Is Motherhood a Calling?

Carla: We had a great conversation on Midday Connection and it raised some important questions in the comments on the blog. One issue came up in Dave’s set of comments on this post–and we know it will come up again and again and again so we are going to dig into it a lot deeper. And I want to be clear about something. We are not picking on Dave–he is voicing an opinion that we hear a lot and we appreciate his participation in the Revolution conversation. This post isn’t about Dave. It’s about an ideology that we just don’t buy. It’s this whole idea of motherhood as a calling. 

As you can probably guess, we wouldn’t call it that. Not because motherhood isn’t wonderful in many, many ways and not because we don’t believe God led us toward the lives we are living. We firmly believe that motherhood matters–a lot, that it is honorable and godly and worthy of respect and praise.  No, we wouldn’t use that word because we think it’s problematic. Here’s why:

1) It’s not biblical. Seriously, name one Bible verse that says motherhood is a calling. There aren’t any. There are, however, huge chunks of the Bible that tell us what we are called to as Christians–one could even say that’s kind of the point of the whole thing. 

  •  Deut. 10:11-13 is a longer version of something called the Shema (found in Deut. 6:5) which the nation of Israel held as its central calling. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
  • Micah 6:8 says something similar: “He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
  • Jesus talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, caring for the needy. He doesn’t give an exemption for those of us with young children. Jesus includes women in his call to go into the world and make disciples. He never says a thing about calling women toward something else. He doesn’t give women what Dave calls a “proper focus,” he gives all people who follow him the same call–take up your cross.
  • Paul’s letters go into great detail about what the Christian life looks like and he rarely mentions parenting, much less motherhood. In fact, Paul is pretty clear–as was Jesus–that family life can often get in the way of following God. When parents are spoken of at all, it is in regard to their relationship to their children and the importance of honor and respect in that relationship. Paul spends most of his writing time teaching Christians to care for each other, to work together, to overcome their differences and find unity in their faith. He doesn’t single parents out as having a calling that is somehow more godly than others. In fact, he says the opposite–the body has many parts and all are needed. 

In general, parenthood in the Bible is a means to some other end. There are only a handful of specific examples of women being somehow chosen to have children: Sarah, who gave birth only after decades of praying for a child; Hannah who prayed and prayed for a  baby only to offer that child, Samuel, back to God when he was a toddler; Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; and Mary, who was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. But those stories are not about how those women were called into motherhood for its own sake. Each of those stories is the launching point for the next part of God’s story. These are not stories about motherhood, but about faithful women who were mothers. They weren’t called to motherhood but to faith. The Bible shows us how to live as God’s people–and that impacts our parenting. But the Bible doesn’t say much about how we are to think about parenthood.

2) People keep using that word. We don’t think it means what they think it means. One of the best sermons I ever heard was about this idea of calling. The pastor talked about how blithely Christians use that word when in truth the Bible uses it very rarely. So there’s a difference between the actual sense of calling as it’s used in the Bible and the way most people use the word. Caryn and I both feel like we have followed God’s lead in the lives we have. But I have never felt called to motherhood. I feel called to be a good mother. I feel called to love my children like crazy, to teach them, to care for them, to protect them, to send them into the world as thoughtful, compassionate people who love God. But that is my calling as a Christian–to love the Lord with all my heart and soul and strength, to love my neighbor (which in this case means my children) as myself, and to teach this to my children. The call of Christ compels me to be a loving, caring parent. It doesn’t compel me to be a parent.

3) It boarders on idolatry. Dave made a statement that troubles me to no end. It is just the kind of statement that sends a deeper message to mothers: Dave mentions that a woman’s proper focus is the family. I’m not sure where he gets that. Well, I know where he gets it, but I don’t know what biblical basis he has for that statement. As I said, the gospel doesn’t include specifics about parenting. Jesus didn’t exempt mothers from participating in God’s work in the world. And Jesus wasn’t just talking to the men when he told his followers to feed and clothe and visit the poor and imprisoned. The idea that my three children are more important than other people goes against everything the Bible teaches. It makes an idol of my family. So I can’t justify having tunnel vision about my parenting. I can’t call myself a Christian and then live a life that centers only on a small, select group of people–no matter how much I love those people. And I can’t fathom God giving me gifts and passions and dreams with the intention that I limit the use of those to the lives of three people. There is a huge, hurting world out there and mothers–with our heightened compassion, our deepened sense of justice, our ever-growing longing for a better world–are uniquely qualified to get out there and work toward bringing about the kingdom of God. I could go on and on about mothers who have changed the world, but we’ll save that for another post.

4) It’s a dangerous, damaging way to think about motherhood. If we hold motherhood up as a divine calling, we imply that it is something a woman is chosen for, that she is selected by God to do. So what about those women who long to be “chosen” for motherhood and aren’t? What message does it send to childless women when we tell them that God only chooses some women for this special calling? I’ll tell you what that message is: it’s that they are the problem, that they are unworthy of the call. I know that’s what they hear because my friends who have battled infertility or who are single and long for families tell me that’s what they hear.We can encourage and support  and value motherhood without turning it into something that creates pain in the lives of our sisters.

