Why Bring Kids into a World Like Ours?

We live in a secular age. Some would even say it is beyond secular and post-modern; we are now decidedly post-Christian. We don’t believe in God; we believe in science. We live in a disenchanted world where every, I would argue, nearly every Act of God is explained away in scientific terms as if God is limited by the world he created.

Some of the arguments I have gotten about the subversive nature of having a family are based in a secular understanding of the world that is rooted in a toxic combination of fear and self-love. While they make sense in a secular world where we are the sum of our bank account and our social media score. They are not rooted in a Christian worldview. Our worth is not based on our production. We are more valuable than what we can contribute economically and socially.

This is why I referred to raising a family as the most subversive thing you can do in my previous post. In a world that tells you that your happiness and well-being are based on your present wants and desires, raising a family means delaying gratification, laying down your life, and trusting that the God who created you and all things is capable of providing for your needs.

It means daily picking up your cross and following him. In a culture that prizes safety and security above all else, cross-bearing is anathema. In her book on loneliness, Elisabeth Elliot reminds us that “safety, as the Cross shows, does not exclude suffering. All that was of course beyond me when I was a child, but as I began to learn about suffering, I learned that trust in those strong arms means that even our suffering is under control. We are not doomed to meaninglessness. A loving Purpose is behind it all, a great tenderness even in the fierceness.”

What is the basis for the Christian understanding of the subversive nature of family?

  1. Obedience – God commands us to be fruitful and multiply. God’s command to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. This command is not connected to a particular age in time. Having children then was an act of faith and trust. Because they lived in a culture that was communal and family was central having kids was seen as a blessing. It required obedience and sacrifice; still, large families were not easy to provide for in nomadic and agrarian societies. In our radically individualized world of buffered self. We crave experiences and personal freedom, and the call to be fruitful and multiply comes at the expense of personal, financial, and career goals.

    Obedience to God’s commands comes with blessings, but those commands also require faith. St. Augustin addressed this obsession with self in one of the more famous sections of his seminal work, the City of God.

    “Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love,”

    Our obedience because it is directed toward God for the good of others will seem to those in a pluralistic, radically individualistic world as contempt of self. The obedience of selfish desires and the excess of personal ambition is seen as the goal of our culture in so many ways. The only way this can be achieved, as St. Augustin reminds is by contempt of God.
  2. Love—We live in a world that has taken to define love by the logically self-defeating argument that love is love. No object can be defined by itself; it must be identified, observed, and contrasted. Self-love is antithetical to the Christian understanding of love. Love must be both shared and observed to be authentic. Love without an object is not love. God models this in the Godhead, where he has eternally experienced love within himself from eternity to eternity. He invites us into that love to observe, replicate, and ultimately experience forever.

    We have a cheap dollar-store version of Love because we reduced it to its lowest base version. We make it about a feeling we feel until it is gone, and then we move on to the next relationship or friendship. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, says, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” If you have ever had kids, you understand that there is an immediate sense of love for that child that could never be fully explained. Yet even that flood of affectionate feelings is not enough to maintain a relationship of love. It requires the sacrificial steady wish for that other person’s happiness.

    This doesn’t mean that everything you do for that person will make them feel happy. If you have teenagers, you know this to be true. It means that everything you do for that person is out of a willing for their good. It comes from a desire to see their highest good achieved, and sometimes, actually many times, that is achieved through difficult moments of pain.

    John tells us the mark of authentic Christianity is in our love for one another. They will see our love for God in our love for others. How we love others is a result of the love we have observed in God and experienced from others. John rightly asks, if you do not love those you can see, how can you love a God you can not see?

    Our families should be a model of love to a watching world. They should see a self-giving love in how we relate to each other that is more beautiful and deeply abiding than any feeling or external sense of love can bring.
  3. Trust – Of all the things that children have taught me, I would have to say trust is priemenant. I have had to trust God to supply for our family. Four kids in a world where toothpaste is $20 and a gallon of gas is $12 (this is an exaggeration, but I’m trying to make this post relevant when read a year from now) is not easy. It’s easy to provide for yourself, go on beautiful vacations, and buy whatever you want, and it will magically arrive two days later. It takes trust to find meaningful work and make enough to provide for a large family.

    As a famous twenty-first poet says:

    What if you had it all
    But nobody to call?
    Maybe then you’d know me
    ‘Cause I’ve had everything
    But no one’s listening

    You can have everything this world offers but be filled with an aching loneliness. To do this requires trust.

    Family teaches us to trust God with outcomes. You can somewhat control the choices you make and what you do. You have some control over your kids but no control over nature or the sinful choices of others. Living in a world gone mad like we presently do, is not easy, and I would add that it is tempting to smother your kids and protect them from everything. The problems with this are many because we are not omniscient and omnipresent like God, and there are limits to our ability and capacity. Because this is true, we must protect our kids, but we must trust God more.

    Modeling this trust in the middle of danger shows the world and our kids that our kids are not the center of our universe. Copernicus’s heliocentric understanding was branded as heresy in a geocentric world. When we have kids in a world that is filled with danger, it shows the world that child-centric, me-centric worlds are faulty from the start. A family that is raised to see the gospel as central rather than them will locate their trust in the immovable reality of God’s love for us. In the reality that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
  4. Hope – This world is not all there is. Having kids in a world gone crazy is an act of subversive hope in this world but also in the world to come. Hope sees this world as it really is. It doesn’t sugar coat or ignore anything but it also sees Christ as he is. Hope is not based in our present circumstance but in the future reality of all things being made new.

    Hope says we see the world as broken, but that brokenness is redefined on the cross. I recently read The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for the first time. Tolkien defined the perennial human condition and the reality of the present age he lived in and even the one we presently live in.

    “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

    May this be so. May we build families that are fair amid a landscape of love mingled with grief that one day will be marked by unending, immeasurable joy.

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