Two separate pieces, published recently on blogs, highlight the importance of the family as constructed and formed by the Bible. Mark Driscoll wrote a stirring and fun tribute to his wife, Grace, and Al Mohler wrote a scathing and hilarious critique of the “superiority of small families” argument. I would encourage you to read both of them and drink deeply from them.
“Grace is an amazing mom to our five children. She works incredibly hard, never complains, and has sacrificed a great deal over the years for me, our children, and our ministry. She feels the pain of my critics and gets furious when people assume they know me but have no idea since they see me for an hour a week on the stage and have no clue who I am or what I am like the rest of my life with her and the kids. She’s had people pretend to be her friend just to try and get into our life because they want power, influence, and/or employment….I can be brash, intense, overbearing, ill-worded, and the like. She is patient, loves to counsel people, has hope for everyone, and serves anyone. I learn a lot from her example, and praise God I have gotten to grow up with her through high school, conversion, and college, all the way from our teens to our thirties.”
Here’s an excerpt from Mohler’s piece in which he responds to Prince Philip’s argument that small families conserve the earth’s waning resources and are therefore better than large families:
“He continued by arguing that rising food prices should be blamed on large families. “Everyone thinks it’s to do with not enough food, but it’s really that demand is too great – too many people,” the duke asserted. “Basically, it’s a little embarrassing for everybody. No one quite knows how to handle it. Nobody wants their family life to be interfered with by the government.”
Just taking that argument at face value, the duke states that the problem is not that there is not enough food, but that there are “too many people.” Speaking as delicately as those words allow, that argument is stunningly stupid. If food was in abundance, would the duke argue that people are too few? How does he arrive at the “right” number of people?”
I love both of these pieces. Driscoll really models the way in which a husband is to honor his wife. He doesn’t crack jokes about her or belittle her, he lifts her up and praises her publicly, extolling her virtues. That’s a very biblical way to husband. I love Driscoll’s emphasis on the family, and I pray that his influence in this area only spreads. Mohler is uncharacteristically tarty in his piece, and it’s really fun to read. He goes after the foolish arguments of the “small-family” contingent like a shark to blood. “[Ehrlich] once predicted that there was a good chance that London would not even exist in the year 2000. We can assume that the interview with Prince Philip is a sign that London still exists.” Whew. Ouch. In all seriousness, a piece with terrific punch and a stoutly biblical point to make.
Mohler’s piece in particular points me to reflect a bit on the awesome nature of raising children. I knew that having kids was a big deal before I entered into marriage, but now that I have a daughter, I am transfixed. My little girl captivates me. She is far and away the most significant thing I have ever created or could hope to create. She is a living emblem of joy and delight. Certain voices in secular culture have exerted considerable influence on the Christian church, and have convinced many parents that children, like caviar, are great, yes, but only in moderation. Can’t have too much of them or everything falls apart. Better to have just a little taste, and that only when one’s taste buds are ready.
On the contrary, I want to affirm with a boldness that I hope is righteous that having children beats anything else I’ve ever done and, in a way, that I ever will do. There is something positively mystical about creating (or adopting) a child and caring for it on a daily basis. It is a responsibility that no other task approaches in terms of import. Furthermore, one cannot purchase or sample this experience; you can’t rent a kid for an hour and get all the delights of parenting without the difficulties. You have to create (or adopt) a child to truly experience the full joy of children. Sure, you can have fun with other people’s kids, and yes, pets are sweet gifts from God, but for those who can have children (and some who want to cannot, sadly), there is no substitute for bringing life, albeit personalized life, into the world. It’s fun to work with kids or spend time with them, and it’s a joy to own a cat or a dog, but in a culture that sometimes encourages us to merely “sample” children or to think of “parenting” a pet as a significant undertaking, Christians need to affirm by principle and action the utterly unique and wonderful reality of creating (or adopting) and raising children for the glory of God.
This is the funny thing: many young people of my generation want to delay traditionally “adult” responsibilities in pursuit of “experiences”–travel, games, sports, shopping, and forms of indulgence of one’s natural interests. I like those things as much as the next guy, but I can tell you from my very limited experience as a husband and a dad that there is not a two-week vacation in the world that compares with fatherhood. Yesterday I snapped some pictures of my daughter when she was smiling; today, though an unsentimental man who usually cares little for pictures of babies, I looked at them over and over and over. My daughter is a little wonder. She is beautiful and (mostly) full of sweetness. Her smile can be heartbreaking. I see it, looking at it time and again on my phone, and I know what evil there is in the world–and sadly, lurking in her heart–and I yearn for her not to taste it. Such innocence, and yet such evil awaits.
This fills out my original point: just looking at my daughter’s smile blows away experiences I’ve previously loved–playing a good game of basketball, reading a good book, whatever. Parenting a child is an astounding thing. Yes, it’s hard. It is. No two ways about it. But it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and I’m only at the two-month stage, where my precious baby girl can barely smile. When she smiles at me, or plays little games with my hands as she sits on my lap, or makes strange sounds that sounds like a cat lifting off for extraterrestrial investigation, she reaches an area of my heart that nothing has ever touched. Spending time with one’s child brings one to a joy that cannot be reached otherwise, like a language one cannot speak without countless hours of study.
If you want an “experience”, then, don’t look for it in things, in passing, fading things of this world. If you’re married, or are likely going to be married, look for it in the most significant physical thing a person can do, God willing: create (or adopt) a child. Create a tribe of children. You’ll gain joy for yourself that you could not otherwise ever touch in this life. You’ll do something far more significant than anything work or play will allow you to do. You’ll leave a legacy in the form of a child, a living person, not a piece of paper or a deed to be spoken of. Vacations are fun, and books and movies and time with friends is great, but if you seek significance, and transcendence, and deep, untouchable joy, try children, the oldest, most traditional form of earthly delight.