5) It ignores dads. I find it ironic that the same people who hold up motherhood as a calling rarely talk about fatherhood as a calling. If anyone has a link to a book, an article, an anything that discusses fatherhood as a calling, please link to it in the comments because I would love to be wrong about this. Ironically, it also seems to me that the people who believe motherhood is a calling often hold to a view of the man as the spiritual head of the family as well. In that case, why isn’t the dad the one staying home with the kids? If he’s the head, why is he the one leaving for 40 hours a week? The absence of a father in a child’s life creates a whole host of issues that are far more damaging to a child than having a mother who has a job.

6) Add all of those together and you have faulty theology. Dave is the father of 11 children and I imagine he and his wife are wonderful parents. But the problem with what Dave is saying is something that sits at the core of the Revolution: Every family is different, every mom is different. So when someone suggests that what they have and experience is the best way–and the only real Christian way–to parent or think about the family, they take away the possibility that God might have a different path for other families.

Those of us who feel perfectly content (or not so much content as done) with the one or three or six children have don’t believe we are somehow being selfish or not following God’s leading. It’s possible that we have made those decisions with heartfelt prayer and felt God’s clear leading. Dave and his wonderful, extraordinary wife have chosen a life that is simply not for everyone. They have been blessed with a big, happy family and that’s clearly where they have felt God leading them. But other families are led down different paths. And thank God. Because the world needs Christian people in every vocation, in every walk of life. We need men and women who focus on the world around them and not only on their own homes. That’s the divine calling–to go into the world and make disciples of all nations.

Caryn: Preach it, Sister!

I’m so glad you started this topic. Because yesterday—in a comment back to Dave (and I wasn’t bashing you, buddy. I really appreciate your sense of humor. My toes do feel better!)—I called motherhood a “calling.”

But ever since I wrote that, I’ve wondered if I really believe it to be true. And I think I’m with you, Carla–for the reasons you write. You know the Shema and all (Props to Fuller Theological Seminary in beautiful Pasadena, Calif. They taught you good!).

I do feel called to raise my particular kids. I know God gave me the amazing little creatures to raise—and am eternally grateful (and exhausted) for it. But I have never felt lead to motherhood in a divine sort of way. (For what it’s worth, I do feel lead—divinely so—with the Mommy Revolution. This is nothing if not a God-thing, people. You don’t even know….)

However, I believe some women do feel called to motherhood. I’m thinking right now of a woman I know who without a doubt knew she was meant to be a mother and felt lead to adopt. Can I say this isn’t a divine calling? I don’t think so.  

But it all comes back to this: Whether or not we have kids, whether or not we are “gifted” in the 1950ish sense of motherhood, whether or not we use birth control, whether or not we would cry or celebrate upon learning we were pregnant, a woman’s “proper focus” is on God, not family. I think you’re right, Carla, that a focus on the family (ahem) is idolatrous. I say, Focus on Jesus. (You can start humming “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” for better effect. Love that song!)

Even Dave says God should be our number one. And that means, we look to him (God, not Dave) and to how he made us and to how he wants us to love and raise our kids and how we wants us to use our gifts and our lives. And, as Carla wrote, how he wants us to make disciples of all nations. 

Sounds like that’s what Dave and his big wonderful family are doing.  And that’s what we should too. I’m just glad we can make disciples without literally making them. If you catch my drift…

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49 responses to this post.

  1. Ok. I officially love you guys. Not that I didn’t already love Caryn, because she is my cyber friend from waaay back, but now, Carla too. You speak to my heart and make me laugh every time I read this blog.

    With that being said, I would like to put in my two cents. If motherhood is a “calling”, what about mothers who do not believe in God? Is the work they do to raise their children “less than” that of women who were “called” by God to do it? And, if you feel that is true, then how is it that some very Godly people have come from very un-Godly upbringings?

    What I basically believe is that we are all “called” to be in community with God. He wants to be with us. To commit to Him and build our relationship with Him. Then, to take that relationship and help others build the same in their lives. That includes our children.

    For a very long time, I’ve thought that God also uses children to help us understand the great love that He has for us. If you use me for an example, I did not grow up in a Godly household. In fact, I was told we were Christians even though I now see that we were far, FARRRR from that. Because of growing up that way, it confused me as to what Christianity was. I really didn’t want any part of it and couldn’t understand why anyone would.

    It wasn’t until I had my first child, that I began to truly understand the whole God as Father relationship. Before that, I was glad to be rid of the father in my life. I certainly didn’t want to openly walk into another one.

    BUT…after understanding the deep love that my husband and I had for my daughter, I was able to understand how that translated to God’s similar love for me. It turned my life around.

    So, I don’t feel that I was “called” to be a mother anymore than I was “called” to be a wife. I do feel that God specifically placed the exact children in my life that He felt I would most benefit. I do feel that He gave me those children knowing that the way they grew up in my home would ultimately affect their relationship with Him and how they would come to serve Him in the world. Interestingly enough, I believe the same thing about my own father. Regardless of the situation, I still feel God used it to make me who I am today.

