Children: Burden or Blessing?
“Say goodbye to date nights!” “Better catch up on that sleep now because you won’t be getting any.”
“You won’t have any free time, so use it now.”
If you have ever been pregnant, these statements might sound familiar. These are the types of remarks I received when I was expecting the birth of our daughter last year. I was amazed at the amount of negativity that was associated with having children. Along with the (unsolicited) advice I received came warnings of nightmares to come. Even now that my daughter is 15 months old, I still receive those warnings from other random parents in the grocery store: “Enjoy it now! Just wait til she starts talking!”
Over and over the message I hear is this: children are a burden and an inconvenience. How sad that one of the most exciting adventures we are privileged to embark on is often clouded with pessimism. I think the main reason children are viewed so negatively is they keep us from being able to do what we want when we want to do it. Before our daughter was born, my husband and I could pick up and go wherever we wanted to go at a moment’s notice. It didn’t matter how late it was or if was naptime or not, we just went. If I wanted to go shopping for a few hours just for fun, I could do that. I didn’t have a heavy car seat to carry around, and didn’t have to fit all of my shopping into the few hours in between naptime. I could visit friends or work an extra few hours and it wasn’t a problem. Now that has all changed.
But as I look to the Bible, I am left with only one option as to how view children: they are a blessing. 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.” I think the very reason many people consider children a burden is actually the very reason they are a blessing!
God is in the business of conforming us into the image of His son, Jesus, (Rom 8:29) who gave up His rights as God to serve and save mankind through sacrificing His very life (Phil 2:3-11). What better way to become made into the image of Jesus than to become a parent? This gift of a little child forces us to give up our right to what we want for their wellbeing. All those long nights of rocking her to sleep and the way she limits my freedom to go do what I want remind me that this life is not about me and what I want. She allows me to daily practice the command to “do nothing from selfishness, but consider others as more important than myself.” (Phil 2:3) As a follower of Jesus, I am grateful for how becoming a parent has accelerated the process of dying to myself.
In addition to practicing self-sacrifice every day, being a parent has caused me to depend on the grace of God in a deeper and more constant way. Whether Lively is screaming in the grocery store because she is teething, or struggling to fall asleep at night, I am forced to run to God in prayer for patience, guidance, and peace. These small inconveniences keep close to Him on an hourly basis. And anything that causes me to depend on Him more is a blessing. It is much better to do life dependent on God than on my own resources. That is why 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 tells us that we are strongest in our weakness because it is God’s grace we are depending on.
But more than anything, what most excites me about parenthood is the ability I have to change the world. No one influences a person more than his or her parents. For better or for worse, our parents have affected and influenced our lives in such a deep, profound way that it has shaped the trajectory of our life. Any therapist can tell you this is true. The most powerful and long-lasting impact I will make on this world is how I invest in and raise my children. If I raise them to be confident men and women who know the Truth of the Word of God and have their eyes set on Jesus as the greatest privilege and priority of their life, this world will be a different place. How I raise them will also affect what kind of parents they will be one day to our grandchildren, and then to their children after that. The impact is exponential!
I see no greater privilege and honor than to invest myself in raising our children. And that starts with these early days of little sleep and little time for myself. What an infinite blessing our little daughter is. Through her, God is bringing death to my self-centeredness, drawing me closer to Himself in dependence on His grace, and allowing me the opportunity of a lifetime to bring about world-change. Is it more fun to do what I want when I want? Of course. Is it easier to not have to depend on God so much? Sure. But I have the great blessing and honor of becoming conformed into the likeness of my Savior and True Love, Jesus, while making an impact on this world for His Glory. Not to mention the conduit of these things happens to be the cutest, sweetest, most precious little girl I have ever laid my eyes on. How could life get any better?! Children: an inconvenience and a burden? Not a chance. There couldn’t be a greater blessing in my life!