How should Christ-followers make big life decisions? What's the balance between good planning, responsibility and faith? Are they mutually exclusive?
Lately, it seems like all our big decisions have been purely faith-driven (*ahem* homeschooling) and it's terrifying. It's kind of like driving a car blindfolded and expecting to make it to your destination without injuring yourself or anyone on the road.
For example, I've been considering the possibility of a third kid (before you ask, no, I am not pregnant), but by all accounts, a third kid would be absolutely crazy right now. We don't feel "ready," but I'm well aware that if we wait until we feel ready, it legitimately might be too late .... joking, not joking :-)
How do you know if you should just take the plunge? If you're being too fearful? If you're being irrational?
It occurs to me that these are the kinds of conversations that generally take place behind closed doors. Today, I'm taking a risk and sharing my very disjointed thought process on whether to grow our family by two feet. Spoiler alert: I don't necessarily land anywhere, and right now, that's ok for us. Sometimes you can't see the end from the beginning. And ... well, isn't that the whole point of faith?
“Can we do this again?”
It’s the one question that has been haunting me for weeks, the one that has propelled me into awkward conversations with stranger moms cradling fresh-out-the-oven babies in Target, the one that has kept me up at night, the one that makes me truly question the limits of my strength.
“Can we do this again?” I whisper softly, tentatively, into the darkness, mostly to myself, though I know my husband is only faking sleep as usual.
No sooner than the words escape my lips, do I want to take them back and lock them up inside forever. We have just wrestled both boys to sleep and now lay still and exhausted, barely breathing for fear we’ll invoke a cry or a request for water or, worse still, whining.
What in the world am I saying?
Why would we ever do this again?
Don't get me wrong. Scripture is right: children are a blessing from the Lord, but they are also costly, and I don't mean only financially. Parents sacrifice more than their children can ever know. We freely lay down dreams and freedoms and liberties for our posterity. But that does not in any way alter reality. Joy and challenge, sanctification and self-realization, work and love - these co-exist almost equally in parenting.
As for me, I’ve barely recovered from stretch marks and carb cravings, postpartum depression and breakdowns, co-sleeping and nursing. Why now, just as soon as we are settling into a rhythm, when the baby weight is somewhat manageable and I am sleeping more than a few hours a night, has the gnawing ache come to destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to regain?
But what’s one more baby?
Didn’t we say we wanted a big family? And were the newborn days really THAT bad? (They were ...) And odd numbers really are better when it comes to sibling count, aren’t they? (Depends on who you ask.) Besides, shouldn’t we try for a girl? (But what if we get another boy??!) Who will be my best friend when my boys are married off to wives who have to remind them to call me? (Are we seriously having kids to up my friend count??!) Will we regret it later if we don’t? (Will we regret it if we do? Too honest??)
The more the questions and possibilities swirl in my mind, the more bi-polar I feel, torn between two wills. Do I listen to my head or my heart? Am I operating in wisdom or fear? And I being too cautious or too naive? I suddenly have the strongest urge to exit my body, grab my own shoulders and shake myself.
“I don’t know,” a voice I recognize whispers through the darkness in reply. I scarcely remembered I’d asked the question until hearing his voice, the one I trust to break through all my melodrama and anxieties with the truth. “I don’t know,” he says again faintly. Then, there is silence, the kind of silence where there is so much you could say, but you don’t.
This is the new pillow talk, us discussing the trajectory of our family in the 20 minutes before we pass out for the night - the few precious moments when our phones are docked and kids are sleep and we’re able to communicate full thoughts uninterrupted.
“Me neither,” I confess, and yet I am annoyed that I don’t have the answers. All I have is questions. I want to know. I want a timeline. I want to be sure that if we bring another child into the world that I am ready for all the joys and challenges that come along with him or her.
And yet I also have a heart for foster care and adoption. Maybe that's the route we should be focused on right now. That's the route we were focused on (another blog post for another time), and now here I am, messing everything up with baby fever again.
If only I could be sure.
I Know Better This Time
This decision is complicated in large part because I am not the naive first-time mama I once was. I have two energetic boys who require every ounce of my energy and attention every day, all day. I know all too well what it means to re-enter motherhood more exhausted and depleted than you dreamed possible.
My usual let's just do it life philosophy is painfully insufficient in this scenario. It’s not like going from two kids to three is a cakewalk, I don’t care what anyone says. We’re talking about a child, not a puppy you can give away if it doesn’t work out.