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  2. Goodness gracious.

    Ladies. I keep reading wondering if I will get the chance to disagree…. it hasn’t happened yet.

    *High five

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  3. Posted by Steve B. on January 15, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Here’s a funny story. My wife and I were married for several years and were starting to become accustomed to the “when are you having kids?” question. I didn’t mind it nearly as much as she did because I rather enjoy making others uncomfortable when they feel it’s their business to meddle in ours. But anyway, I was working for a homeless ministry and she was working full time to provide a real income for us. We were very involved in our church and she had even mentored a girl from the church youth group. We never sensed any “calling” to have children, but did get to a point where we started investigating adoption because we saw how many children needed parents. Then my wife was diagnosed with cancer (this isn’t the funny part). She had four surgeries and four doses of chemo and precisely at the time when her oncologist told her that it was not only inadvisable, but nearly impossible to get pregnant, guess what? We got pregnant (that is the funny part).

    Doctors used the term “miracle” because this happened only 9 months after her last dose of chemo and apparently, these things just don’t happen. Because her cancer was hormone-fed, pregnancy posed a significant health risk. After 9 months and a few health scares, our daughter was born healthy. We were instantly changed – for the better – but after about 8 months of sleepless nights, we decided to take the oncologist’s advice and not have any more children, as it would greatly increase the chances of cancer returning.

    I’m not sure if all this rambling supported a thesis, but I don’t think it is someone else’s place to tell us what our “calling” is, particularly when, as stated above, our primary calling is to follow Christ. In closing, I still enjoy the meddlers who seem to be experts on the “harmful effects” of being an only child. I’ll put my well-adjusted kid up against theirs any day of the week.

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  4. I wanted to share a couple comments I got on my Facebook page. Names have been withheld–again–because if they wanted to be public, they woulda posted it here themselves. But I really liked their responses to whether or not motherhood is a calling:

    Friend #1: I think of motherhood as a “calling” in the sense that whatever we do, we are “called” to work at it with all our heart, as if to the Lord.

    Friend #2: I think if motherhood was a calling, the phones would be unplugged.:)

    I don’t think some women are “called” to be moms and others are not. I think that once a woman becomes a mom, it is up to her to honor God in how she mothers the child. Being a mother is a blessing and gift.

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    • Thank you for the space to discuss such an important topic. I am a middle aged mother who has survived an abusive marriage, step-parenting 3 emotionally traumatized children at the age of 23 while raising my own baby with a weak and sometimes toxic support system. I feel that motherhood is a calling. It’s definitely not for wimps or those who desire an “it’s all about me” life. I feel that motherhood has taken a significant bashing and debasing in the past 30 years and women are often made to feel “less than” worthy for taking up the mantle of stay at home mothering, which is to say, full responsibility for the fruit of their wombs. The whole and complete family is definitely on the endangered species list. It was the family that God designed which held the potential, the full potential, of a complete and fulfilling life. This life is a journey and without the foundation, our children too often are cheated and taken for prey. Their feet haven’t the solid ground to face the storms that living life fully inevitably encounters. This world is a difficult, sometimes dangerous environment in which to navigate and the consequences of missteps can be lethal. So women go to work and their children are raised by strangers. How can this be what God wants ?

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    • Posted by EMBG on October 14, 2010 at 7:51 pm

      I agree that motherhood is a calling … and that it isn’t THAT kind of calling.

      So, good discussion. Think of it this way, as believers, we are called to do all that we do for the glory of God. That’s motherhood, and fatherhood, and marketing, and politics, and bricklaying and sewing and accounting, etc…

      Sadly, what a lot of people mean when they use the term “calling” in reference to motherhood is that motherhood is a woman’s only (or highest or best) calling. And that anything else she does is a distraction of her “true” calling and done to the neglect of what God intended her for. That’s a lie.

      But the fact that the above is a lie doesn’t detract from the truth that if a woman is a mother then God has called her to mother for his glory (and if she is a professor, He has called her to teach for his glory, etc). The problem we run into is not in seeing motherhood as calling but in seeing it as her exclusive calling – as if God can’t call you to motherhood and something else too!

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  5. Posted by Dave on January 15, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Seems we (unintentionally) stepped on a lot more toes than I thought we did in commenting to your Revolutionary Manifesto article.

    So, Having set out to be encouraging (or so we thought), we have apparently struck some nerves.
    I still can’t quite figure how you MommyRevolutionaries keep injecting the ONLY’s in what I wrote – I did NOT write that a woman with children can ONLY be “called” to motherhood! Nor would ever I claim that only Christians can be called to parenthood; NOR did I suggest that this “…is the best way–and the only real Christian way…”
    We would not claim that or that OR that!

    Unfortunately I do not have time now mention the things that I would really like to point out with your point #1, or to question the anti-Calvanistic comment regarding special callings, etc. under item #4, because I have the feeling that would go nowhere nor be edifying.

