“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
During the course of his first campaign for President, Barack Obama was asked a question about his thoughts on sex education in schools. His answer was unintentionally a great deal more revealing than he perhaps wanted of a worldview belief far more common today than it ought to be. On this particular occasion he was asked whether he supported students being taught an abstinence-only curriculum or preferred one that included lessons on various methods of contraception, including abortion.
Over the course of a somewhat rambling and off-the-cuff answer (which most folks identified as a gaffe), he said this:
I’ve got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. You know, so it doesn’t make sense to not give them information.
Now, Obama loves his two daughters fiercely and is by all accounts an admirably devoted father. He deserves much credit and praise for this regardless of how you feel about his politics and time in office. Also, this was an unprepared answer to an unanticipated question, which was a situation particularly during his first campaign that frequently resulted in his putting his foot deep into his mouth. But, this gaffe was revealing all the same.
Our culture today is beginning to see children, not as a blessing, but as a burden. At the extreme end of things, abortion is seen as an easy way out of an unwanted pregnancy. More often, though, couples delay having children much longer than they used to and longer than some OBs might recommend for the sake of both mom and baby so that they can live their lives free from the burdens of parenthood as long as possible before getting into it. Couples who do begin families together look to enter such a season without a willingness, much less a recognition, of just how much they are going to need to be prepared to sacrifice in order to create the best environment possible for the flourishing of their little ones. We want to enjoy all the benefits of babies without the perils of parenthood.
Here’s the truth that all parents know in theory and the best parents know well: Having kids will totally transform your life and leave nothing like it was before. If you try and maintain what was, you will fail, be miserable, and wind up raising monsters. All that being said, Solomon was right on the money here: Children are a reward and a blessing.
The question is: Are we willing to receive them as such? You see, sometimes blessings are hard to recognize in the moment. Sometimes we think we want one thing before realizing that we should be wanting something even better. Sometimes what we think is good isn’t really quite so good, while what we think is a burden turns out to be the best thing in the world. Kids won’t make your life easy. If you are a parent and have been so for more than about a week, you already know this well. There will be hard days and sometimes those hard days will seem to far outnumber the easy days. But, easy or hard and good aren’t the same things.
Sometimes the biggest blessings come out of a hard journey. The journey of the cross should have taught us that. There was nothing easy about that, but it was good for everyone. That’s parenthood. It’s rarely easy, but it can be really, really good. It can be really good when we recognize just how big of a blessing we have in our arms.