Friday, June 08, 2007

A Family of Two

While browsing the greeting card aisle, searching for a light-hearted note of congratulations for my recently wed friend, I laughed out loud at one sentiment in particular. I don’t remember the exact wording but the front of the card said something to the effect of how nice it is now people quit asking about the impending wedding date. The inside read “So when are you going to have a baby?”

Assuming that a couple has committed themselves to abstinence prior to their nuptials, it seems only natural that the next step in a Christian marriage is to “go forth and multiply.” Whether driven by pressure from anxious in-laws, friends or well meaning church family members, the Biblical concept of “leaving and cleaving” (For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Gen. 2:24, NIV) has somehow morphed into “leaving, cleaving, and conceiving.”

We tend to bristle ever so slightly when we hear the phrase “start a family,” when those who utter it really mean, “start having babies.” Our personal preference is to say that couples are expanding the family, not starting one. It is our understanding that a family begins at the altar on the wedding day.

As Walter Trobisch points out in his book I Married You, the commonly held belief that marriage is for procreation, is a slightly off target premise. The book is about his experience conducting a lecture series designed to facilitate a more appropriately complete view of sex in marriage. Originally published in 1971, his target audience, not to mention the small Christian community to which he lectured in Africa, was initially confounded by his ideas. One of the most profound statements in the book occurs when he challenges Christians to think about the “full stop” that takes place immediately after the wedding.

The “full stop” as Trobisch calls it, is his most compelling argument demonstrating that a marriage without children is still a blessed one in God’s eyes. The full stop concept is based on Genesis 2:24. Man and wife become one flesh. This verse says nothing about bearing children or populating the earth.

Interestingly enough, this is hardly a new interpretation of the purpose of the union between man and wife as one flesh. When God declared that it was not suitable for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), the reason was not because Adam had no means to procreate without a partner. Eve was created as a helper, and a source of sexual fulfillment and enjoyment as man.

Together Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame. (Gen. 2:25). As only a married person can attest, there is nothing as mysterious and wonderful about being unabashedly ashamed to be naked with a spouse who loves unconditionally. There truly is no shame there. A healthy marriage becomes more deeply fulfilling as husband and wife discover their sexual appetites for one another, and partake of such willingly and regularly. In doing so, Christian couples are wisely and wonderfully heeding Solomon’s words “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.” Proverbs 5:18-19 (NIV).

Even before my husband and I were married, we discussed frequently and seriously, what it would mean for us to be a family, and whether or not we would be parents. When we first expressed our thoughts on the matter with friends and family, we got a lot of smirks and comments like “you never know…birth control isn’t fail safe,” or “you say that now, but you’ll want kids later.” God has made it abundantly clear to us that we are not to be parents.

My husband and I have wrestled mightily with our decision regarding children. The decision has been in the works for us as a couple for nearly 5 years. For me personally, the benefits and consequences have been weighing on my mind for 12 years. I have cystic fibrosis, an incurable genetic condition that wreaks havoc on nearly every body system.

Pregnancy and parenting are not a reasonable or responsible choice for us. We have willingly sacrificed part of what our bodies and marriage were designed to do, in order that we not harm an innocent child.

Getting pregnant was never a question in my mind. Women with cystic fibrosis can and do could get pregnant. Some actually do quite well with it. However, simply getting pregnant was not (and is not) the point for us. The point is that being pregnant is only the beginning. 9 months out of an 18+ year commitment.

I do not have the capability or wherewithal to parent a child. It's not about my overall health; it's not about whether it's "only natural" to want to be a parent. It's not about me at all. It's about what a child would not receive from me or my spouse because of the constant demands of cystic fibrosis in our life. Our physical, emotional, financial and spiritual resources are already tapped.

I feel like a woman when my husband tells me he loves me. I feel like a woman when I make him happy just by making a lunch for him to take to work. I feel like a woman when I look at my beautiful wedding band and engagement ring. I don't need my uterus to stretch in order to feel like a woman. I am a woman because of how God wired my emotions and my ability to fulfill my husband.

We do not align ourselves with the “childless by choice” camp. The word childless seems to suggest that we are lacking something, the same way that the words homeless or penniless do. We are not on the bottom rung on the ladder of blessed marriages. On the contrary; God blesses us tremendously as a family of two. We find great joy in being a special part of the lives of our friends’ children. As members of the body of Christ, we have every bit the same responsibility to bring up children in the fear and admonishing of the Lord—even if those children are not biologically related to us.

Our commitment to God and to our vows as husband and wife take precedence in our life as a family of two. Occasionally we wonder what it would have been like to be parents, but we know that God’s plan for us does not include children. It is a calling that we do not share with many other couples our age, but that is not the point. What matters is that we are obedient to God and glorify Him. We can do that most effectively as a family of two.

Interestingly enough, JG and I went through a lot of things, but finally decided that same as you, that Heavenly Father had other plans for us than kids. We both firmly believe in the next life and continuation of families. We just have to be patient. Funny how people make assumptions isn't it. The one we get is, "yeah kids take a lot of time and work." like we decided not to have kids because it would interfere with our lives or something... ugh. Hate people who make assumptions. Good luck with the book and don't let people rile you like I do.
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