    (Sure wish I had time to do some fishing with some of the proverbial worms in this big can of estrogen we’ve opened! – and I completely mean that as a compliment.)

    Once again – we didn’t intend to be critical of your power-mom dreams, but rather supportive of April’s first mentioned dream – that of having many children. We believe that with the help of God you CAN have both. (Perhaps if more Christian parents pursed that dream, we would outnumber the non-Christians in this world instead of the opposite. Amen?)

    Our intention was supposed to be about NOT discounting the idea of having more children simply because YOU feel overwhelmed, or because YOU don’t feel healthy enough, or because YOU can’t see how it could work with your other plans! God CAN make it work!
    My heart is almost tearful that I cannot quite find the right words to stress enough that God DOES overcome our misgivings and shortcomings and will make EVERYTHING possible, and your reward will be a level of surprise and delight that you cannot imagine! Just visit some “quiverful-big-family-type” websites and read some of their testimonies – if you dare! Steve’s story/comment above proves that God can do – but then we often drop the ball by second-guessing Him instead of trusting.

    We commend you all for being Godly minded in what you do – in your mothering and in teaching and mission work, etc.

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  6. Wow. I am digging you gals.

    For years my husband and I have wondered about whether a couple’s desire to have children can border on being idolatrous. We have come to the conclusion that, like anything or anyone, yes, even children can become idols. I’ve just never heard someone else state the idea. Lest someone come back and say, “She’s saying Dave is idolatrous!” I’m not. I have, however, seen folks kill their bank accounts to have children, and adopt to fill a void – as if having a child is a right. Is it? Really?

    And ignoring Dads. I’m of the mindset that even mothers ignore Dads. Dads are quite capable of bathing, feeding, playing, and shuttling kids. Sometimes I think we need put aside our “my way is the right way”. If we did, I think we’d find that we have a wonderfully, capable partner that is also willing to help us. Sometimes mom’s just need to get out of the way. I’m sure someone wants to hit me now.

    As for a calling? I am called to love God and love others.

    Period.

    I love my children. I am trying my darndest to teach them to love God and love others as well. I am so thankful that God gave me two incredible gifts. He’s entrusted them to me. I will honor Him by nuturing them in His love.

    You rock.

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    • Posted by fish on November 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      Unless you light candles and incence and place flowers at their feet – children are not idols. What a truly proposterous notion.

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  7. Posted by Cindy Schwerdtfeger on January 15, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Wow, that was great stuff! And yes, Carla, preach it, and from the Shema no less! I wanted to get married and have children but I don’t remember feeling ‘called’ to be a mom. I do have two wonderful blessings and in the early years we talked about having 4 children. When our youngest was getting close to 2, I was still wanting more but my husband had decided we had a girl and a boy and two was enough. Did I struggle with that decision? Yes, for a few years but I had to respect that he did not want any more children and I accepted his decision. As I aged, I realized that it was for the best and that God knew what He was doing in speaking through my husband. Fast forward 10 years later, I had a new career, wore 5 hats at church (yes, too many..which is why I only have 2 now!), and yet found I struggled with depression (especially in the winter..yes, likely the Seasonal Affective Disorder). I realized that if I had more kids than two, it would have been MORE than I could have handled. I do love my children and am blessed for having been given the privilege of raising them but I also realized that my patience couldn’t handle the younger ages. I knew this because I was a Youth and Children’s Minister at my church, while my kids were young. I enjoy teaching (still do) youth-aged kids but always struggled with the toddler to preschool ages. When I had to teach that age as part of my job, I was always on edge & looked at the clock constantly. With teenagers, the time flies by and I am usually looking at the clock to find that I am sorely out of lesson time to teach! Now, I am called to minister to women and enjoy doing that at our church & our association of churches. I am also called to work in the secular world and encourage the group of employees who report to me and the co-workers in the departments around me. Three years ago, I began a prayer group at work based on God’s calling. It was very evident that He wanted me to do that & we have all been blessed by that. There have been many answers to prayers from that group and we feel that we worship Him as we do our work for Him. I truly believe that God calls us to minister where we are at…if it works for you at home, that is wonderful! For me, I minister in all places He has put me… home, church, work…. and even in the unlikely places, like the grocery store!

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  8. Posted by Carla on January 15, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    It’s interesting to me how so often Christians accept that God puts an end to our physical capacity to have children but struggle with the idea that God can also bring about the emotional and spiritual “completion” of our childbearing years. I think it’s possible that God changes our hearts in the same way God changes our bodies. And I think it’s possible that the rate of that change is different for each woman. There comes a point in every woman’s life when she is physically unable to bear children. And I think many of us feel like we have reached the point in our lives when we are mentally or emotionally unable to have more. I don’t think the Quiver-full folks pray for God to hold off menopause in the hopes of extending the physical ability to have babies, so why does it make sense to pray for God to extend our mental and emotional capacity to have children? T0 raise the ones we have–absolutely. I pray for that every day.

