At work in recent weeks, it’s come up a few times that my wife is pregnant again. Naturally, the first question from strangers after congratulations is how many children we already have. I answer six. This will be our seventh (unless it’s twins). The inevitable second question is: “Don’t you know how that happens?”
More recently, someone phrased it as a statement. “You should really figure out what’s causing that.” And, of course, everyone who says something like this to us means we should stop. And they say it with a laugh like it’s obvious.
At least a handful of times guys have also asked whether I’ve considered getting snipped. To that I reply like Wesley in The Princess Bride. “Death first!” I have zero interest in the old Bob Barker treatment.
It all reminds me of comedian Jim Gaffigan talking about how the congratulations are far less enthusiastic with the announcement of your third or fourth child. At a certain point, people stop congratulating you and start responding with a tone of “well I suppose that’s one way to live your life.”
But in fairness, there’s two probable explanations these days when someone has as many kids as Lauren and I. Either they’re some sort of reckless bumble bee pollinating random flowers willy-nilly, or else they’re extremely religious – and presumably Mormon or Roman Catholic.
As it turns out, neither the extremely promiscuous nor extremely religious tend to make average folks feel extremely comfortable. And most strangers could be forgiven for hesitating until they figure out which, if either, camp we fall into, and for becoming awkward in the interim.
What Causes That
For the record, we are neither Mormon nor Roman Catholic.
And, yes, all six of these children are mine by the same woman – and the seventh one too.
And yes, we do know what’s causing that and how it happens. My wife was studying to be a nurse when we got married. She’s very familiar with the biology involved.
But what camp do we fall into? Why do we keep having all these kids?
To answer this question for inquiring minds, I would point to two things. First is what God’s Word, the Bible says about children. Second is the current mainstream view of children.
One of these two we are trying to embrace and pattern our lives after. The other – diametrically opposed – we invariably must deviate from to pursue something better.
The Bible Says Children Are A Blessing
What does the Bible say about children? Consider wise King Solomon’s Psalm 127.
“Unless Yahweh builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless Yahweh watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
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.
Behold, children are a heritage from Yahweh,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
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.”
A couple things are worth noting. For one, children are a blessing from God. For another, we see here a holistic picture of most men’s concerns about having children.
One man told me about some friends of his who were deeply concerned about current events. Unsure what quality of life their children might have if trends continue, he and his wife decided from the outset of their marriage to stop at one.
A friend of mine once told me he wasn’t sure he wanted to have any children. What if John’s apocalypse happened in our lifetime? He couldn’t bear the thought of seeing his children suffer that.
Yet King Solomon says God watches over both the house and city. Being anxious about the future of either is a waste of time because God is Sovereign.
With this in mind, the decision of how many children to have and when should be made with the long view. And we should remember that only God truly fully grasps the long view. Only he knows the beginning from the end.
What Is A Blessing?
Again, Psalm 127 says children are a blessing. But what does that mean?
Merriam-Webster defines blessing as follows:
1 the act or words of one that blesses;
2 a thing conducive to happiness or welfare;
3 grace said at a meal.
The second definition fits best here. That is, Psalm 127 says children are conducive to happiness and welfare.
And Solomon’s reason is clear. In this life a man will face adversity – sometimes in the form of personal enemies, other times merely difficult circumstances. Troubled times are no stranger or surprise to the Biblical narrative and Christian worldview. Yet, God willing, “the children of one’s youth” will not always be children. They will be men and women someday, hopefully established themselves well before we get old, especially if we have them in our youth. Then we will have in them allies and support during troubled times.
Think about life for most American families roughly a century ago. Most lived on farms and ranches and raised their own food. Every stout young boy who grew into manhood was another pair of hands to till, plant, and harvest. Every strong young girl who grew into womanhood was another pair of hands to milk cows, collect eggs, and tend the garden.
