This is the first post in a 3-part series on a fundamental aspect of marriage and family – having children.
Part 1: When Are You Having Children?
I started off the year like many did. With family.
At some point in the course of the festivities, someone asked us when we’re having children.
Loudly. As though some announcement was being made.
The room pretty much came to a stand-still and everyone turned their eyes to us.
Soon, I said.
Admittedly, I was thrown off. Not really by the question but the manner in which it was asked.
If you know anything about me, you know there are conversations I prefer to have one-on-one. Not in a room full of adults and children. Family or not.
In a few months? They prodded.
At this point, the wheels in my mind were slowly starting to turn again.
Eventually, I said.
One or two comments followed. We laughed and moved on.
As we closed the evening, we stood by the Christmas tree to take pictures.
Out of all the families present, we were the only ones who don’t have kids yet.
Someone else commented how we need to have kids so we can complete our photo…our family.
The words came so deep from within me I don’t even think they went through my brain.
We’re already complete, I stated.
Yes, we are, my husband remarked beside me.
We smiled for the photo.
Smiled through the goodbyes.
It wasn’t until I got into bed that night that I felt the first crack run through my heart.
You warned me. But whew, I wasn’t ready for that, Lord.
See, God had indeed warned me the subject would come up.
He’d done me a solid and wrapped a heavy blanket of grace around my heart too.
It was probably the only reason I was able to smile through it all.
That and the shock.
Because in that moment, in our bed, staring into the darkness, a brutal reality sank deep and knocked the breath out of me.
Dear God. Is this what all these women go through?
I talk to God. A lot. About anything and everything.
We started talking about marriage and family before I even met my husband.
In the seasons that followed, God revealed many beautiful glimpses and details of who my children are in eternity. The kind of people they’d grow up to be in time.
I was in awe then. Even more so now.
I couldn’t believe that out of all the women in the world, He was choosing me to be their mother.
When we started dating, my husband and I began to compare notes. He’d heard from God about his children too. We put the prophetic words together and our family portrait started to take shape. There was still much we didn’t know. Much that God would share with us as we dated and right into marriage.
To date, He hasn’t stopped speaking.
Thank God, He hasn’t stopped speaking.
By now, I really should know better than to challenge God.
It gets me into all sorts of trouble. Good trouble, but my life becomes an intense rollercoaster for a season or two.
We’re talking about ministry and He keeps nudging me about women.
I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing, I tell Him. Because they’re already doing it and doing it well. I need You to show me how I can add value to what already exists.
It’s only in hindsight that I realized that He’d preempted my challenge (because He really does know me that well).
Many months prior to this conversation, God had begun highlighting certain stories to me. Stories of these women who all had one thing in common – their rocky journey to motherhood.
These women introduce me to a side of womanhood I was blissfully completely ignorant of until that point.
Some had struggled with infertility for years.
Some had had miscarriages. A good number, more than one.
Some had walked into hospitals carrying children and walked out with empty arms.
Some had been trying for the longest time to have their next child.
Some were never able to have even one biological child.
There were those who were on the peak of the mountain they’d finally surmounted. Beautiful stories bubbled forth. Stories of babies who brought laughter back into their lives. Stories of babies who were heaven sent from one mother’s womb to their open hearts and hands.
There were those who were smack in the middle of a deep, deep valley. Questions, doubt, intermittent hope and Davidic praise that was raw and honest trailed after them.
As I take it all in, the sorrow and grief of loss, the tearful testimonies of breakthrough, the weight of the path God has me on is landing heavily and with finality.
I now understand why He brought these women, these stunning fragments of their lives, to my attention.
I’m asking Him questions. Hard questions.
He’s giving me answers. Some outrightly surprising. Some surprisingly simple.
He’s drawing me deeper into His heart for women and motherhood. For couples and families.
This time it’s not just about me, not just about my husband and I.
In the middle of all this, my dear friend has a miscarriage.
I knew what had happened before I got the message that confirmed it.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be wrong so much. But pushing an imaginary switch on my discernment wouldn’t have changed a thing, only delayed the inevitable.
Suddenly, what has been a somewhat distant reality has barged into my house and is seated on my couch.
The urgency of everything God is sharing with me increases tenfold.
My heart breaks for these women.
My heart breaks for my friend.
I dodged the when-are-you-getting-married question.
There are seasons where God can hide you so deep the only way for anyone to find you is through Him. It’s the only explanation for how I was never hounded with this question.
God hid me.
So, it was amusing that when we started handing out our wedding invitations, there was a cross-section of people in our lives who truly believed the reason we were getting married was because we were expecting a child.
It didn’t matter that they knew my then fiancé was a pastor and I was a committed believer. Their absolute certainly brushed off any response to the contrary. So I didn’t bother to try and persuade them otherwise.
Frankly, I didn’t blame them.
We have this habit, as Christians, where we make rather lame attempts to cover up what anyone with basic mathematical ability can work out.
