My daughter wants to be a doctor. She enjoys visits to the Doctor's office and the hospital, even if it means getting stitches. I have to admit, the world of medicine is fascinating to me as well. When she is a teenager, if my daughter still wants to pursue medical training, I plan to gear her education towards that goal. I want my daughter to be an educated woman.
This may seem strange in light of the fact that I also plan on training my daughter in the art of homemaking. I want her to grow up desiring to embrace the call of a wife and mother and to make her home the sphere of her primary responsibility without compromise. That may mean never working as a doctor.
I want my daughter to be educated and pursue university because I expect that she will embrace the large and diverse role of wife and mother. Because I want her to be able to engage her husband and house guests in interesting conversation. Because being a wife is not akin to being a slave, but rather of helpmeet and advisor. She needs to be able to help her husband in every aspect of decision making. I want my daughter to educate her own children.
Above all though, I want my daughter to be filled with wonder at her Creator. An intricate knowledge of biology with our Creator in view only makes Him more amazing and awe inspiring and worthy of worship and praise. Education is only a means of knowing God more fully. This is an education worth pursuing and passing on to future generations.
It is tempting to think that once we have gone through a period of trial or suffering that we won't go through another season of suffering again. I am tempted to believe that because He chose to take one of my infant children home, He won't take anymore. The temptation is to go back to that naive form of thinking that says "God will protect me. Nothing bad will happen to me." But deep down, I know that is not true. He may choose to strike me down again and again and again.
The problem with believing that a good God wouldn't allow our suffering is that when we do suffer, and the Bible teaches that we will suffer, we are forced to grapple with a view of God that has been shattered. It often leaves us helpless and without a foundation to stand on. It can cause a person to deny the existence of God at the worst or at best to see Him as distant, uncaring and powerless. We can then fall into the trap of trying to control our situations, blaming others, blaming ourselves and playing the 'what if?' and 'if only' game over and over in our minds.
On the other extreme is to live in fear of what God is going to do next. It is the constant wondering of when the next trial is going to arrive. Doubting that the next pregnancy will end well and fearing that it will end in miscarriage or stillbirth. Expecting daily that today will be the day my child dies of crib death, or I'll receive that phone call informing me my husband has been in an accident, or one of my children goes missing. For me, this is the most difficult temptation not to succumb to, because I know, I know that it could happen because it has happened. So the temptation is to tell myself God won't let me suffer again or to lay awake night after night in anxious worry.
Anxiety is sin and it consumes. Lying to myself will not bring lasting peace. I long to be a woman who laughs at the days to come and so I find I often need to refocus my mind in the way I view God and myself.
First I need to remind myself of the true nature and character of God. He is a good God. He is a loving God. He is the giver of life and every good gift. Suffering does not compromise His character or these truths. In the face of my anxious moments, days and nights I need to remind myself that "He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him," and "that He has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future." When I am tempted to be anxious I have lost sight of who God truly is. I have seated a false god on the throne of my heart.
The second thing that has to happen is to humble myself. We are told in 1 Peter to humble ourselves and cast all our anxieties on the Lord. When I am tempted to anxiety, I am really making much more of myself than I ought. I am more focused on my own comfort and ease than seeking to glorify God. I am seeking the treasures of this world rather than focusing on the Kingdom to come. Hebrews 11 helps put things into a right perspective when we are told God does not promise anything for this life, but is not ashamed to be called our God because there is more after this life. I am clinging to a life that is not mine and circumstances that are temporary. When I fear losses that may come I am taking ownership of my life which was bought at a cost, and I am taking ownership of the lives of my children which are not mine. I am clinging tightly to that which I ought to be holding loosely for the glory of God. I am failing to trust in God and I am doubting His leading and wisdom for my life as though somehow I know better.
Finally, in the face of these temptations it is helpful for me to dwell on my time of suffering and loss and remember that God was not distant and detached from those moments in my life but that He was closer than ever. That time holds for me the sweetest moments of the Holy Spirit's presence I have ever known. He was my comforter. He brought peace that surpassed all understanding. So although I know better than some that suffering is inevitable, I also know better than many that the Lord will bear up under me. Because I have walked in the valley of the shadow of death, I know that that shadow is cast by the wings of the Almighty and under His wing is a very good place to be hidden and find rest.
Between my boys I had a little break from days filled with diapers. In fact, during that year I became so accustomed to not changing diapers that I began to wonder if I was really prepared to go back.
