When my beloved brought up the prospect of a very full kitchen table, I balked at his proposal.
Catching a vision for our family
After the birth of our first son nearly three years into marriage, God was doing some major heart shaping in regards to our family plan. I can recall listening to a podcast of a couple sharing about their unexpected surrender of family size to God, and marveling at their faith. I saw my husband’s face light up when he watched fathers with a fuller-than-average quiver. We were exposed to some families that operated with many children to the glory of God in a way that was desirable and beautiful to us. In all of this, God was preparing to change, widen and stretch our preconceived ideas of what it meant to check children off of our marital to-do list. And as a culmination of these questions, in God’s good plan, we found out we were expecting twins (which quickly confronted any anxieties we had about being overwhelmed). This coincided with a desire for a more open-handed approach, especially when it came to preventing pregnancy as we examined our path forward.
This fall we will celebrate six years of marriage with four little boys in tow, and while we believe it is ultimately God who is in control of our future family size—we are hopeful that he will bless us with more little ones down the road.
Be open to God’s leading
Our story is unique to us in that each married couple must prayerfully approach scripture with wise counsel, seeking God’s vision for their own family in their specific circumstances. Some will pursue children with joy and be faced with trials of infertility, miscarriage, and difficult pregnancies. Some will fall in love with adoption and welcome orphans with open arms. Some will provide sacrificial love for needy children through foster care. Some will pursue large biological families. Some will hope for more children, but put child bearing on hold to deal with unexpected trials. And some will do all or none of the above. There is no perfect right answer or a one-size-fits all approach to a biblical family, but there are principles that apply to all of God’s people.
What is not unique to us is that many newlyweds find that their preconceived ideas or views about family change with years and maturity. They start out with a perfect idea of what life will be like, and quickly find that plan thwarted by personal or worldly brokenness. I don’t know any couples whose family has turned out quite as they expected, or that has been timed as perfectly as they mapped it out. Every Christian couple we know has faced a mixed bag of unknowns as God sanctifies them through blessings and challenges.
This perfect idea of family for newlyweds can quickly become an idol or an altar to which they are willing to sacrifice many things.
These are just a few examples of how family planning idols can take hold of a newlywed couple, and set them up for marriage struggles, compromises and personal disappointment. But I think there is another way…
A different type of journey
In hindsight, I wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off to begin with a biblical understanding of children, parenthood, child rearing and family planning to develop a personal philosophy instead of our ideal picture. Instead of agreeing to a set number of babies before we’d even traveled the road of marriage, maybe we should have set out on the journey armed with wisdom and prayer. As we came along to forks and bumps in the narrow path, we could have consulted the source of life for what to do next, instead of mourning the loss of a path we were never supposed to be on to begin with.
I wonder if other newlyweds could benefit from an open-handed approach as well, trusting a good and holy God for the future of their family instead of etching it out in stone, only to have the stone broken later. Because regardless of your lovely dreams, a few steps down the path of matrimony reveals that a secure hope rests in Christ alone, and not the picture of an ideal life. Learning to trust and look to Jesus in all things is what anchors our joy and allows us to grow in our covenant marriage, which in turn, makes a thriving environment for any children that God chooses to give as a blessing.
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