Happy is the Man That Has His Quiver Full of Them

by Bruce Gerencser

When Polly and I married in 1978, we planned to have three children.  We wanted to wait a year or so before we started having children, but six-weeks into marriage Polly became pregnant. Our son Jason was seven weeks before our first wedding anniversary.

In 1981, Nathan was born and in 1984 Jaime was born.  Three sons. We wanted a girl, but we took having three boys as meaning God didn’t want us to have a girl.  We had the three children we planned on and we decided not to have any more.

In 1988, my doctrinal beliefs changed dramatically. I abandoned the doctrine I grew up with and was taught in college and embraced five-point Calvinism.  As I began to read the Puritans and more modern authors like Martyn Lloyd Jones, A.W. Pink, J.C. Ryle, and Rousas Rushdoony, I came to the conclusion that God’s sovereignty over my life included how many children my wife and I were to have.  As I later learned from Calvinistic writers like John MacArthur, if Jesus wasn’t Lord of all is he wasn’t Lord at all.

Polly and I began reading books that taught using birth control was an attempt to usurp God’s sovereignty and that God wanted us to have as many children as he chose to give us.  After all, it was God who opened and closed the womb and we would only have as many children as God intended us to have.

We came to see that children were a blessing from God and, as the Bible says, happy is the man who has lots of children. ( As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:4,5 )  If God wanted us to have one more or ten more children, we were willing to have them.

It was not hard to convince Polly that this was the will of God for us.  Polly loved being a mother. Whether she was just a product of the time and our religious beliefs or she really loved having lots of children, (or maybe both)  Polly was a dedicated, hardworking, loving mother.

When we told Polly’s Mom that we intended to have more children she was incensed. She told us, you can barely take care of the children you have. How will you take take  care of any more?  I told her, God was sovereign over our lives and we would trust him to provide.

For a time, things were really tense between Polly and I and her Mom. It got so bad that we wrote her a letter and included the book we had read about not using birth control. We told her that it was our life and she needed to respect our wishes.

In retrospect, Mom was right. We were in no position to have any more children. We were living in SE Ohio, pastoring a new Independent Baptist church. (I started the church in 1983) The church was growing rapidly and reached a high attendance of 200 in 1988. But, most of the people in the church were working class poor, The most money the church took in was 40,000.00.  We were  quite poor and had to rely on Medicaid for insurance and Food Stamps to eat.

But, God was sovereign and in December of 1988, Polly got pregnant.  Here’s one thing Polly and I knew….she was a rabbit. All I had to do was look at Polly and she would become pregnant. Each time we decided to have a child it was only a matter of a few weeks or months before Polly became pregnant.

In  September of 1989, Bethany was born. Our first daughter.  And she had Down Syndrome.

In September of 1991, Laura was born,

In May of 1993, Josiah was born.

Do you see a pattern? Can you imagine how many children we might have had if reason and common sense had not intervened?

May 24, 1993. Polly’s water broke and I took her to the hospital in Zanesville, Ohio.  Polly had a lot of trouble during labor. Eventually, Josiah was born.  The obstetrician told us, “Polly is too pooped to push,” and based on her age (35) and health recommended we not have any more children.  Even our Catholic doctor recommended we not have any more children.

What where we to do? God is sovereign! God is in control! Surely, God could protect Polly if she got pregnant again!

Over the course of the next few months, we spent many hours talking about our future and having more children.  We finally decided to listen to the doctors and so we began using birth control again.

For a time, we felt guilty. We thought, we are disobeying God. Where is our faith?

In the end, in spite of our theological beliefs, we put our faith and trust, not in God, but in doctors. As we look back on it now, perhaps this was the first small crack in our Evangelical Calvinistic worldview.

We now see how foolish we were and how dangerous certain beliefs were.

We are blessed to have six wonderful children. We love all of them dearly. But, if we had to do it all over again, knowing what we know now, I doubt we would have had six children.  Health and economics should have been the criteria we used to determine whether or not to have children. Instead, we let the folly of youth and our religious beliefs determine what size of family we wanted to have. We are fortunate things turned out as well as they did.  I can only imagine how life might had been if Polly had died having child seven or ten.  I am grateful that the wife of my youth is alive and we are able to enjoy together the latter years of life.

Comments open below

Read everything by Bruce Gerencser!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Way Forward.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 32 years. They have 6 children, and five grandchildren.

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

 

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • texcee

    Is Bruce blogging again? I missed reading his posts when he shut down his blog a while back!

    • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

      Yes, Bruce is back. :)

      • http://calulu.blogspot.com Calulu

        I’m so glad! Happy, happy, joy, joy! I’ve missed you.

        • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

          Thanks, Calulu!

