Monday, January 12, 2009

No Regrets on a Large Family

Recently I was talking with some friends about regret and it seemed the common thought was that regrets can be used by the devil to squish us. On the other hand, it's good to examine our lives. We need to take ownership of our sin and look behind us once in awhile to see the wake of destruction left by our actions.

I have many regrets but I was thinking of one big thing I've done that I don't regret. It was the decision to have a large family. Or more accurately, the decision not to interfere with God's desire to give us a large family.

We believed what Psalm 127:3-5 says: Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

When we were married, it was accepted that babies came with marriage. I can't think of anyone I knew who would have thought of completely rejecting children. Even in 1978, the idea of birth control was not accepted in Christian circles as it is today.

Few people seem to know that prior to 1930, every Christian church rejected contraception as morally wrong. It was the Anglican Church, in 1930, that opened the door and look at where they are today. In 1931 the Federal Council of Churches (forerunner of the National Council of Churches) in the United States followed by endorsing "the careful and restrained use of contraceptives by married people," at the same time admitting that "serious evils, such as extramarital sex relations, may be increased by general knowledge of contraceptives."

Here is what an editorial in the March 22, 1931 Washington Post said,

Carried to it's logical conclusion, the committee's report, if carried into effect, would sound the death knell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be "careful and restrained" is preposterous.
We've come a long way baby!

Anyway, early in our marriage, we decided to leave the number of children to God. Our first baby boys, twins, were born about a year after we were married. They were premature, born at five months, and didn't survive the birth. We had to trust God in that.

Two girls and three boys followed. Then a baby boy died within weeks of when he was due to be born. What sorrow that brought. We had to trust in the goodness of God.

Three more boys followed and then a final child died in the first months of pregnancy.

So we have eight kids we get to see regularly and four we will get to see in heaven.

Marriage and children have challenged me to be a better person. Both regularly show me how selfish I am and many other lessons I have a hard time learning.

I'm glad that we had a simple faith in those early days. I'm glad the decision on the number of children wasn't based on what we could afford. I've seen God increase our income through the years as the gift of more children was given. Here is what Matthew Henry said: "Children are God's gifts, a heritage, and a reward; and are to be accounted blessings, and not burdens: he who sends mouths, will send meat, if we trust in him." I've not always been faithful in taking advantage of the opportunities that God has given but that has been my fault and not His.

In all honesty, I would admit that raising children is much harder than we ever imagined. There has been a cost in other ways too. We drive old cars, shop at thrift stores and scrimp and scrape most of the time. I know our kids have felt deprived at times, but there are things that are of more value than private bedrooms, fancy clothes, new cars, bank accounts, and other things that money can buy.

Children indeed are a gift. My wife and I are rich in blessings. For that, I have no regrets.

Philip

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