Digging in Deeper: Psalm 127:3

“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?” (Msg – Read the chapter)

I love being a dad. My bride adores being a mom. That doesn’t mean every day is easy – they aren’t – but it is without a question a blessing and not a curse. Even on the hardest of days I wouldn’t trade it out for the alternative. Children can be a source of blessing and encouragement for moms and dads in a way few other things can. Today’s culture, though, is making a subtle, but significant shift away from this kind of thinking. An episode of The Good Doctor I watched the other night put this on display in a way that got my attention. Let’s talk today about this shift and what it means for us and for our kids.

I have been watching the Good Doctor for six seasons, and the show is still going strong. I first reviewed the show a couple of years ago (you can read that here if you are interested). I’m pretty sure I’ve written about an episode of it or two beyond that, but I can’t find those posts to link for you, so we’ll just pretend I haven’t. In the show’s six seasons, a few of the characters have changed, but the core is mostly still intact.

Over the years its writers have occasionally veered too far into embracing various aspects of the woke worldview for my tastes. Ironically, main character, Shawn Murphey’s autism with its tendency to lead him to bluntly blurt out the obvious observable reality in front of him regardless of the feelings of the people who were perhaps wanting to avoid such an acknowledgement, has created a vehicle for highlighting just how silly some of the woke worldview and its progressive ideology is. In an episode that ran down the line of trying to normalize transgenderism, when the female character said she was a man, Dr. Murphey couldn’t get past the fact that, no, medically and biologically she wasn’t. He gradually “learned his lesson” by the end of the episode, but the obvious efforts to deny reality still hung uncomfortably in the air. That being said, the clever writing and quirky characters along with some plot resolutions that have really resonated with the Christian worldview have kept me coming back for more. Plus, after this long, I’m invested in what happens with these characters’ lives. It’s like reading a long series of books. Even if you start to not like them after a while, you keep buying them and reading them because you want to know what happens. We always want to see an end to the stories we are told.

The plot point that drew me in this time and prompted this particular post involved one of the main side characters, Dr. Morgan Reznick. She has been on the show since the second season. She is an overly ambitious and driven doctor who has grand visions for her life and career and doesn’t care about who she has to walk over or on in order to see them achieved. Her character arc has been one of gradually learning to care about other people in a way that goes beyond purely medical interest, as well as learning to separate what she really wants out of life from what she feels driven to do because of the looming shadows of her superlatively successful mother and siblings. One of the ways this worked out through season 5 was a budding and then committed (although not married) relationship with Dr. Alex Park. The pair just nearly committed to finally getting married, but her inability to let go of her drivenness finally pushed him to end things.

This most recent episode I watched (I’m five episodes behind the current one), saw her struggling with some internal angst that a trip around town with Dr. Wolke (who plays the obligatory wise gay friend) gave her the opportunity to reflect on. At the end of the episode, Dr. Wolke came up to her and said that she simply needs to accept the fact that she wants to once again pursue a relationship with Dr. Park. After all, she had been talking about how she has long wanted to be able to settle down with a husband and children (a revelation that came fairly out of left field given what her character has been like over the course of the rest of the series). With a thoughtful look on her face, though, she reveals that it’s not a husband who will give her life the purpose she is seeking for it. Instead, what she wants is a baby.

And in the moment of the episode and in the context of many, many shows over the last ten years that have featured women (and less commonly, men) making the “courageous” decision to have (or adopt) a baby, we are clearly to admire her self-realization and desire to embrace her natural maternal instincts. Never mind the fact that this whole line of thinking requires the embrace of a gender binary that the show has tried to blur at other times, her announcement caught my attention for a whole other reason. In coming to the realization that she wants a baby without a husband (or even an involved father), what she is doing is treating the whole concept of children not as a blessing, but as a right. This is the far too common view about children that you find in our culture today. Children may be a blessing, but they are first and foremost a right. They are a right that people can decide to exercise or not.

The problems with this kind of thinking are not immediately apparent. After all, shouldn’t we want for everyone to be able to experience the joys of fatherhood and motherhood if they so desire? We are hearing more and more about the threatening prospects of low birth rates around the world. Not a few national governments are doing everything they can to convince their people to have more babies. Shouldn’t we want for anyone willing to bring a child into the world to go for it? Well…not so fast.

God created the world. Now, if you don’t agree with that, you’re not going to agree with much of the rest of what I’m going to say here. You are welcome to keep reading for something that may challenge your perspective, but just know that what comes from here is going to be prefaced on that idea. God created the world. That means He designed it. All of it. Every single part. Every single system. Every single process. Including the procreative process for every single species. Including humans. When God told us to be fruitful and multiply, He did that knowing that He had designed the process to work in a certain way. Biologically speaking, it takes a man and a woman to create a baby. God designed marriage to create an environment in which those babies have the best chance to grow to be healthy, well-adjusted, properly functioning adults who, when the time is right, will start their own families and continue the cycle of procreation that brings glory to God, its designer.

Yet just because this is how God designed the process to work does not mean He plans for every single person to be an active participant in the process. We know from the broader witness of Scripture that not everyone is able to walk the path of procreation. This can be a very painful reality for couples who experience it. Even for those couples who are intended to walk that path they often experience the loss of children in the womb through miscarriage. This is an equally, and sometimes even more painful reality. Then, there are individuals who are called to singleness (which in the context of the Scriptures assumes celibacy because sex is only morally permissible in the context of a marriage and marriage is only defined as a covenantal union between a man and a woman). Having children is never even imagined as an option for them.

