I guess a better title might be “The Danger of *saying* you’re trusting God.” Or maybe just, “We’re trusting God too.”
Barbara at Mommy Life is working on an article about Evangelicals (basically non-Catholics) who have given up birth control and are trusting God for their family size. She acknowledged “full-quiver” (having as many children as you can?) isn’t exactly what she’s trying to talk about.
The comments are full of personal stories, some quite inspiring, and (though I haven’t finished going through all of them) thankfully free of calls to sameness or the implication that all Christians are called to this type of obedience.
Jay and I haven’t felt called to this type of “openness to life.” We’ve felt peace about three biological children being the appropriate number for my body, and expect that to tie into plans God is giving us for when they are older.
My difficulty with this (and the reason for this post) is– you guessed it– the language.
There is no way (I have yet found) for a couple to express their calling to a large family (or whatever number they’re given, free of the plans of men) without somewhere, in some way, saying they’re “trusting God.” The unfortunate opposite of that is, of course, implying not trusting God.
I believe that couples (assuming they have sought God rather than only their own plans) can still be “trusting God” when they use contraceptives.
I feel very strongly that there are very few medical (or conscionable) reasons to use hormonal birth control or IUDs. There is enough question–some will say proof– about their abortifacient nature that I don’t think a pro-lifer should use them without careful consideration.
That said, I do believe there are contraceptive methods that are quite acceptable choices for believers.
I think of it as a stewardship issue, and compare trusting God for your family size to trusting God for your family finances.
Some people, frequently those in some type of ministry, are called to rely utterly on God (usually through the generosity of fellow believers) for their physical needs. These people have the thrill of seeing God’s promises in action.
As a teenager I got to see this in my own family when my father returned to school and our family lived on my mother’s part-time job(s). It was exciting to watch God provide again and again. Absolutely faith-building, and I’m glad to have had the experience.
I am also very thankful today to be married to a professional, educated, wage-earning man.
We are still trusting God to provide for our needs. Currently, God is providing what we need through Jay’s regular paychecks. Our role is (for Jay) to keep working faithfully and with excellence, and (for both of us) to use wisdom in the choices we make concerning how it is spent.
In the same way, we feel God has blessed our family with three children, and that three is His fullness at this time. (It is actually one less than we had “planned” when we were engaged.)
We now make choices that amount to stewardship of our bodies, in the same way that we make choices about the money God has given us. I suppose we could be giving away all our money ( “to the Lord’s work,” of course) and letting God supply all our needs without Jay’s paycheck.
That would look really spiritual and godly (and might take more faith than I have just now), but we don’t feel God is calling us to that type of a lifestyle.
Any of the reasons to deny that lifestyle could be construed as selfish, just as any reasons we may give to “stop” having children. But we aren’t supposed to let appearances change our minds and shake our faith when we rub up against the world. Should we let appearances cow us when we rub against believers who see things differently?
Naturally these questions pre-suppose you’ve sought God, and aren’t relying only on your own feelings and preferences. But even so, I’ve noticed that God is remarkably gentle when it comes to my feelings and preferences. He did design me, after all, and put in me the personality I was born with.
The point is, obedience may look different for each of us.
Even as we have reached the stage of “limiting” rather than “spacing” (as the Catholic CCL terminology puts it), we are confident that we are in obedience, and therefore that we, too, are trusting God.
I like this post. Trusting God means, in my mind, that we do our best while acknowleging (sp) that we cannot do it all. And acknowledging (sp?) that every one else is doing that too, whatever it means. We are all different. I know a couple who has 10 children. I could not do that. But niether of those numbers, my 4 and their 10 makes either of us any more or less spiritual than the other.
(Although I know of people who do believe that family size will be a determining factor in exaltation. I do not agree.)
Good post – I hope to comment more thoroughly on this post when I have more time. Working on a post of my own regarding my story I shared on my Barbara’s call for comments for that article.
