I live in America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world. I enjoy first-world luxuries - democracy, capitalism, advanced education and infrastructure, the list goes on and on. But despite all our progress, we get it so very wrong on family, the very fabric of our society. It's a reality that makes me both incredibly sad and madly frustrated.
We're lying to ourselves about the importance of children, and what's most disturbing is that our own family ideals are clearly absurd on face-value. We know we need to procreate to continue the human race, heck to leave a legacy, but more and more couples are purposefully deciding not to have kids.
As a result our country's birth-rate is down, as in way down. Last year was the lowest fertility rate on record. (You read that correctly.) And get this - the average family is having 1.8 something kids, so we're not even on track to maintain our nation's population growth. According to a widely cited study from the Urban Institute (endorsed by the CDC), in 2012, women gave birth at a rate that was (here comes the kicker), "the slowest pace of any generation of young women in U.S. history." Our parents were Baby Boomers and they're calling us the Baby Bust. Clever, but chilling.
For a few reasons actually. Fewer children will hurt our economy. In essence, we're shrinking the next generation of our working class, while our aging population grows older. I'm bad at math but the bottom line is fewer young people to take care of more old people. Bad combination.
But perhaps more than that, our nation's shrinking birth rate shows our true colors. We're insanely selfish. We.don't.want.(more).kids. And why is that?
Lies We Tell (and Believe)
Our culture is lying friends, and we're buying everything our culture is selling. In New York City last year, there were more African-American children aborted than born. Stop and let that sink in. In New York City.
Maybe you read that and think to yourself, "I'm not part of the problem. I've never aborted a baby." What about in your mind? Maybe you've aborted even the slightest inkling that you might have more children than the magic number that you've decided for yourself. Now stop for a second and think really hard: How did you come to that magic number? Who or what made you decide that you want two, maybe three kids and not four, five or six? And how is it that all your friends, coworkers and acquaintances want exactly the same? Mere coincidence?
Of course not. The bone-chilling reality is that our culture is teaching us how we should think about kids, and what it's saying is disturbing.
- They're an inconvenience. Kids keep you from having fun and enjoying life in general. So before you even think about having them, make sure you've travelled extensively, attained your desired socioeconomic status, reached your career aspirations and/or are nearing post-childbearing age. Wait until you're absolutely ready (and by that we mean delay, delay, delay).
- Less is more. Have a boy and a girl and you're living the American dream. For the sane among us, two kids is plenty. After all, kids are expensive. Go for three if you're feeling really adventurous, but be careful. Four and you'll be driving a mini-van for the rest of your life. Any more and you'll risk being labelled as "irresponsible." After all, how can you afford to put four kids through daycare and college and still maintain the quality of life you have now? Right, you can't. So don't go getting all crazy.
- It's your choice. You can have kids when you want them, so fit them into your life when it works best for you. After all, it's your life, and come to think of it, it's your body too. Pop up pregnancy? Not to worry, my friend. Getting rid of it is legal, affordable, and quick. Don't feel bad. Happens to the best of us. You'll be fine.
Contrast that with what God's Word tells us about children:
- They're a gift. Children are a gift from God Himself. Psalm 127:3 calls children a reward - that's a far cry from an inconvenience. The Bible also calls children the glory of their fathers, and grandchildren the crown of the aged (Proverbs 17:6). It may make sense to delay or forego having children for temporal convenience now, but at the end of our lives, children are our life's finest work - our glory and our crown. My mother always tells me that raising five children was the hardest thing she's ever done, but the most worthwhile. My parents will never have to worry about who will care for them in their old age, or whether they've made an impact on the world for Christ. We're living proof.
- The more the merrier. God's Word calls the person with a house full of kids blessed (not stressed, although it's probably possible to be both!) The Scriptures compare children born in one's youth to arrows in the hand of a warrior (Psalm 127:4), and who takes just one arrow to a battle? I'm joking here, because I know some couples can only have one child, and others are unable to have any. But the question remains: do you and I view a large family the way God does? Would a dozen or so kids be a blessing from the Lord, a reward and inheritance, or impossible and undesirable?
- It's God's choice. David says in Psalm that God knit him together in his mother's womb. Life was happening in his mother's belly, and God was the one orchestrating. Our culture tries to convince us to put off kids for as long as we can, but we take for granted that we will be able to have them when we want them. Newsflash: we're not in control.
Bottom line: our culture wants to enjoy the benefits of sexual intimacy without producing the fruit of it. Even, and often especially, in marriage.
I'll take one step down on my soapbox and admit I am guilty of believing the lies. As a working mother of just one, life is not easy, and I only have one. My husband and I talk about when we'll have number two, and the truth is, I just can't find any margin in my life (selfishness talking again.) I marvel at mini-van moms of multiples and secretly wonder what miracle drug is giving them the extra strength, patience and discipline they need to wake up every morning and keep at it.
The answer is simple - Jesus Christ. Without Christ, you nor I will have the strength or even the desire to go against the cultural grain. But the knowledge that Jesus Christ, who came to earth to die the death we should have died to satisfy a holy God, does something to us. It radically changes our affections. It makes Christ-followers, who live in America and hear the lies on a daily basis, run wholeheartedly in the other direction.
I'm preaching to myself here. It's hard, I know. In my head I want a big family, but then I look at our life, our bank account and all the craziness in our house that (thankfully) no one else sees and I subconsciously decide that two, maybe three wouldn't be so bad. If that's where you are, I feel you, friend.
But we can't go on living our lives just for ourselves, and if we're honest, that's what we're really doing. The next generation, or what's left of it, is depending on us. And while I have your attention, let's stop thinking about our families as just the biological children we decide to have. There are millions of children all over our world who need a home but will never find one because our doors are shut at one or two. I heard a statistic that on average, if one person in every third church decided to adopt a child tomorrow, the foster care system would cease to exist. Poof, gone in one day. Does that not blow your mind?!
Something about where our culture is headed on kids feels so very wrong, and we'd do ourselves a service to stop for a second and just think. From the first book of the Bible, God's desire for all mankind rings true: "And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." Is it any surprise that the father of all lies is telling us to do the exact opposite?