There are real-life implications to think through here (dollar signs) like buying a bigger car (or even *gasp* - a minivan), possibly a bigger home (or bunk beds at least), and committing to making our hunt for babysitters even more difficult from now until possibly forever. We’re talking three kids potentially in college all at the same time and more of ourselves, our time and our money to give (read: throw) away.
As I silently weigh the pros and cons, it occurs to me that perhaps I have forgotten after all. My selective amnesia has made it hard for me to recall just exactly how difficult it was for me with my first son. I struggled through those early days. I was so tired I didn’t know how I could do one more thing but day after day, God gave me strength.
And then I got pregnant again. I agonized and agonized over what life with two boys would be like. How could I do one more thing? How could I care for another little human? How could I give TWO baths in one night? What if it was too hard? But day after day, God gave me strength.
I am suddenly reminded of the great narrative of my life: I am not enough, and could never hope to be, but in my weakness, God proves His strength.
In my humanity, I want to see it all work out on paper - the finances, the mental, physical and emotional energy toll. I want to know that the bottom line will balance and we'll all be okay.
But that's just not how faith works. That's not how God works.
Feet in the Water
Earlier this year, an older, wiser friend visited me at my home. At the time, I was struggling with the idea of homeschooling. As usual, I had all the questions. I wanted to know how this could possibly work for our family.
Instead of pushing me one way or the other, she told me the story of the Israelites crossing the sea - not the first time with Moses, when God parted the Red Sea, but the second time, with Joshua in command, when God parted the Jordan.
In Joshua 3:14-16, we find these words:
"It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan."
Don’t miss this. God had given His people instructions about how to cross the Jordan, but it wasn't until the priests put their feet in the water at the river's edge that the sea began to part.
It was only when they exercised their faith that God moved. Had they stood at the river's shore, wondering whether God would actually part it before daring to get their feet wet, they may have stood there in perpetuity and eventually died camping right there at the shore. Why should God work a miracle for those who don't believe?
And this was truly a miracle. God, never one to do it the same way twice, didn't just part the Jordan in the same way he had parted the Red Sea. He parted the Jordan during harvest season. Get this: the Jordan was flooding its banks. The water was already higher than it should have been. The sea was overflowing.
Miraculously, the God of the universe parted the sea when it was at its fullest, just to show off.
(Somebody cue the organist while I go run around the pews.)
Nothing is too hard for God!
This is what is truly at stake in whether we should have another child, I suddenly realize. Not my financial resources. Not the limits of my own strength - but whether or not I really trust God as much as I say I do. Whether He is truly as faithful as He promises. Whether He is actually able to supply all my needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) or make all grace abound to me so that "in all things at all times, having all that I need, I will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8)."
The seas of life are certainly overflowing over here. Our quiver is FULL with two kids. There’s really nothing up for negotiation, unless I’m willing to put my feet in the water.
If I’m looking only at what I can see, I'm in trouble. On my BEST day, I have trouble managing my self, let alone one, two or three kids. But this is not about me. I am not ultimately in charge of providing for myself.
I struggle to find the words to explain these jumbled thoughts to my mom in the car one afternoon, jumping back and forth between all of the hazy variables.
“More kids would just require ...” I pause momentarily, grasping for the words.
“More God?” she suggests, smiling sweetly at me from the driver's seat.
We are both silent for a second while the gravity of those words sink in.
“Yes,” I say finally, chuckling as it hits me. “Much more God.”
Our third child hangs in the balance as we carefully consider the best way to grow our family, but I am reminded even as I weigh the scales that sometimes what is observable on the surface doesn’t tell the full story. Two plus two doesn’t equal four with God.
He can make a banquet from breadcrumbs. He can turn pennies into prosperity. He can turn our little into much and make a highway right through our biggest roadblocks.
Musa and I are exhausted and drained most days (no lie), but we serve a God who has promised to supply our needs, sanctify us and sustain us.
This has never been about our own ability or strength. From day one, it’s been all grace at all times. Less about our ability and great planning and superb financial management and endless energy, and more about God showing up and increasing our strength and writing better plans and showing us a better, albeit sometimes harder, but ultimately more rewarding way.
I still have questions (all the questions), but third kid or not, I’m praying for grace to trust.
If I know anything, it’s this: there is always, always more God available to and for us. Now and forever, He is enough, but He doesn’t always come the way we expect.
What if while I’m waiting for Him to build a bridge over troubled waters, and He’s waiting for me to get my feet wet?