The big kids were bickering in the back seat as we drove home from church, and Leah was protesting being in her car seat. But they were all contained, Stephen and I were staring down a busy week, and I’d had a topic on my mind. “Let’s talk when would be a good time for the next baby.” So over the cacophony of our present children, we discussed some thoughts about a future one.
We’ve had conversations like this many times in our married life, but we talk differently on this topic than we used to.
Ask most young married couples about their family plans and they’ll almost certainly have an answer: “We want a few years to enjoy being a couple before we have kids,” “We’re going to start our family after we finish school,” “We want to have three biological kids and adopt one,” “We plan to have kids right away.”
Ask most married couples with kids about their family plans and they’ll almost certainly have an answer as well: “We’re done.” “We’re definitely not done.” “We are going to wait a few years before we have the next one.”
To hear us speak with such confidence about the hows and whens of our future children, someone who didn’t know better might conclude that family-building was as simple and predictable as placing orders on Amazon.
A few couples receive children exactly as they planned. But if you scratch the surface of almost every family, you’ll find elements of surprise: babies on the way sooner or in greater quantities than the parents expected. Children gratefully received after months that turned into years of “trying.” The invisible hurt of empty wombs or stilled heartbeats: children hoped for but never embraced.
For almost everyone I know, family building has been a great test of faith. It’s one area of our lives where our prescriptions, our technology, our doctors, our understanding of human biology promise us complete control; yet somewhere along the way, most of us are confronted with this simple truth:
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
(Proverbs 19:21 ESV)
So we take our pills or chart our basal temps, we schedule prenatal visits or home studies, we write checks to clinics and hospitals and agencies. But under it all, we are reminded that it is God who builds our families, not us. If and when children are given, we celebrate them as precious gifts. If and when children are not given, we recognize that as a different kind of gift–maybe an opportunity for a special ministry, an opportunity to wait patiently for a better time, or an opportunity to open your heart and home to an orphan.
So sure, we dream and we plan and we take action (or don’t!) as wisely as we can. But in my conversations, I’m trying to let my language reflect what I know to be true:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
In our family, we think we want to let Leah get a little older and then have one more baby (I’d love a boy to keep things even). Stephen and I hope all four of these children will live happy lives and will all be there to bury us both. But we write these plans humbly, and in pencil, knowing that ultimately our desire for our family is not any of these specifics but Thy Will Be Done.
So grace and peace to all of you friends who are in the middle of this process of family-building (it doesn’t end, by the way, when your last baby is born!). May you rest in the truth that God is great and God is good, and that in your home he is building exactly the family you need, however it may or may not look like your life plan.
P.S. I feel confident in my premise here. But in case you need extra encouragement, here’s John Piper on those verses from James:
So what is the point? The point is that for James, and for God, it matters whether a true view of life informs and shapes the way you think and how you speak about your plans. Your mindset matters. How you talk about your plans matters. Ponder this. Believing that your life is a vapor may make no practical, bottom-line difference in whether you plan to do business in a place for one month or one year or ten years. But, in James’ mind – and he speaks for God – it makes a difference how you think about it and talk about it.
Why? Why does that matter? Because God created us not just to do things and go places with our bodies, but to have certain attitudes and convictions and verbal descriptions that reflect the truth – a true view of life and God. God means for the truth about himself and about life to be known and felt and spoken as part of our reason for being. You weren’t just created to go to Denver and do business; you were made to go to Denver with thoughts and attitudes and words that reflect a right view of life and God.