Wow this is an excellent post! You’ve been able to express in words things I’ve been thinking too. My husband and I have chosen to delay when we start having kids a few years so we can work on getting to a financial place where I can stay at home full-time and we won’t be so tight on pennies. However, we know that God may have different plans in mind… so we’re going along with our current plans, knowing that we’ll be okay if He changes them. We’re praying that He leads us about family size, too – we’re thinking 3 but we have no clue how my body is going to react to pregnancy. I love your analogy of family size to being wise with your finances. That’s a great example, in my opinion. My parents are missionaries, so they “trust God” for their salaries. We have steady jobs and regular paychecks – does that make us less trusting of God? Great stuff to think about.
This is a fantastic way of looking at this sensitive subject. Thank you for putting your views out there!
This would have made a great “What I Believe” post… in fact, if you want, feel free to submit it on Thursday!
I only had to read one post here to understand why DeDee gave such a glowing report. You’re an amazing writer.
I find it so sad how judgemental some people are about this issue. Their choice to “trust in God” implies a lack of trust on the part of those who carefully plan their families. I admire their faith, but I find their attitude to be, well, not exactly Christlike.
It also displays a worrying trend towards fatalism. What’s the point of being here on this earth, having trials and struggles that we’re meant to learn and grow from, if we abdicate our responsibility and try to put it back in God’s hands? I think He wants more for us.
So what wording would you suggest to fill the gap? For those who are not controlling the timing and number of their children as an act of obedience to what they believe God is asking them to do, how do they word that succinctly?
That’s a really good question, Becky.
The first thing that pops into my head is the alternate “Waiting on God.” This would, perhaps, convey your reliance on His timing, coupled with an implied expectation or anticipation. That would sound (to my ears) positive.
The problem is that no matter what line you choose (or I give you) this choice/lifestyle is always going to take some measure of explanation in our culture.
Continual explanation is not necessarily bad, but I’ll agree it can definitely get tiresome.
It’s only fair to add that my suggestion can have the same problems as “trusting God” for some couples, but it works really well from where I sit, because I know I’m not “waiting” in relation to children any more.
Since I feel God’s given me His answer to the How many? question I view it in much the same vein as I do my waiting for a husband: that season was real, appropriate and necessary, and now, through God’s grace and provision, is over.
I enjoyed this, too, but does this philosophy leave room for unexpected pregnancies in families who have tried to be responsible stewards of their reproduction and their families in the way they suggest? That’s what REALLY requires explanation in our culture, because if you haven’t “planned” for a particular child’s conception, and the child comes anyway, it generally implies some deficiency or irresponsibility on the part of the parents.
And yet, then especially, we are truly called to “trust God,” no?
So I find myself currently expecting #3–EXACTLY the number my husband and I “planned” on when we were first married, and yet only 1 of the 3 has been consciously “planned.” It is obvious why God sent our first child, not so obvious yet why we have been blessed with the baby who will be born in October or November (if the “why” of the matter is even important, which I doubt).
But this is not exactly a case of “waiting” on God–rather, it’s as if God has been “waiting” on us to give him the opportunity to give us more children. Women in my family are very, very fertile, and stay that way for a long, long time. I’m not “planing” on having 10 children, but on a level, I have to acknowledge the possibility, even if I do “plan” otherwise. . . I’m not just letting things happen as they will, but there is still room for plans to turn out differently.
For me, that’s where the trust comes in. Is that more neutral, then, or is it still problematic? I do agree and appreciate much of this, I was just wondering if you could “flesh it out” a bit more! :)
About the language, yeah, I think it’s hard. I said that in the original post. Probably there’s nothing that will work for everyone.
About the couple looking irresponsible– that might be unavoidable (especially in our current era).
I chatted with a woman just the other day, whose father asks her if they’ve got a plan in place after two *utter* surprises. She tells him they’re trusting God, which he interprets as them being irresponsible, with no plan, and she tells me it means they haven’t found something that both works and is ethical.
But really, whether a child is “planned” or not is something that is really no one’s business. Questions about whether this child or that was planned have become nearly offensive to me, as if that is relevant in any way. There is no functional purpose to the question. Will your response vary based on my answer ( “Oh, I’m so sorry!”)?