What we fail to realize is how many people saw the Emperor naked before we got to him. And how many people can still see the Emperor naked because we’re trying to clothe him with material that’s so transparent he may as well still be naked.
I don’t know who we think we’re fooling.
I’m not even sure what testimony we think we’re preserving.
God can see past our hastily crafted fig leaves.
So can any believer with a fraction of discernment and a good head on their shoulders.
So can the world that doesn’t see the point of Jesus if their lives and those of Christians are “all in the same Whatsapp group”, as my friend likes to quip.
Maybe we should do ourselves a favour, admit our mistakes, take responsibility for our actions and live right by God.
That said, our first year of marriage came and went without a wailing newborn in our household. Truth had its silent yet stoic say on the matter.
But as months turned into years, I became aware that God was slowly bringing me out of hiding.
And this time, there was another question He wasn’t going to hide me from.
A question that, as I now think about it, had been lurking…looking for me even while we were planning our wedding.
When are you having children?
I sincerely find it bizarre that people ask this question. Mostly because it’s one I’ve never even thought to ask anyone much less verbalized out loud. Not even once.
Between my value for an extremely high level of discretion and the conversations I’ve had with God, I just don’t see the point.
It’s not my business how God and a couple choose to map out their family. It doesn’t matter how close I may be to that couple, their marriage covenant is between them and God. At best, I’m a witness to their union with whatever limited access they may choose to grant me.
If God decides to make it my business, He will give me the knowledge I require and the wisdom I need to steward that knowledge.
Short of God expressly instructing me to have such a conversation with a couple, I see no reason whatsoever to raise it with them.
After a lifetime of zagging while everyone else is zigging, I sometimes make attempts to take off my shoes, put someone else’s on and walk over to their side of the world. Alas, I tend to become terribly snarky when I do so please bear with me. 🙂
Why do people ask this question? Beyond the obvious – they want to know – is why? Why do they want to know?
They’re being nosey.
Yes, I said it. In the midst of conversation (I’m trying hard not to call it gossip), it comes up and no one seems to have an answer. Just a lot of guesswork. So they decide to find out. By hook or by crook. By any means necessary.
Remember that discernment I mentioned earlier? The one that doesn’t have an off switch? I know when people are fishing for information. Just because I entertain it to some extent doesn’t mean I didn’t spot it from a mile away.
And so do many people. Couples and spouses who are on the receiving end of questions, statements and actions that they’re painfully aware are born out of idle gossip. They may not have the words to put to it like I do but the moment a mouth is opened and the interrogation begins, they know something is off. Some of the stories I’m privy to make the one I started off with look like a sunny day in the park.
The worst part is how much of what is said and done comes from those who are closest to us – family and friends. Familiarity truly does breed contempt.
They feel it’s time.
Having sat down in a council of self, or family, or friends, they decide that it’s time for a couple to have children.
It entertains me how different all these timetables are. Some people believe your honeymoon should be spent conceiving a child. Others think one-year max is the grace period you should have. Then you have everything in between. It would be nice if all these people hired a hall, held a meeting, voted on it and came to the couple with one clear consensus on what they want. It gets hard to keep up after the fifth alternate timeline.
The other thing that tickles me is the presumption that it’s their right to decide. Because they feel ready for a couple to have children, then it must be time for that couple to have children. There’s little to no room for what the couple much less God has to say on the matter.
They feel it’s their job to encourage you (into parenthood).
These guys live in the same estate as the ones who feel its time. There’s no apparent action (ha!) going on in a marriage and they take it upon themselves to nudge a couple forward.
It takes all sorts of bizzare, funny and downright hurtful and awful expressions. Some will use the question as an opening line to launch into a mini-sermon on why you should have children. Others will start to give you all sorts of “helpful” advice on how to guarantee child conception and birth because you’re obviously clueless and haven’t done anything they’re proposing. Then there are those who will plant children in your arms, face, and any part of your life they can get to in an attempt to stir up the maternal or paternal instinct that has clearly snoozed through all the alarms that were set for it.
Somehow a couple that was mature enough to consent to a wedding and build a life together is suddenly rendered incapable of making choices concerning having children.
Love and concern is a sad excuse to send yourself where God has not sent you. If I sound harsh, it’s because I’ve witnessed firsthand what happens when people full of good intentions say and do things to others in the name of God. I’ve been on the receiving (and giving) end of it too enough times to know that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.
God has given them some fragment of revelation and they’re looking for confirmation.
I literally just sighed deeply on this one.
It’s a rookie mistake I used to make (albeit on a different subject) and one I see all too often.
Ministry requires a high degree of decorum. Those levels multiply tenfold when you’re dealing with family and friends because the nature of the relationships means we’re more prone to assuming we know what we’re doing and making a quick mess of things in the process.
It’s fantastic that God is speaking to you about a couple and their child/children. But before you go running to them to hound them with questions, how about asking God what He wants you to do with what He’s told you? How about submitting that revelation to the spiritual authority in their life who is far better equipped to handle that revelation and the couple it pertains to?