  • SAO

    90% of sexually active women not using birth control become pregnant within a year. So, before effective birth control, “blessings” were common. Many, if not most, married women could give birth to 10 or more children, whether they wanted them or not. Twin births and pregnancies too soon after the last one led to dangerous complications and risks. Child mortality was terrible. My hometown colonial-era graveyard has 6 children of one family who died within a 3 week period, presumably all from the same epidemic. My great-grandmother gave birth to 14 children, 7 of whom made it past age 5. That was typical of her time.

    So, the many arrows in your quiver thing almost certainly referred to children who survived. Good health in your children is a great blessing.

    Because here’s the thing I don’t get and I don’t mean to be rude, I’d like to understand: Does God love rabbits more than humans? Or are baby rabbits not blessings to the mother rabbit? Because in the animal kingdom, humans are not particularly reproductively prolific.

    • Persephone

      I’ve been on ancestry.com doing research, and the number of children born and recorded (stillbirths were often not recorded) and the number of children who made it to adulthood is very sad. These people also had their families around to help them, and their communities would also help out. I’ve also found that many of the people who immigrated to America during colonial times came in multiple generations. The image of a young couple with a child or two doesn’t appear to be common. I often found three generations traveling on the same ship. And, sadly, I often have found a parent and several children all dying within the same year.

      The belief that a nuclear family is normal, and endless children are normal, is abnormal.

  • texcee

    I come from a huge family. There were 9 kids in my father’s family and 10 in my mother’s (not counting two stillborns). I had 34 first cousins from those 19 aunts and uncles. My parental families were all raised in the early part of the 20th century, ranging from my eldest uncle who was born in 1900 through my youngest, born in 1932. My mother’s father was one of 14 children, all of them with families (one had 12 children), and I haven’t counted up how many second cousins that makes on just THAT side of the family. Some people would say, “Oh, what a blessing it is to have such a large family!” Well, I wonder if the mothers of all those children ever thought like that or did they worry over how they were going to feed and clothe those hoardes of children when they were dirt poor farmers. And did they ever want to do a Lorena Bobbitt on their husbands when, after an endless day of babies, cooking, cleaning, sewing, washing, etc., that husband sidled over to his wife’s side of the bed? I hope they didn’t keep a butcher knife beside the bed!

  • Tori

    I come from a family where many of my cousins, uncles, aunts are quiverfull. They do not believe in contraception, or abortion under ANY circumstance. I myself attended church for one hour every day and two hours on Sunday. (and people think it’s just Americans, I’m English!) I have one child, born out of wedlock (rape), but (for example) my cousin **** is on her fifth child in five years, I’m worried about her. I don’t know what to do (probably there isn’t anything I can do) watching her age beyond her years, and sag and become crushed is upsetting. The man might be happy he has his quiverfull, but at what price?

    • Persephone

      That’s the thing: the men don’t pay the price. They may have to work more or have two jobs or sell their lives to a reality show, but the strain on health all falls on the woman.

      • Tori

        Completely agree with you hon, In the case of my cousin **** her husband works for the armed forces, he is away for anything up to six months at a time, she had the last baby alone because of it. She lives on a military base in the middle of nowhere, far from family who would otherwise help. She is doing it all alone. He gets all the kids he wants, and shoreleave to go partying and drinking, she gets.. well.. I dunno.. piles, varicose veins, and permanent exhaustion. I love her, and I HATE this.

  • Kimberly

    I can relate to what texcee wrote. My grandparents were poor farmers in Appalachia. My grandmother was pregnant 13 times and had 11 live births. She told my mother that one time she stuffed herself with rags to try and prevent getting pregnant and got an infection. Life was hard. The kids had no shoes and all their clothes were patched. My mother was the last of 13, born in 1948 when the depression was still fresh on the minds of many. My grandmother went on to adopt 2 of her own grandchildren. By the time she was 70, she was stooped with osteoporosis, had chronic emphysema, and had several strokes before she died in her mid 70s.

  • Saraquill

    It’s one thing to have children one can provide for after without too much trouble, but how happy are those with children that are hungry, cold and sick? It has to hurt knowing that their finances can’t stretch enough to cover the basics.

  • A

    I think we have to remember that this was written in a place and time when polygamy was the norm. If a man has 2 or 3 wives, and they each have 2 or 3 children, he’s got his quiverfull, and with far less strain on the health of any one individual woman. Also, this was a time when children would actually contribute to income by helping with the farming, weaving, etc. So having lots of kids would was important for survival. To try to apply this same philosophy to a monogamous relationship in the 21st century (where children cost money, rather than generate it) is ridiculous at best and deadly at worst.

  • Lyn

    So glad you’re back Bruce. I have missed reading your pieces :)

    • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

      Thanks, Lyn!!

  • Tori

    Bruce – I have never read your stuff before (that I can remember) but I enjoyed this one, it made me think, and I LOVE things that make me think. please post more! My hungry brain needs food!

    • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

      Thanks, Tori!