“I just want you to know that I think you’re a very talented mother.” My friend continued speaking for a moment, and I almost dismissed her seemingly off-handed comment. I was about to begin a very long road trip and supposed that she was simply offering words of encouragement as an extension of her farewell. She began gesturing to my three young boys all buckled in their car seats. Then suddenly her meaning became clear. “Right,” I interjected, cutting her off, “And I’ll have four kids when you do!” Though I’m positive she knew I was only half serious, she was overcome with joy. She laughed as she put her hands on her growing flanks, already four months down the pregnancy path.
“I will not forget this promise!” she offered with obvious excitement.
A week earlier, my three boys and I had driven from Minnesota to winter for a short time in Loma Linda, California. We were staying with my friend and her growing family. We have known each other since our teenage years and feel free to be candid. A few nights before leaving, she and I had indulged in a late night discourse. As every new mother knows, as soon as you have one baby, people want to know if you’re “done” and, if not, when the next one will be on the way. After attending several reunions of family and friends, the question presented itself on almost every occasion and then again on a deeper level as I sat with her late that evening.
“God said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ It’s God’s will, you know,” she reminded me.
“Yes, I remember, but I’m not sure if He said that before or after the Fall.”
“I’m pretty sure God said it after the flood,” she responded.
Neither of us had exact Bible texts tripping off our tongues that night. But to bolster her argument, she offered the following additional reasons to convince me to have more children:
- You are a Bible-believing, God-fearing Christian—an Adventist no less.
- You have a college education (which I suppose she correlated with intelligence).
- You are relatively stable financially (which as we all know can rapidly change).
- You have good birthing hips (with which I unfortunately couldn’t argue!)
After listening to her rhetoric in favor of having more children, an eisegetical twist on Christ’s parable of the talents came to mind.
“So if you genuinely think that I am extra-ordinarily talented at having children, it only makes sense to interpret Christ’s parable substituting babies for money.”
“Exactly! You wouldn’t want to bury your talent for having children and be called an unfaithful steward, would you? You’ve got to invest that thing! You are a talented mother!”
“What’s the verse about children being a reward?”
“I don’t remember where it’s found, but a Bible text says that children are an ‘heritage’ of the Lord and that we are blessed if our ‘quiver’ is ‘full of them’.”
“I feel like my quiver is full with three boys, especially since they are so close in age.”
In the midst of our conversation, we were interrupted by a formerly sleeping child who needed assistance, and we each made for our own sleeping quarters.
The next day, a child’s birthday party inspired the ‘are you done?’ question by another friend.
“Oh yes, unless God blesses us with another one. We’re not planning on having any more, though. My husband is open to having more, so I told him that it’s his turn--he can have the next one.”
“You know, you really should pray about it. Your boys are wonderful, and you seem like you’re well-rested,” she told me. She then told of her ‘Spirit-led’ grandmother who gave birth to over ten children during a time when having such a large family was unpopular in her circle.
The same week I met a beautiful Mormon mother as I relaxed in a hot tub. She had three children with her which I later learned were less than half of her brood. I inquired about the practicality of having seven kids.
“When they’re small, it’s hard to keep things organized but it just gets better every day. It is so wonderful. You should think about having more,” she recommended.
I could not help but wonder if she were truly of the opinion that I should have more children just for the sake of having more, or if she really meant that I should have more children and become more Mormon. I reflected further on the idea of having more children just because one can, for the purpose of church growth, or even due to an official church position on birth control.
As an Adventist mother, it is a solemn responsibility to consider multiple dimensions when planning family size. Since the Adventist church does not express an official view on contraception, but rather prioritizes reasoning based on Biblical principles, it is imperative that we use our God-given faculties to help guide our decisions. There is more to consider than simply good birthing hips and a desire for more children. Further, it is important to remember that we actually do have a choice in the matter. We are not necessarily predestined to have a certain family size by letting things simply move along naturally.
The question of how many children one should have needs to be carefully considered in the context of resource availability, social responsibility, considerations about character formation, and the ultimate destiny of the children we bring into this world. God has called us to think and plan and not simply to react. Though it would be far easier to have a clear-cut ecclesiastical mandate, it is actually more glorifying to God and Spirit-led to make intelligent decisions in the context of an active relationship with the Creator. In all aspects of our lives, and no less in family planning, God seems to be more interested in helping us work out the answers to our questions with sound reasoning than our simply succumbing to chance interpreted as His will.