To Be Or Not To Be…Quiverfull, That Is

Posted on May 15, 2012 by

When I was the young mother of three children born in the space of 12 months, uninterested in living according to what the Bible said about anything, I thought we were done having babies. After the exhaustion  of caring for three wee ones was gone, and sleep became a reality again, I happily threw myself into the care and raising of my children, never imagining I would have any more.

As the youngest of our three children were turning 10,  we had a change of  heart. SAM wanted more, so we went for it. We have since been blessed with two more  children that none of us can imagine life without, and can hardly remember what life was like before they came.

An essential component of living according to the spirit rather than the flesh while being intellectually honest about the realities of life is devotion to prayer. Even more important when faced with an ever growing list of “you must do this to be holy”  requirements, is remembering that there is nothing we can do on our own to be acceptable God. We live by His grace.

After the birth of our youngest child I needed to come to terms with this truth as my husband and I, on the heels of what turned out to be a far more eventful delivery than we bargained for, wrestled with whether or not we should continue to have children. Of all my pregnancies, only the first was an easy one, free of complications. No amount of prayer has ever helped me to shake the feeling of foreboding that nags at me every time I go into the hospital to deliver a baby.

I’ll get to the Scriptures, arguments, and reasoning tied to this topic in just a minute. Before I do that,  I want to lay all my cards on the table because I know that my personal history plays a part in the conclusions I’ve reached. When considering my own complicated pregnancies in conjunction with the fact that I was the last child born to a woman who did not leave the hospital alive after giving birth, I have a lot of baggage here.

It also  bears mentioning that when this subject is discussed among Christian women on the Internet, the desires of  a husband are often ignored as if it is solely the decision of a wife whether or not the family continues to grow. It is not, and we are to submit to the desires of our husbands on issues not related to blatant sin and righteousness, and let the Lord deal with them as He wills. The burden of working to provide for a growing brood also largely falls to the husband. We should never forget that, either.

The default position of any married couple should be to be open to children. Many children. I do not believe that bigger homes, college tuition rates, team sports, global warming, music lessons, designer clothes, and the ability to vacation yearly are reasons enough for Christian couples to  avoid having more than 2 children. I was grieved when I received comments tinged with disapproval masked in humor when I was pregnant with our youngest child.  At church! What has happened to us that we view children as anything less than the blessing that the Bible says they are? Let’s  examine what the Scripture says about children:

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed,  But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.Psalm 127:4-5

And again:

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. Psalm 128:2-4

The question of course becomes, who determines when the quiver is full? Or how many children does one need to have around his table to be considered blessed? The answer 60 years ago would have been The Lord, of course. He is the only one who can open the womb, and until technology allowed us easily to hack into our reproductive systems,  He was the only One who could close it.

With the advent of hormonal  birth control, the power to control the number of children we give birth to was literally at our fingertips.  The Christian church at large initially rejected all unnatural forms of birth control . However,  just as the children of Israel allowed the ways of the surrounding people to infiltrate their lives and worship, it wasn’t long before the attitudes of the culture infiltrated  the church and we began to take control of the numbers of babies we welcomed into our families, even going so far as to ridicule couples who would declined to follow suit.

It is this trend that confuses the issue for families like ours, whose considerations go far beyond convenience, cultural trends and material comfort. I am thankful for the medical advancements that have allowed me to give birth to five babies under circumstances that cost mothers their lives in similar situations  just a few generations ago.

I have given a lot of thought. I have great respect for families who eschew birth control, trusting God in faith to provide for how ever many children He sees fit to bless them with. I pray that many more Christian families would reconsider this issue through the lens of Biblical truth and begin to make life affirming choices.

I have examined the words of believers who assert that quiver full is the only expression of genuine faith with regard to family size. I’m not sure that I disagree. And while I respect the women who profess that they would rather sacrifice their lives giving life to their child instead of  the alternative, part of me cringes because I have been the child left behind. Such statements sound as flippant as they do faithful because I know many of these women have no understanding of how difficult it is to be a young, motherless as a child. After much prayer, I have concluded that it is wholly acceptable for me to consider the lives of my existing children so long as my heart’s desire is to be open to life and children as much as possible.

On the other side of the equation are Christian women who assert that  this is not a salvation issue (I agree),  so there is absolutely nothing wrong with a couple deciding to restrict their family size for any and all reasons. That it’s no one else’s business. I appreciate the principle of marital privacy, but I am also quite frankly disturbed with the  lone ranger mentality that has gripped the church. There is a place for accountability and discussing these issues of life among believers with whom we have a close, trusting relationship. Our  much celebrated American rugged individuality has no place in the life of the church.

Even if it were true that there is nothing wrong with restricting family size for arbitrary reasons, and I am far from convinced that it is true, we should run as fast as we can from worldly trends. And the denigration of children and family is among this culture’s most aggressive trends. We are supposed to be  salt and light. A city set on a hill. We can hardly live up to that standard while walking in lockstep agreement with every standard the world sets. If we do, our salt is good for nothing other than to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. Unfortunately,  it seems this is often exactly how we are received. In the end, I have concluded that this issue isn’t nearly as black and white as we try to make it.

It occurs to me that I have offered nothing here to cut through the ambiguities on this subject, other than to interject my belief that ambiguities exist. What those are will be different from one couple to the next. As much as my heart wants to be quiver full, the realities of the life I live today, with the children I am blessed with now, makes it much easier to extol than do.

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