Before the agricultural revolution brought tractors and other such into the equation, a farm or ranch being more productive required more manual labor. Granted, each additional child born to a family was an additional mouth to feed. Yet for those accustomed to the cycle of sowing and reaping, the notion of devoting time and resources to additional children would have been rightly seen as an investment in future productivity.
Arrows In The Hand Of A Warrior
Further back in history, think of ancient warriors with swords, spears, bows and arrows. A man being attacked who was skilled with a bow stood the best chance of repelling an enemy the more arrows he had. Even the most skilled marksman misses sometimes. And the only thing for it when you’re under attack from many enemies is plenty of ammunition.
For a modern equivalent, I remember the decision-making process I went through when buying my first handgun several years ago. There’s so many options to choose from, but among the most important factors to me was capacity.
Some handguns – especially those chambered in larger calibers – only hold 6-7 rounds. My first thought about those was that I only have 6-7 chances to hit my target before I’m out of luck. That, or I’d better be an extremely good shot with that many attackers or less. In the end, instead of trusting to my skill and presence-of-mind in a moment of high stress such as being assaulted and needing to use a firearm, I opted for a piece that holds 15 rounds to a magazine.
Just so, King Solomon writes in Psalm 127 that a man who fills his family with children is blessed like a man who has many arrows in his quiver. Or, to put a modern spin on it, he is like a man who has a high capacity magazine for his firearm.
“He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate”
How The World Sees Children
In contrast, broader society views children as primarily a liability and expense. And you can thank the declining influence of the Bible, fewer family farms, and child labor laws for that.
A hundred years ago we would have had more children to help around the farm and care for us in our old age. Now we probably don’t live on a farm. And even the farmer who does has tractors that drive themselves by GPS. And soon the farmer will buy robots to milk the cows and feed the chickens. Maybe he has already.
And rather than the warrior filling his quiver with arrows, modern man just has a smartphone for dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency. Perish the thought of meeting one’s enemies at gates. Who does that anymore?
With all the abundance and convenience we now enjoy, the goalposts have moved on what is considered a bare minimum to support a family or care for children. Sufficiency now means the ability to order sundry things on Amazon whenever we like.
And who has the time or patience to raise their children to adulthood when we’ve become accustomed to free 2-day shipping on anything else in the world? Who has time to raise a family when there’s so much to amuse ourselves with? Or, if we will have some children, let’s not have so many that parenting them interferes with enjoying ourselves.
In sum, we are by and large too busy being children these days to raise our own.
Horrifically, many are willing even to murder their children through abortion to avoid the responsibility of parenthood. And when 60-million children have been aborted in the U.S. since abortion was legalized in 1973, it’s safe to say there’s something broken in our collective attitudes about family life and children.
The Children Of One’s Youth
Lauren and I celebrate our eleventh anniversary next month. We have six children. She’s pregnant with our seventh. I think back to our first year of marriage when Lauren was pregnant with our firstborn, Josiah. That’s when we stumbled across the website for Abort73.com and learned what abortion really was. That’s when it dawned on me how far off-course we’ve gotten in this country in our attitude towards children.
Our resolve then became simple: to view children as a blessing from God who have a purpose in this world; to thank God for children, and to do our best to be good stewards of the privilege and responsibility of raising and training however many he gives us.
For encouragement, I’ve looked at my Grandparents Mullet, Ernest and Ruth. They had nine children and raised them “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” At my Grandpa Mullet’s funeral this past February, his many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were in attendance. Who wouldn’t be here if Ernest and Ruth had stopped at one or two?
I think also of how my dad and his siblings have worked together caring for their parents in their old age. Yes, more children have more opinions. Not everyone always agrees. But ‘many hands make light work.’ In the long run, having more children means less of the weight of responsibility falls on each one when that time comes.
Lastly, all these guys getting snipped and not having kids because they’re expecting WWIII or the zombie apocalypse have it backwards. I think our survival odds drastically improve with a quiver or magazine full of five or six sons than with one or none.
And with that I say emphatically “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”