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  9. Posted by April G. on January 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    I am so enjoying this conversation! I just wanted to make a quick clarification (in case this was somehow not clear).

    Dave, I really appreciate your heart. And, I think most of us “Revolutionaries” would agree that we appreciate your presence in this conversation. I enjoy hearing different opinions and beliefs, and I hope you do as well. The Lord gave us brains for a reason, and a good disagreement (with respect) is good for the soul. It sharpens who we are and what we believe. And, I hope it opens our eyes and hearts to the differences around us – even in Christian circles. One of my favorite quotes (one I often shared with my students) is by Anatole France: “The mark of an educated mind is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Thank you for sharpening me and helping me find contentment as a mother-of-two.

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  10. Hi, I came via Midday Connection too.

    I’m glad the topic of motherhood being a calling (or a higher one) is being addressed. I have been annoyed by that mentality for a long time (especially when I found out I wasn’t going to be as good a mom as I thought I’d be). I even blogged about it myself a few years ago (but it is 20 times shorter than your post, lol!)

    But I totally get what Dave is saying (here and elsewhere on the blog). I can especially relate to his response to the comment about feeling “stuck”:

    “She should not feel “stuck” but rather consider herself “hectically settled” 🙂 “Stuck” implies an unpleasantness that you want to get out of, or a place to be rescued from, But parenthood is a GOOD place to be confined to – one should never wish to be removed from it! God forbid! We pray that all parents embrace their calling in true Godliness and contentment.”

    The problem probably was with the words “should” and “God forbid”. It’s just that those words add to our sense of inadequacy. Nonetheless, I am learning to be content, and I’m now thankful for have been “stuck”. By God’s providence, I had another child before motherhood got really tough, so I didn’t go back to work when I felt at my lowest point in parenting (and it was low). It has been on my heart to blog about this for a while, and this post got the juices flowing. (I just am a slower writer so it’ll probably be Monday before it goes up).

    I now am homeschooling my “problem child” — something I constantly doubted would be possible. But with God, all things are possible. And I’m doing it with joy!

    It is beneficial to talk about these things. I didn’t feel like anyone understood what I was going through. On the one hand, I felt people glazed over the issue, because maybe they didn’t want to see the real me. On the other hand, when I talked to some other moms, they’d ask me what has helped me get through because they also needed the encouragement. Others were simply relieved that someone else was there and it helped them seek God even more. But we all agree it was hard to get a lot of the encouragement we needed.

    But even though God designed us for fellowship, to spur one another unto good works, I had all I needed: The Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with filling out an inventory to see where we fit in God’s work or how spiritually mature we are. It has to do with a daily walk and our fight against our flesh. And let me tell you, our flesh can take the best of intentions and turn it into a complete frustration. It has to do with His sufficiency. Although my struggle with contentment is no longer with the parenting aspects but with other parts of life, I am learning a bit more about contentment along the way.

    And if you look at the passage in Phillippians 4 about being content, it speaks of learning. Jesus also encouraged us to learn from Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We think we can learn things overnight but we can’t. God knows that.

    So to the authors of this blog, and Dave too. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

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  11. procreation as a means of outnumbering those of other beliefs? ummm…ewwwe….no thanks. I find that a disturbing perspective.

    I don’t understand why it’s not enough to just say “I WANT lots of kids” or “I WANT to be a stay at home mom/wife until my dying day” or “I WANT to homeschool”. … and then, recognizing that our desires are valid, asking God for the means and grace to live into those desires and then the grace to handle it if those desires don’t go as planned. Why is that not sufficient? Why does “calling” have to come into it?

    I think it’s much more validating and empowering to simply support women who CHOOSE to be moms, CHOOSE to stay home with the kids…whatever…rather than implying that they need to spiritualize their choices by using words like calling.

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  12. […] one: “Is Motherhood a Calling?” over at The Mommy […]

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  13. Hi!

    I certainly don’t think that motherhood is a calling in general, but I do think that children are an incredible, incredible blessing. I give thanks every night for the little boy cuddled in my arms, and for the other one in my belly. We should respect and honor the gifts given to us, whatever form they come in, but never place them above worship.

    I think that when mothers call motherhood a “calling,” they are actually discussing that it comes more naturally to some women than others. It requires certain traits (patience, perseverance, tolerance, thick skin, etc.) that not everyone possesses. However, just because it does not come “naturally” to you does not mean that you are not a good mother. I may suck at Accounting, but I can still get an A in an accounting class. It just takes specific effort and time.

    In general, I think to refer to motherhood as a “calling,” may discourage and dismiss the mothers who have to struggle with their blessings and it is unfair to mothers everywhere. Not everyone is a 1950’s housewife. I may be happy in that role, but that does not mean that my friends will be. To each their own! 🙂 It is diversity that makes this world, and our community in Christ, great!

    I would love to see what you ladies say about motherhood coming “naturally” to some and not to others, and what messages society sends us about that. It can be a huge source of stress for the mamas who struggle with it.