The picture that begins to emerge from these various realities is that even though God designed the process and lets us live in it, He still superintends it. Why He does and allows what He does we cannot know, but that He is involved in the creation of every single life that enters this world is without question. He is the Creator. Life doesn’t happen without His involvement. Ever.

This process, though, is what we might call His prescriptive will. In other words, it is how He designed it to happen and the context in which He intends for it to happen. We know from the experience of reality, though, that life is created, and babies are born by means apart from that process all the time. This is what we might call God’s permissive will. He allows us to make meaningful and consequential choices as free moral agents. He allows us this freedom even when our choices are not good. Now, when those choices and the lives that come from them are repentantly put in His hands, He can and does still work incredible things in spite of their originating in circumstances outside of His design and intention. Without that, though, the consequences of sin are painful indeed, both for the adults involved in the creation of that life and the babies themselves.

For hundreds of years of human history, this is how things worked. The system was broken by sin and sinners behaving like sinners left myriads of victims. In the last half-century or so, though, something has changed. New reproductive technologies have allowed us to short circuit God’s intended process for the creation of life even further. It is still true that no life happens without God’s permission and involvement, but we have taken the standard sex-makes-babies formula and turned it on its head. Not only do we have the means to prevent sex from making babies in the first place, but we can make babies without sex. The natural assumption on our part is that all these technologies have given us more control over our environments and a greater ability to “plan” our families.

The truth is that the control is only ever an illusion at best, our planning can only take us so far since God is still in charge, but more significantly than that, this illusion of control has allowed us to treat having children as a right that can be exercised rather than as a blessing to be enjoyed. It has allowed something like a couple whose union is biologically sterile (two men or two women) to act as if they should be entitled to have children of their own (which are, of course, not fully, biologically their own), or a woman to decide that she wants to impregnate herself and doesn’t want a man involved actively in that process to be something that makes sense in the minds of many people. Even if we don’t agree with it, we understand what those situations mean in ways our ancestors would not have.

What all of this is at a foundational level, though, is not people seeking to enjoy the blessings of motherhood and fatherhood, but rather adults insisting on being able to dictate the terms of reality on their own. This is little more than our sinful efforts to insist that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can do what we want, when we want, the way we want it, and if reality begs to differ, we’ll simply change reality. Or at least we’ll try. The disconnection of babies from sex has given us the illusion of having done just that. Unfortunately, although God has allowed this subversion of His procreative process, He has not removed the consequences. Bringing children into the world outside of the context of marriage because some adults have insisted on their “right” to do such a thing, may have given an illusory satisfaction to a misplaced desire (the desire itself is not the problem, but rather our pursuit of it; this is the case with a great deal of the sin we commit), but our sinful subversion of God’s process still has victims like all sin does.

In this case, the victims are the children. Adults do not have a right to have children, but children do have the right to have a mother and a father. They all came into the world through the work of a mother and a father, and they absolutely have the right to know those two individuals and to be loved by them actively and personally. What’s more, a great deal of sociological research has rather definitively concluded that the most successful, well-adjusted, properly functioning children were raised in an environment in which that right was granted to them by both parents at the same time and in the context of their being in a committed marriage relationship.

Now, is it easy to stick with God’s process in every instance? Absolutely not. Are there emotional circumstances in which people are nearly desperate to be able to love a child of their own and train her up to make the world a better place, but who cannot do that for one reason or another? Of course. The brokenness of sin makes a mess of everything it touches. But does any of this mean that God’s designed process is not the thing we should strive for in every instance that we possibly can even to the point of constructing government policy with this in mind because it is objectively better for everyone involved in it? Nope. Not even a little. And I know this is terribly easy for me to write because I have three remarkable boys of my own and a phenomenal wife to raise them with. God hasn’t called everyone to that path and that’s hard to accept. Some people have had that path taken from them because of things outside their control and that’s deeply unjust. We should mourn with those folks. But none of that means subverting God’s process will accomplish the good we are seeking by doing so. It may ultimately because when we repent and return to His path, He can still accomplish good even in our brokenness. But that path to that good will be littered with far more pain than it needed to have been; pain that could result in some people being pushed from Him completely.

Dr. Reznick’s desire is an understandable one. But in presenting her as pursuing it in the way I suspect they are going to, she will not be a celebrated model of courage. She will be making an ultimately selfish decision that will give her child a much more difficult road through life than is necessary if she would just follow the process. And if the process turned out not to work for her, then it may be that God has other plans through which she can experience the fulfillment she seeks in a child by other means that allow her to positively impact the lives of far more children than the one she wanted to bring into the world in the first place.

This is all emotional stuff. It’s hard stuff. Insisting on sticking with God’s path isn’t easy. Sometimes it is downright agonizing. But if we’ll take the courage to do it, it will always lead to good. Good for us. Good for the world. Glory for Him. All the salesmanship of the world through the vehicle of emotional stories won’t change any of this. It will only hide the painful run-ins with reality’s walls that will be waiting for all those who try to ignore them. Yet in those moments, our job as followers of Jesus is never to judge. It is to lavish the love of Christ, help them to pick up the pieces, and make the Gospel manifest in our words and deeds. Sin brings brokenness. The Gospel brings restoration. But it’s always better to skip the sin and go straight to the Gospel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.