This seems to be a common feeling amongst my circle of friends. We long for the days when we will rise from the trenches of motherhood and see our days filled with more meaningful tasks. For me this means more reading; reading more than one chapter of the Bible a day (how about a whole book?), devour some good theology, immerse myself in a good novel. But as it goes, the baby's pooped again and needs his bum changed.
Martin Luther reminds us of the sanctifying power of these ordinary tasks. Dirty diapers can be used by God to conform us more closely to the image of Christ. Justin Taylor has blogged about this today in Between Two Worlds: Luther on Sanctifying the Ordinary .
The post is a healthy reminder to those of us in the trenches of motherhood. For now, I think I'll go clean the bathroom while the baby naps and allow the Lord to do His sanctifying work in my heart.
There is one prayer, one hope that I have for my children that rises above the rest. This prayer is in my heart continually and is uttered from my lips more often than all the others. It is that they would love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls and minds. That whatever they do, they do it for the glory of God and that they would fix their eyes firmly on Christ and follow Him unswervingly. This is my heart’s cry to the Lord, for I know that no matter what trials they endure, whether they are always near me or if they travel to the ends of the earth I can rest in the knowledge that all is well with their souls. If they have nothing else, they will be held firmly in the hand of God and have the hope of their salvation.
I am also keenly aware that I have a great amount of influence over the lives of my children. The manner in which I walk with the Lord will influence their walks with the Lord. So my second prayer is that I would walk in a manner that glorifies God and demonstrates my love for Him. This will only happen if I set my eyes firmly on Christ and set out to follow Him with all my heart, soul and mind. I can either be a positive example for my children or I can be a great stumbling stone. I don’t want to establish patterns in their lives that will keep them in bondage to sin and the influences of the world. The implications o f Proverbs 22:6 are great, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The manner in which I train my children will establish life-long patterns that will be difficult to depart from.
The stakes are high. The very souls and eternal destiny of our children are on the line. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens" (Eph 6:12). It is this battle that we need to be ever mindful of as we train up our children.
At some point in time one last baby will be born. I have been reading The Children of Men by P.D. James (now also a movie by the same title). It is a futuristic look at what the world would be like as the human race is coming to an end. The birth rate declined until all males were inexplicably found to be infertile and the last generation born has turned 25. James is clearly writing from a secular worldview, but the ideas are interesting.
If humanity could no long reproduce itself, what kind of value would we place on human life? Would abortion cease because that could be the last baby ever conceived? Would stem cell research on human fetuses be abhorred? What kind of turn would the debates on euthanasia take?
In the novel, James takes the view that the last generation will be raised to demigod status; revered and zealously guarded. The aging on the other hand will be hopeless, depressed and commit suicide at alarming rates. What would society's focus be in light of a failure to reproduce? Would we, like in the novel seek to preserve the young and discard the old? Or would we continue to seek self-preservation at the expense of the young?
Just some thoughts turning around in my mind as I read the book. I suspect though that we will have no idea when the last child will be born, who that child will be, nor how long we will live beyond that birthday. Humanity will not just die out. Christ will return for those who are in Him, the church.
He is returning like a theif in the night and the Bible teaches that those who are caught up to be with Christ will be as the angels and not given in marriage. Humanity will cease to reproduce, but we will not cease to live.
Second Peter also tells us that the return of Christ is being delayed so that all may have an opportunity to repent and be saved. It is a demonstration of the patience of God towards us that He waits. One day, one final person will come to repentance and be born again into the Kingdom of God. Then Christ will return. There will be a final generation.
When I was pregnant with my fourth child, my oldest would often ask why. Not why would we want another child - it seemed obvious to her that we'd want more children - the question was why would God give us another child? Good question. Why would God give us another child? Why should He? The potential to cause these little people greif and discouragement is great. My own lack of wisdom and my ever present self-centeredness is enough to eliminate me from any chances of deserving children. The truth is that He shouldn't give any of us children if it were based on our own merit; based on my merit He wouldn't give me any children.
So then why does God give us children? The answer I would give my daughter is simple; because He smiled on us. He smiled on our family and decided out of His own goodness and grace to give us a child. Another child! This brings me to tears at times to think He would give me these totally undeserved good gifts to steward. And if he didn't, or doesn't give any more? Or if he chooses to give and then take another from us again? He is still the good giver of good gifts who has given me His only son.
He gave up His son so that I may live. Not based on my own merit but out of His grace and mercy, He chose to give me the ultimate gift. He smiled on me and has given me the blessing and heritage of children, but what an amazing grin the Father must have had when He chose to give me the blessing of His son and a heritage in Jesus Christ!