    That is all for now, until I have more coffee!!! 🙂

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  14. To go back to the Bible for a minute, rather than saying motherhood is a calling, I think the Bible talks about children being a blessing to us as parents. (I can’t think of the exact verse for that, but I’m pretty sure it’s there. Anyone know a verse?) So if we do have children, they are a benefit to us, which to me is a new way of thinking about it. It’s not just me doing things to benefit them, they, by their very existence are benefiting and blessing me! I know this is true because I’ve learned so many things as a parent, things like patience, which have made me a better person, I think. I’m trying to think of my kids as a blessing to me, especially when the toddler is kicking the older one and having temper tantrums all day long 🙂

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    • Posted by fish on November 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      And an angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven. And he said, “By Myself have I sworn, says the Lord, that because you have done this thing and you did not withhold your son, your only one, That I will surely bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand that is on the seashore, and your descendants will inherit the cities of their enemies.

      Modern day notions of “egality between the sexes” is not biblical. The blessing of children is for the Nation of Israel more so than to individual mothers.

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  15. Hey Makeesha,

    Great points!

    I think, when we are seeking God with our whole selves, He first gives us the desires of our hearts, and then grants those desires. Ideally, as we follow His plan, it is natural for us. It is not without trial, pain, and tears; and certainly not without challenges and obstacles. But in the midst of all of those things that we experience as negatives, there is a Rightness and a Joy in it that can’t easily be explained to others (hence that feeling of fulfilling a calling.)

    I think you and I might agree that often times the feeling of being “called” to something is a manifestation of God’s confirmation that we are on the right path, and not a sign posted at a fork in the road telling us which direction to take. No less from God, but not always what we as Christians are encouraged to expect from Him.

    But, I think you are selling Dave a little short. I don’t think he meant that we should procreate in order to outnumber those of other faiths. Maybe re-read it and see if this emerges:

    I think his point was that it would be great if Christian parents would follow [other] callings (in addition to, or in concert with, what he sees as the calling of parenthood) that would bring us out into the world to use our gifts, demonstrate and share our faith, and thereby lead many to salvation in Christ.

    That is a thing devoutly to be sought, I believe.

    Joyfully,

    Helen

    Reply

  16. Posted by Robyn on January 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Here’s another funny story. Our doctors told us we had a one in a million chance of ever getting pregnant without medical intervention. The week before we were scheduled for our first infertility consultation, we found out I was pregnant. It is highly unlikely that we will be able to have any more children. (I get those comments about doing my daughter a disservice by not pursuing a sibling for her more aggressively.) Should God somehow give us another miracle, we will rejoice. Loudly! Surely, God gave us our beautiful girl for a reason, and we thank him for it every day.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Stacy on January 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    First — Carla you had me at the Princess Bride reference! Love you! I am not getting enough sleep to have the full, well-thought out response that I would like — but I just want to say thank you — again. I really want to get to the point where I have just a little more energy to focus outside the house. I think if nothing else it is a great example to the kids. But I also know I have a lot to give and I believe I will get to the point where I can share it. I appreciate these words a lot and they really challenge me: “There is a huge, hurting world out there and mothers–with our heightened compassion, our deepened sense of justice, our ever-growing longing for a better world–are uniquely qualified to get out there and work toward bringing about the kingdom of God.”

    And Makeesha — you rock! I totally agree w/ you!

    Helen — I went back and reread Dave and I think he really is saying that we should procreate partly to outnumber non-Christians (or that at least it’s a side benefit). NOT what I feel called to at all!

    Dave, I for one am trusting the wisdom/knowledge (that I think is partly God given) of the doctors who said I should NOT have another baby. I trust my husband when he says it’s not worth the risk to him. And I trust that God gave me feelings and intuition for a reason and that’s it’s ok to listen to them. So if I am feeling utterly overwhelmed, I need to listen to that since I believe God created all of me — my feelings, my heart, my desires, my mind. Does that mean I don’t trust God? NO! It means I believe that there are many ways that God speaks to us — and what I hear many people here saying is that they are not called by God to have tons of kids.

    Reply

  18. Stacy—and Makeesha—my bad. I thought it was the both/and (both parenthood and other callings) but I guess I should have taken MY OWN ADVICE and re-read it. It seems pretty clear that you are right.

    Dave—I am still hoping that you didn’t mean it that way; especially since when a Christian woman gives birth, it’s a sweet little sinner — and not a Christian baby — who is brought into the world.

    (I hold to an “age of accountability” doctrine, if that matters to anyone.)

    Reply

  19. Posted by Dave on January 16, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    I too am learning from all this banter.
    -Renata: Thank you for not misunderstanding!
    -Marcia: We totally agree about the blessing aspect pretty much as you state it.
    -Helen: Thanks! You explain the thought of “calling” more like what I meant by it. Not as a “vision from an angel” kinda thing , but rather as a gift of God that you somehow just know it’s where He wants you to be, though you would NOT have gone there by yourself.

    Some will likely hate me for this, but I feel the need to clarify something….
    (You may notice generally singular pronouns henceforth, as my wife believes there is no merit in contributing our 22cents any further – We do still agree on these ideas, but I hereby free her from the blame!)