Our haste is laying waste to far too many hearts. An accurate prophetic word/revelation delivered in the wrong way is just as bad, if not worse, than a false word. If you presume to know what’s best, you can very easily cause pain and death with what God intended to use to bring life.
Muddy shoes and all, I still don’t agree with these specific heart postures.
Because I think we’re asking the wrong question.
And we’re asking the wrong person/people.
When are you having children?
Subsumed in the manner it’s almost always asked is a dangerous and erroneous assumption – that it’s solely up to a couple to decide when to have to children; which translates to, a couple has power over life and death.
What, then, are you saying to the couple who just went through their first miscarriage? Or the one that’s been through so many they can explain every medical term and procedure that comes with it without batting an eye?
What are you saying to the couple that’s just gone through their umpteenth negative pregnancy test and are doing their level best to keep waiting on God with hope-filled hearts?
What are you saying to a couple that has to undergo endless fertility treatments for the chance, not even the guarantee, of conception?
What are you saying to the couple who’ve just been handed a medical report that deems them infertile?
Why would we put such an impossible burden on two human beings who were never created to carry it because the choice was never theirs to begin with?
Do we even stop to think about the words coming out of our mouth?
Do we stop to think about the implication of the conversations we’re starting?
If a question you ask out of concern leads to more death than life for those you’re asking, maybe, just maybe, your concern is sorely, gravely misplaced.
Just because this is how everyone does it, this is how everyone handled you, doesn’t make it right to automatically pass it on to another person. Doesn’t make it right to pass it on, period.
Just because it worked for you, and with you/others, doesn’t mean the same measure is to be used on another couple who are nothing like you/others.
And if it didn’t work for you, why on earth would you drive the same dagger that has been lodged in your heart into someone else’s…especially someone you love?
A culture of everyone doing things the same way is a terrible reason to judge their choices as the right ones. Everyone can be cumulatively wrong.
What breaks my heart all the more is that nothing I’ve described so far relates to non-believers. It’s all on us – the believers. The Christians. The ones who are to be known by our love for one another.
We should know better.
We can do better.
In what season will God give us children?
It’s my alternative question for couples to ask themselves. (Not necessarily for others to ask of them.)
Children, as with everything else, have an appointed time and season. And I’ll get deeper into this in Why Are You Getting Children?.
Last time I checked, it’s God who ordains time and season in accordance to purpose.
It’s unfortunate when those who’ve had a smooth, somewhat linear path into parenting quickly take for granted that the only reason they have a child in their arms is the mercy of God. They’re no more deserving than the couple who’s been declared infertile or the one who’s just gone through their 5th consecutive miscarriage.
The power of life and death solely rests in God.
If there’s anyone we should be asking questions, if there’s anyone we should be taking all our cares and concerns to, it’s the One who actually has the power to do something about it.
Non-believers may not know how to seek God. That’s why this post is really not even about them.
But as a Christian, pray tell, what’s your excuse?
When are we having children?
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV
Peter speaks of the Lord’s 2nd coming. But I find these verses to be true of every aspect in which we wait on God to show up for us.
Soon, as I stated when asked, could be months from now. It could also be years.
I’m deliberately vague because there’s no one who’s entitled to that information. Not even us, as the couple in question. The same God who gives children is the same God who reveals them to us. It is our God-given privilege, not our human-earned right, to be recipients of revelation from Him; to be stewards of these bundles of destiny.
Half the time, as married couples, we dodge this question and its different variations because of the level of entitlement and outrageous audacity with which it’s hurled at us. That’s why we meander through our responses with tight smiles and awkward laughter that mask our shock. It’s hard to make your brain work right when there’s a dagger sticking out of your heart and a loved one put it there.
There are those who’ve asked me if/when we’ll have children and I’ve had no qualms responding to them because of the sincerity with which they inquired and just as importantly the manner in which they inquired. For strangers, there’s a ton I won’t tell them. For family and friends, I share as the Lord leads. But because of the care with which they handle the conversation, I walk away from that conversation with my heart intact. So do they.
How you handle my husband and I tells me a lot about how you’ll handle any prophetic words concerning our children and the very children who are born as a manifestation of the same. I will not give you a straight answer if you don’t come to me with a straight motive. And even if you do, as a couple, we reserve the right of what to share and what not to share.
There is only a select number of people in our lives who have proven their stewardship and who God has actually mandated to walk this journey with us. It’s ironic that those who I’d think to exempt and say have every right to be in our business, people like our spiritual father, have handled us with incredible graciousness, kindness and sensitivity. They inquire of us with utmost discretion. They listen to our hearts not just our mouths. They speak to us concerning God’s timing, not theirs or ours. They encourage us based on what God is saying, not based on human expectations. They confirm what God has already made known to us – the season in which we will have children. And in rest and wholeness, we journey together towards that season.
Because God is speaking.
He never stopped speaking.
If you stopped listening, find your way to His presence and learn to inquire of Him anew.
Because the next time anyone asks me this question, my response will be: what has God told you? as I shush my heart from loudly declaring: mind your business.