I was present when an older Christian woman praised a new mother and child with words that described the child as planned, desired, and so special because he’d been wanted for so long. And there were no less than three babies present (with their mothers) who were the opposite of planned– “merely” accepted as God’s proper timing (far) apart from any of our own.
I was not offended at that point (I loved both sisters too much) but deep inside I felt grieved at the message.
Once a fellow asked me some question about, hmmm, whether our children were planned.
Or, to set it up better, I was making some joke about the first time I took a pregnancy test I was thinking, I’d better be pregnant or something in my body is *really* screwed up.
I meant it as a joke– that kind that goes with the utter newness of hormonal screwiness.
And this guy says, “Oh, so N wasn’t planned?” And I felt inexplicably riled and slightly less concerned about discretion.
“When we married we didn’t even know if I could become pregnant,” I said. This garnered a gratifyingly shocked/wary look from him. He’s always afraid I’m going to say more about female-ness than he wants to hear. “I’ve ovulated 5 or 6 times since I’ve been married,” I told him. “The fact that I have 3 children is a sign of the hand of God in our lives.”
The fellow very carefully backed down.
~ ~ ~
One thing I love is that every birth control method– even sterilization— has a “failure rate.” That undeniable tying of sex and pregnancy. My continual awareness of this led to a funny story a few months back.
God is the true author of life. Our choices may display or limit our openness to His authorship, but those truly trusting God even as they practice birth control will recognize His hand in its “failure,” even as they are forced to adapt to a new reality.
I still remember a verse from Proverbs (probably re-written to rhyme) that I memorized as a child: “We can make our plans, but the final outcome is in God’s hands.” I always took away from this both that planning is not wrong and that what we choose is always subject to God’s creativity.
This may at times require us to humble ourselves, and admit we didn’t hear from God as clearly as we thought we did, or that we made some choices that led to the situation we’re currently living, contrary to our original plan.
In all this we trust that God is big enough to redeem every situation even (yes I know this is another conversation) if He didn’t expressly ordain it.
In my family, we didn’t even remotely think about being “planned” or not–in marked contrast to a high school friend who liked to taunt her little brother that he was an “accident”(!!!!!). So the scenario with the “much planned” vs. “merely” accepted (I like that) was very, very alien to my worldview growing up (and still, actually). I find it disturbing that so much emphasis is placed on “planning” that being “planned” or not is equated with being “valued” or not. Jen at Et-tu, Jen? recently posted a link to an article that argued, among other things, that babies who are the object of too much “planning” may actually be “over-valued”–that is, neurotically doted upon or spoiled, overprotected, or what have you. At any rate, it was an interesting argument. At its root, the question or supposition about planning a child–or 12 children–is rude, and it is scandalous that it should be brought up in casual conversation by the parents, much less introduced by friends, relatives, and/or strangers.
Your last statement certainly is provocative. That’s a difficult hair to split, no? But I know what you mean, and I based on a few scenarios I can think of, I agree.
Thanks for your moderate attitude on this topic. I have a lot to say about it, but I’ll save it for a post of my own!
I trust that God can allow me to get pregnant, no matter what type of birth control I am using.
My husband and I have decided that, like Angi said, no matter what type of birth control or not birth control we are using, God will decide when we get pregnant. I’ve found that while I’m on birth control that is easy to believe! I’ve come off birth control so that we can trust God and His timing and not feel like we are hindering it. However, since this, I have been paranoid that I’m going to get pregnant. We are applying for new jobs in the next month or two and I’m worried. Then I feel bad because am I not relying or trusting God? It’s very confusing. Anyone have any similar situations or advice?
I may try to write you a longer e-mail, but the short answer (since I doubt anyone else is still following comments anymore) is that for the “transition” from bc to non-bc living, I highly recommend The Couple to Couple League’s Natural Family Planning classes (ccli.org).
You’ll learn how much your awareness and timing of sex (within your body’s hormonal cycle) can affect the possibility– or probability– of pregnancy. There are times when sex simply cannot result in pregnancy, because there is no egg to fertilize.
But this is different (for some people) than “trusting God” as described here. It still involves an awareness of the possibility of pregnancy, and the option to choose whether to delay sex if not seeking pregnancy.