    RE: outnumbering unbelievers – kinda meant it both ways.
    (Please, hold those tomatoes a minute longer!)
    I am SO NOT saying: just get busy and to fill our church benches with baby carriers –
    -So Not! So Not!
    It’s just that non-Christians (especially unmarried) seem to procreate so much more readily (and unabashedly) than we do – “we” is: we married Christian couples who especially know that children are blessings and will raise them in God’s ways.

    -(I am so trying to tip-toe here, so please don’t read between these lines.)
    It follows then, that if Christian couples would back up from the modern societal idea of “family planning” and be willing to accept children as readily as God sees fit to bless them, there would then be more children raised in Christian homes, and then likely more missionaries, preachers, teachers, etc. in following generations; more Christian voices for good moral values over against the corruption and anti-God-ness that oozes out of the courts. And with more Christians trained from youth in God’s ways, there might also be many more converts.

    Simple math can demonstrates this – Yes, I know there are a lot of complicated issues intertwined with this: birth control (a pet topic for us), financial, medical, mental, etc. but I cannot go into all that stuff and still stay brief.

    So in a way I guess I meant it both straight out AND in the sense of “being a side benefit”.

    AGAIN: I am NOT advocating just arbitrarily cranking out babies for the sheer sake of it – but rather something more like: raw, childlike trust that if God DOES choose to give us another child, He WILL also give us EVERYTHING else to go with that blessing – mental, physical, financial, etc.
    In our experience, God does not “hold the pickles”! He blesses with “the works”!
    (I hope someone can figure out what I just said.)

    BTW Carla: Yes, many of us “quiverful-types” DO pray God to hold off menopause in the hopes that He will further bless us – Just as much as many barren women pray for a miracle child.

    I’d better go!
    …think I hear the sound of tomatoes whistling through the air!

    Reply

  20. Posted by Carla on January 16, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Dave, I so appreciate you sticking with us here. I know you’re taking some hits and you are handling them with grace and levity. Thank you for that.

    I have some profound disagreements with much of what you’ve said in your comments, but I find deep agreement on the idea that when God gives us children, God also gives us what we need to care for those children. Tapping into it can be intense and painful and perhaps more challenging than anything else we do in our lives, but that’s where the growth comes in.

    I often talk about the “gardener” metaphor of parenting, that our children are given to us as seeds and it’s our job to figure out what each seed needs to grow into the plant that it was created to be. I usually talk about this as a way of helping parents think about their children as unique individuals, but I think it’s a helpful way to think about this conversation as well.

    Dave, you and your wife have one of those big, bountiful gardens that people look at with awe. Others of us have little backyard gardens, or maybe one little pot on the front steps or in the apartment window. Each of these gardens is beautiful. Each one is producing something amazing. I think we can all agree that tending those gardens with faith, hope, and love is what matters here.

    Reply

    • Posted by fish on November 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      I find deep agreement on the idea that when God gives us children, God also gives us what we need to care for those children.

      Not always, sometimes he makes people’s houses collapse and kill their children for no particularly good reason.

      The Lord said to the Adversary, “Where are you coming from?” And the Adversary answered the Lord and said, “FROM GOING TO AND FRO ON THE EARTH AND WALKING IN IT” Now the Lord said to the Adversary, “Have you paid attention to My servant Job? For there is none like him on earth, a sincere and upright man, God-fearing and shunning evil.” And the Adversary answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?

      Reply

  21. Posted by Dave on January 17, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Thanks for the verbal band-aid and ointment Carla.

    YES – We do so agree “that tending those gardens with faith, hope, and love is what matters” [most].

    What we were addressing with that is trusting God to decide the size of our gardens.
    I like your metaphor – I get that warm sunny feeling!

    May I please play, too?

    My heart is in this:
    Say we have 1 plant growing on our windowsill and we’re happy with it and maybe we feel that’s all we can fit into our life… then our Best Friend – lets call him “THE World-renowned Master Gardener” – wants to give us another potted seed, which he assures us will grow into another plant of intense beauty and priceless value!
    Would I refuse it on account that I lack some resource to handle it?
    -Would you refuse it?

    And if such a Friend as He also promises us that He will give us everything we need to care for another plant – we just hold it and grow it and love it and nurture it for Him, does it not behoove us to find some way to make room on the windowsill for it?
    Wouldn’t you?

    He may point out that we’ve been able to manage with the other plant He gave us because we’re growing it according to His instructions (as best we can anyway)…. and He promises to continue helping us.
    Oh, and did I mention that this Best Friend owns the house we live in and the windowsill and everything?
    Can I still refuse to accept yet another plant?
    -Would you still refuse?

    My Friend The Master Gardener knows we have other plans and dreams that did not include caring for more plants, but He promises to help us with all those things too.
    Dare I close His own door in His face and say, “The plant I have is a lot of work and I just can’t handle any more of those gifts! Give us other things instead! I will let you give us anything else – but I feel I should do something to prevent you from giving us another plant!”?

