[Life 201 is a weekly advice column headed by pastor, counselor and RELEVANT Podcast member Eddie Kaufholz. Eddie answers questions and gives advice on issues you want to hear about. Email your questions here.]
I have been married for nearly 5 years to an amazing Jesus-following husband, we are doing well together and are part of a vibrant church. We are both in our late twenties, so you’d think we’d be perfectly set up to have kids. The only thing is, I don’t really feel like having children yet. I am not worried about finances or the future in general, but the thought just doesn’t excite me. The mountains of diapers and severe lack of sleep are standing out more clearly in my mind’s eye than the miracle of a new human being.
But recently, I’ve been hearing preachers and reading about how children are a gift from God and we are to be fruitful and multiplying if we get the chance. Which makes me wonder whether I’m disobeying God in this and being selfish or … well I don’t know, you tell me!
There are few phrases that I despise more than, “We’re trying to start a family.” I know what they’re saying, “We’ve checked off the boxes that we feel are necessary in order to bring a kid into the world and have quit our chosen method of birth control, so wish us luck,” but saying that seems just a little uncouth, doesn’t it? However, my real issue with “we’re starting a family” isn’t the the idea that you’re basically telling us that you’ve decided to have worry-free unprotected sex, but that somehow you aren’t a family without children. This is just not true.
You were a family the moment you stood on the alter and made a covenant bond from “this day forward.” You weren’t incomplete, waiting for someone else to finish the puzzle, you were a wonderful, married, creation. The problem is, something has morphed in the sphere of Christendom. As a body of believers, we’ve taken what the Bible says about reproduction and used it to make you (and countless others) believe that starting a family is the be-all, end-all. I think we’ve gotten this one wrong.
There is no Biblical mandate that says you have to have children. Now, before we get in a tizzy and start quoting Genesis 1:28 (“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’”) know this: God has blessed people with the ability to create more people—but He hasn’t required it. Genesis 1:28 is pointing out the truth that, up until this point, God was the only one who could produce kids. But now, because God loves us and created us in His image, we get the opportunity to not only reproduce, but love, choose, create, etcetera. He didn’t say we have to do this or we’re disobeying Him, He says we can do this and we should remember that children (and everything in life) is a blessing from Him—so remember to say please and thank you.
Which brings us back to you, Becca. It bothers me that you, your “amazing Jesus-following husband,” your awesome 5-year marriage, and everything you are has been somehow made to feel less-than because you’re not sure if you want to have children. It’s OK to not know.
Becca, kids aren’t for everyone. Sometimes, God just has other plans for your time and life (see Paul) and you’re never called to multiply. Additionally, children aren’t automatic. Just because someone wants to have a biological child, it doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily happen. Are individuals who are unable to reproduce or don’t get married somehow outside the blessing of God? I won’t even dignify that ridiculous question with a reply.
However, as you traverse this topic in your mind, I’d ask you to consider a few points:
First, are you interruptible? This is a trait we all need to be developing. For example, if God actually did want you to consider bringing a child into your home, would you be listening? Would you be willing to be uncomfortable because the Holy Spirit has nudged you outside of your comfort zone? It’s important to be interruptible, because God is in the habit of calling us to attention.
Second, have you done the mental gymnastics of fully exploring your aversion to kids of your own? Now listen, Becca, you’re right, sleep and diapers are the worst. Actually, you know what the worst is? Meal time. I feel like a hostage negotiator who is begging someone to just not starve themselves. In any event, parenting is hard. But so is marriage, work, relationships, community—yet you’ve managed to engage in those things.
Becca, I’m not presuming that there’s something deeper blocking you from wanting to be a parent. But if there is, you should take some time with God, your husband, a counselor, really anyone who you trust, to explore those reasons. Kids or no kids, it’s always good to check the rearview mirror for parts of our story that are still echoing.
Finally, and I’d be remiss for not saying this, but selfishly, I want you to have kids. As a guy who spent his twenties freaked out about having a child because I thought “they’d ruin my life” (not kidding, that’s an actual quote from me), I can tell you that being a parent is just the greatest. It is hard. Oh my gosh, it is so much work! But at the end of the day, it’s one of the greatest blessings God has ever bestowed upon me. So Becca, know that it really is fine to wait—or to never even have a kid. But if that time ever comes and God interrupts your life, be bold.
Also, adoption rules! I didn’t have a great place to inset that point into this response, but you should totally adopt a dozen kids.
Thanks for the wonderful question, Becca. Be present in today and trust that God will clear the road ahead.
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Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.