My father left my mother when I was too young to even remember him. As I’m told, one day he decided he was done. Without notice, the boisterous Texan handed my mother a gun, gave her a point-and-shoot crash course, and left. Our lives changed forever.
My mother raised five children alone. I watched her struggle and sacrifice. It was hard for her. It was hard for my siblings and me. And though I experienced devoted love and was introduced to Jesus by my mother, I perceived a weariness in her that I thought I caused. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in my development, I decided children were a burden. I didn’t dislike them. I just didn’t know why anyone would have more than one or two.
In 2004, I married Wil the Great. He said he desired three or four children, and I couldn’t imagine why. The only reasonable explanation was the fact that he was the older of two, and there was an eight-year difference between him and his sister. He had no idea of the chaos. He had no idea of the stress, the burden. I’d have to tell him. And though I did – repeatedly – he was unshaken. “I’ve always wanted a big family, Meeke,” was his consistent response. I felt overwhelmed just thinking about it.
In January of 2007, we welcomed Baby Number One ... then Baby Number Two in July of 2008 ... then Baby Number Three in March of 2010. Our family was complete.
Meanwhile, something interesting happened among our church family. People would ask if we had planned to have them … “so close together,” they would add if we didn’t immediately answer. People would say: “Boy, you have your hands full. Three kids! Guess you guys are done, huh?” Initially, I’d laugh and agree, because, well, I actually felt what they were communicating.
Wil didn’t. He was often offended by the way Christians perceived children. He couldn’t understand how people who knew the Bible so well could perceive children so negatively. My own heart was convicted. Wil asked me to discover what the Bible says about children; believing we were not going to have any more, I was glad to do it. Now we’d have an appropriate response to people who were snarky about our three children and them being born so close together.
Having settled into life with three children, I was comfortable with our family. I had polite yet pointed responses to the nice ladies in the grocery store who said things like, “Better you than me.” I was certain that I was dealing with mean people who just needed to see what God says about children.
Then I learned we were having Baby Number Four.
I was devastated. I cried a lot. I felt out of control. How could I handle four? We were already outnumbered! So Wil prayed for me. He reminded me of what we knew about children. He said, “If he’s a boy, we’ll name him Nathaniel. He is a gift from God.”
And Nathaniel was born in 2014. During my pregnancy, the Lord showed me something of myself that I wished were not true. He showed me that it was through gritted teeth that I was rearing my children. And yet I presented a confidence and certainty that was dishonest.
I was speaking out on pro-life issues and writing about the value and blessing of children while secretly resenting the sacrifice motherhood demands. I was selfish, and no one knew it because hiding behind three children affords you a type of benevolent appearance. I was working for a Christ-centered, pro-family organization while adopting an anti-biblical view of children. No one knew … except for Jesus.
Then one day, I was reading in the Gospels an account I’d read or heard many, many times. We’re all familiar with Jesus rebuking the disciples for sending children away from Him, but reading it this time was different. Jesus showed me something that had not ever taken root in my heart: Emmanuel, “God with us,” received children when others dismissed them as an interruption, a waste of energy, or a burden. The Holy Spirit convicted my heart. I was not as pro-life as I had thought.
Can you imagine all that transpired between Jesus and people around Him during His three years of active ministry on this earth? In fact, the Bible tells in John 21:25, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” And yet His value of children was important enough to be included not only in Matthew’s gospel but also in Luke’s.
Children matter to God. God doesn’t see children the way our culture does, and sadly the way some of our churches do. They are not an afterthought to Him. With Jesus’ interaction with children as recounted in Matthew and Luke, God was reiterating what He’d already said in Psalm 127:3-5a:
“Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”
Over a period of time, I asked the Lord to forgive me for my heart. I confessed my great need for Him. Specifically, I asked the Lord to help me never again feel what I felt while pregnant with Nathaniel. And when I learned that Baby Number Five was on the way, I can honestly say I was overjoyed. The feeling was strange. Only the Lord could do this. My excitement was that of a new mom. “Who is this person the Lord has given to us,” I wondered.
This July, Samuel-Witter will turn one. Samuel means “God has heard,” and God did hear. He heard my request for a mother’s heart. He forgave and healed my brokenness. I’m a mother of five children. Now when I’m out with them, people are rarely short on commentary – positive and negative – so I’ve developed various ways to respond. But one of my favorite ways is to simply say, “I like them.”
This jolts people. A mother is expected to love her children; however, having a mother’s heart allows us to enjoy them … and dare I say, like them.
Children are a blessing. It seems to have taken five children for this conviction to move from my head to my heart. To God be the glory.