Okay, I know I said my next post would be non-controversial, but I thought this comment needed a place of its own on my blog. My hubby wrote this, and he articulated many of my points much better than I did. I knew there was a reason I married him!
Kate makes a good point about the role of age in maturity. We should hope that as we grow up we will do a little “growing up”, and usually this is the case. This line of thinking can be taken too far, however, if it becomes a vehicle for excuses and not an explanation for change over time. “Teens will be teens”, for example, isn’t a valid excuse for teenage rebellion and selfishness does not really come from being young – it comes from our sin nature. I knew a lot of people who when they just turned twenty were a lot less selfish than others who were much older.
Also, circumstances impact how we mature. A child constantly indulged by his parents will be a shameful, self-indulgent adult – circumstances matter. This doesn’t necessarily mean that having children early in your twenties will make you less selfish than someone who waits until they are thirty. You can selfishly despise your children for shackling you while you are young; but if that is the case then you are not living by faith and trusting in the promises of God. If you live by faith, God uses the children to sanctify you, which is to say that you will be less selfish because of your children. This doesn’t just apply to having children, though, the principle is universal – taking communion without faith, reading scripture without faith, or disciplining your children without faith will always end poorly.
Dealing with selfishness need not be the only reason to want children when you are young. Our view of the biblical mandate to have children is important and we should shun elevating popular wisdom above scriptural wisdom. It is possible that waiting to have children is more honoring to God than having them immediately. We are not all cut with the same cookie cutter and Godly wisdom must prevail in each situation. When it comes to specifics, what is good for you may not be good for me; but in principle, what is good for you is always good for me, and that means that we should all read the bible and come away with the same high view of children and family and the same low view of worldly wisdom.
Unfortunately there exists an evil kind of individualism in Protestantism (at least in America) that sometimes makes what I have just said taboo among Christians. In some ways childbearing is a very private matter, but it is also a covenant matter. We are members of a community and we are not called to be individuals with a private faith, we are called to be members of a community whose Lord is Christ. I think the issue of childbearing and childrearing needs to be discussed in the church in a way that is deliberately contra mundum. I believe a lot of good would come from it.
Popular psychology usually has enough truth in it to be appealing to Christians, but more often than not it is anti-biblical. We should live in fear of conforming the Bible to our minds and a good first step would be to eschew any conventional wisdom that doesn’t find its support in scripture. Where in scripture are we advised to enjoy the first few years of marriage without children? Where are we told to take time to learn to love our spouses before we bring children into the picture? This advice is peddled by Christian counselors and psychologists, but it is not biblical, and we accept it because it is immensely convenient to our individualism and hedonism. Vacations, together time, and date night do not weigh heavily in scriptural promises of blessing; raising godly children most certainly does (Psalm 127:3-5).
Finally, I will say that there is a real danger of becoming judgmental in this matter. Thankfully, we are not called to divine the reasons why each couple does or does not have children and then issue our judgment on the matter. We have not been deputized as the childbearing police to inquire of each of the childless why they haven’t started pumping out the babies. We should admonish one another to think biblically, however, for the purpose of living rightly before God.