Yesterday, my wife and I announced to our family and friends that we’re expecting our fifth child. It’s sort of mind-boggling that we are up to five – in most first-world countries today, that’s definitely not the norm. In fact, for the United States in 2017, the total fertility rate (TFR) is only 1.8 children, which is below the “replacement rate” of slightly more than 2.0 for industrialized countries. I guess all that really is saying is that we have a “big family”. And it’s getting bigger.
What’s interesting is to discuss the topic of family size with friends, neighbors, and colleagues from different walks of life. Depending on a person’s background and beliefs, a larger family will seem either familiar/acceptable or weird/unconventional. I feel it has a lot to do with a person’s worldview and the “culture” they’re living in; if you’re surrounded by large families (and on good terms with them), it’s probably more likely that you’ll be agreeable to the idea of a larger family.
Of course, your worldview and beliefs on this topic may play a factor as well – as is the case in my life. The Biblical worldview generally holds large children in a positive light. Children are a blessing, gifts from God, and a heritage. Aside from the practical effects of having a larger family, which I believe far outweigh the costs of raising kids, the faith implications and learning are so incredibly important. I never captured a grasp of the kind of thoughts that God might have towards me until I became a father. I didn’t grasp the love of my Heavenly Father towards a variety of His children, each with their different needs, until I had multiple children, each with a unique personality and individual characteristics.
I especially appreciate the recent interview on the Ask Pastor John Podcast, regarding a tricky question about praying against pregnancy. Although I’m less concerned with John Piper’s view on this debate, what encouraged me the most was the Biblical perspective with which he closed his argument:
God knows your heart. He’s a merciful Father, and he loves children. But our having children is not his highest priority. His highest priority for his children is Christ-exalting faith and Christ-magnifying joy that overflows in meeting the needs of others. That’s his highest priority.
He loves big families with lots and lots of children — but not for their own sake, but for Christ’s sake. The issue is, Do our lives with many or few children magnify the greatness of Christ, whether married or not, and however many children we have?
And so, as we enter the season of child-bearing and the “baby stages” yet again, I’m challenged to think of my motives in training and raising all of my kids. I’m not growing this family just for the sake of having a big family, or for making me look good. It’s for the sake of Christ, and making Him look good.