The cover article for Time Magazine last week showed a cozy couple lounging lazily on the beach with the caption: “When having it all means not having kids.”
My first reaction to this image and message is a brief feeling of envy for the carefree couple–as my three kids swarm around me and my magazine reading moments come swiftly to an end.
Then I was sad.
The article highlights the growing number of people who chose to remain childless. (Please note: this article does not, in any way, speak to couples struggling with infertility. Its scope is limited to those choosing to skip the fertility route altogether.) According to the article, there’s just enough archaic American thinking left in our nation to make these couples or individuals feel alienated and persecuted for their lack of offspring.
Poor them. But perhaps they’ll find consolation in their hefty bank accounts and luxury vacations, eh? Any isolation will surely dissipate as they survey their living rooms full of beautiful, spotless quality furniture unstained by greasy little fingers (she writes as she spots a sticky fragment of lollypop ground into the carpet nearby).
First, let me say that having children does not in any way make anyone instantly more righteous or virtuous. But the assumption that skipping out on child-rearing will result in “having it all” cuts against the heart of the Christian belief: to find our lives, we lay them down in sacrifice for others. The Gospel is the slayer of self-indulgence. If someone chooses to remain unmarried or childless for the sake of kingdom work, Paul would applaud them, and so should we. But the images included in the Time article don’t show couples with their sleeves rolled up in volunteer work, free to serve others unhindered, but rather shows them in luxury surroundings, pursuing their favorite interests and hobbies. This, apparently, is having it all.
In his post, “Are We Ready for Christians Considering Childlessness?” Steve Watters challenges us to be prepared to see this attitude reflected in the church, and to be ready to respond to it.
When I consider the logical conclusions of unbelievers, I totally get the childless life. Stay young, stay beautiful, get wealthy, seek pleasure in sex without consequences. But Watters wants to know if we are ready to respond to believers who have bought into the world’s self-serving message?
I can’t say that I am fully ready. Each situation is unique and fraught with complexity. But maybe it’s not about stocking an arsenal of arguments for child-rearing. The Gospel we preach, teach, and share is a paradigm-shifting, perspective-changing, worldview-turning Gospel. We cannot love Him, trust Him, or study His Word without being changed. When we believe we were created, rather than evolved, we find a new purpose in looking to the design of the Creator in reproduction. We read the words of Christ that “whoever loses his life will find it,” and we consider the implications for our lives.
For the unmarried, the single, and the infertile couple, we must tread carefully; they are being sanctified for glory by their Father apart from the mortar and pestle of parenting. We teach Truth, preach the Word, and trust the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of the people of God–Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
The child-free life is a Gospel issue. But the heart-change necessary is Spirit-work, the softening of self-will to the will of God and the sacrificial example of Christ. We might be more effective if we continue in prayer, in service, in the work of the ministry, and let this glorious Gospel take root. The outworking will come.