A little over a week ago, my wife and I welcomed our third daughter, Lucy Virginia, into the world. It was an excruciating yet thrilling experience, and the joy never diminishes with each child. I think it actually increases.
I cannot tell you, though, how many people have asked us, “Is this your first one?” We usually smile sheepishly and admit it is our third. I keep encountering this assumption in society that young people should wait to have kids. I can see it in the age of other parents when we take our girls to the playground. Like many of my peers, I had been encouraged even from high school to stick to the pattern. Go to college. Find a spouse. Graduate. Get married. Finish up graduate school (for some of us). Get an established, well-paying job. Enjoy life a little… then have children. If you want. It is almost as if we were being told not to grow up.
And I accepted this advice with no questions asked. A lot of people I respected suggested it or seemed to imply it, so I figured it was the wisest path to follow. Then one day during my graduate school years we were hanging out at my cousin’s house, trying to talk over the noise of his two (or was it three?) kids. He mentioned in passing, “Yeah, people talk about it being hard to have kids, but you can do it.” I don’t think he was trying to persuade me, but God wedged that casual comment in my brain, and I couldn’t get it out. I decided to do a Bible study.
And you know what I found? God consistently portrays having children as a sign of divine blessing. Let me share my favorite passage of Scripture that talks about this truth.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
This Psalm makes two truths clear. First, we are dependent on the Lord for everything (building houses, watching cities, balancing work and sleep). Second, having children is an incredible blessing the Lord alone can provide.
As I write this, I am sensitive to friends and family who have either lost a child or never been able to enjoy the blessing of children. To me, their stories provide a stark, painful contrast to the self-centered assumption in our society that rearing children is an inconvenience to be delayed or avoided. So many long for their own child in this life while scores more neglect having children or, God help us, murder them. I cannot comprehend God’s plan for those who endure this pain of withheld blessing, but I can, with Jesus, remind them that God has blessed them with “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30). There is no stigma for the child of God; every believer is blessed to be a part of his heavenly family.
And we should not downplay blessings in the Bible. The reality that children are a blessing motivates us to have them. God does not drive us from behind with a stick; he attracts us with the beauty of blessing. And beyond this initial blessing, we have the blessed opportunity to make little disciples within our homes. To be clear, I am not specifying how many or how often. I am simply saying, with the psalmist, “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” And we need to reclaim this lost ground in the church.