“Give me one good reason to have a child,” two of my friends recently asked me on separate occasions. Each had been married for about two years and were now thinking about whether or not to start a family. They could come up with many reasons not to have kids: the cost, the declining condition of our planet, the total life upheaval and the loss of personal freedom among others. But they weren’t so sure about reasons for having a child.
They aren’t alone. A quick search on the internet gives me more articles about why NOT to have kids than to have kids.
Some people want kids because they’ve always wanted to be a parent or there’s some innate desire in them to have a child. Some stumble into parenthood without intending to. Some do it because it’s “the next thing to do” after getting married. Others list out the blessings of having children: cuddles, free entertainment, personal growth and someone to care for them in old age. Still others cite the Biblical command to “be fruitful and multiply.” For me, I loved the idea of being able to witness the growth and maturation of another human being.
Yet, as I’ve carried their question around in my heart, I think there are deeper reasons for having at least one child, especially for those who profess to believe in Jesus. (Side note: The question of how many children to have is also a big one, which isn’t in the scope of this post. But I have written about my experience as an only child.) Here, friends, are my two most personally compelling reasons for having a child, either biologically or through adoption. One of the reasons is secondary to the other so I’ll start with the second reason first:
Reason Number Two
Raising a child is the most complete form of discipleship one can be involved in. As a parent, you have a unique opportunity to say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Having a person grow up in your home means that you have an enormous amount of influence in his/her life. Being involved in discipleship within the context of church community pales in comparison to having the 24/7 life-on-life learning that happens between parent and child. This, of course, is both amazing and scary at the same time. It’s amazing because of the hope it offers to the next generation if our children do decide to follow Christ’s example into their adulthood. It’s scary because it’s an enormous responsibility and we know we are all too fallible as guides. This is a good thing, though, because it pushes us toward relying on Christ to help us be good examples. Which leads me to my main reason…
Reason Number One
The primary reason for having a child is this: it is one of the most profound ways of immersing ourselves into the life of God’s love. Parenthood gives us the chance to know the Trinity like few other experiences and relationships can ever offer. The overwhelming feeling of delight that washes over me with one look at my daughter’s little crinkled nose gives me new insights into the Father-Mother heart of God. Turning down my daughter’s request for tortilla chips when she barely has two teeth helps me to understand God’s responses to some of my prayers. The daily grind of laundry, dishes, diaper changes and sleep deprivation with little or no appreciation challenges me to identify with the sacrificial way of the Cross that Jesus took. And the endless decisions about how to best raise my child turns my heart toward the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Before we decided to try for a child, I was hesitant because I didn’t know how I’d cope with the demands of having a noisy, dependent little person around me all the time. Being an introvert who needs tons of sleep, I was afraid I would either become a monster or fall into deep depression. I was afraid my limitations would impact my child negatively. Deciding to open myself to the possibility of being a mother was an act of faith. In these past two plus years (since becoming pregnant and having Allie), I can truthfully say that God’s love has carried me. Parenthood has drawn me into deeper spaces of being loved and loving in return.
Above all else, love is what matters most in life. Granted, there are many other relationships where we can grow in love, aside from being parents. But having children is one of the most effective ways for us to enter more deeply into the love of God. Some people are not called to be parents, and there’s no shame in that. In the end, we are accountable to God and God alone, so we don’t have to justify our lives to other people. However, if God gives you the opportunity, I urge you not to pass it up.
Love beckons. That’s one great reason to consider the craziness of parenthood.
Photo credit: Tim Chan