    -He gently coaxes: “I want more plants grown for Me. You may change your mind, so I will call again to offer it to you.”
    -I reply: “I can take a pill so I’ll miss your call – even if the pill may hurt me – because I do not feel that I can tend another plant for you. Give me something else to do.”
    -And He says: “Still, I offer it. Why doubt My promise to help you with everything? You would even risk health to avoid My gift? You know I could send it to you even if you miss My call.”
    -I say: “There are ways we can block the mailbox to keep your gift out. Other things demand our attention right now.”
    -Again lovingly: “Remember – your mailbox too belongs to ME! I will patiently offer another plant to you regularly anyway, hoping you will change your mind.”
    -I declare, “I know how to watch my schedule so that we’ll just miss your gift every time you offer it. I just do not think this is good time for us to grow another plant for you.”
    -Still lovingly: “Dear child, why prevent Me? I know best when is the best time to bless you. Let me decide.”
    -Yet I still ask: “Please give us every other blessing – but why more plants to care for? – they take so much work. Besides, our house is too small… our windowsill is too full… our time is not enough… our finances too low… our bodies too sore… our minds are just too stressed…. to care for any more of your plants. We can do many other things for you instead.”

    He lovingly reminds: “It is My house, My windowsill, your time and your money are Mine, your body and mind and even your health… are ALL under My control.”
    Then adds yet again, “Please do not resist. I will give you everything you need – and let me bless you with more plants also as I decide.”

    Finally I must admit: “I am afraid. What if I can’t love them enough or what if I can’t….”

    He promises: “I CAN!”
    “I will make it ALL work for good because you love me – just Trust Me with EVERYTHING – including this.”

    ——————–
    I don’t expect everyone to understand, but I needed to tell this.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Mom-of-Many on January 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Dave,

    I have no trouble understanding what you wrote. And while I am tempted by many fears surrounding the coming of our newest child, I will trust Him and receive with thanksgiving what He has created.

    Both your love for God and your firm belief in His generous, patient, and wonderful love for us come through in what you have shared, but…. Dave… all analogies and allegories have their limitations, and with all due respect:

    • God is not running a greenhouse orphanage, stocked with living “seedlings.”

    Each time He has given us a child, He’s given THIS daughter or THIS son; each one has been an actual living person, given into our care at the same moment as he or she has come into being (at conception). And we’ve had the privilege and the responsibility to receive and nurture each actual child. But where is this idea of rejecting or resisting a “potential child” coming from?

    There is no actual child to reject when a couple attempts to avoid conception. An egg and a sperm that have never met are not a child, not a life, and not a blessing. There is no intrinsic value in a “potential child” because the phrase “potential child” is merely a philosophical idea and does not refer to anything existent in reality.

    • God does not keep the “seeds” and “fertilizer” in his potting shed, outside of our stewardship.

    • The “plants” don’t arrive in our “mailboxes” without any human agency.

    • God isn’t even the “planter.”

    The man and the woman have to engage their wills and their bodies before a life can begin, although God alone is the Source of that life. Our bodies and minds are involved from the first kiss. We know the biology. It’s disingenuous to act as if “engaging” on certain days of the month is experientially so different from “seeking conception.” Keeping in mind what “natural” means (and that all things were made by God) conception is the most natural result imaginable. When all the parts are in working order, conception is more akin to gravity than to the miraculous. In fact, in my experience, it’s been very much like falling off a log. (Ba-dum-bum)

    But in all seriousness…

    Whenever there is a Scriptural directive, Scripture wins. But in its absence, I decide based on my understanding of the counsel of God’s Word and on the temporal facts laid before me.

    So, I try to refrain from conceiving when everything (including the character of God, who tells smart builders to plan ahead) tells me it would be unwise. This is much the same as how I refrain from writing “giving checks” for more money than is in the bank account. I truly believe it would be irresponsible of me to overdraw the account even though I am fully convinced that giving is a blessing (and a mandate) and that God is my generous Provider.

    In the absence of compelling Scriptural evidence, there is no reason for me to change my view on this. And, Dave, I haven’t seen any yet.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Ryan on January 18, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Just for the sake of discussion, even if one did feel called to raise children in Christian homes as a means to contribute to God’s kingdom work here on earth, wouldn’t adoption make more sense anyway? You would be raising a child in a Christian home who otherwise may not be raised in such a home. So the word would have one more Christian-raised kid and (likely) one less non-Christian-raised kid. It’s a two point swing rather than a one-point addition.

    Of course, I don’t hold to this thinking, but I am a huge advocate of adoption. I just wanted to point out that if you really want to make it about math, I WILL WIN THAT GAME EVERY TIME! Just kidding. But seriously, when we reduce human lives to Christian-raised or non-Christian raised, we do no service to God’s kingdom, which is wonderfully composed of people raised in all sorts of traditions.

    Reply

    • Posted by fish on November 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      Adoption from third world countries often involves “buying” children from parents who are too poor to care for them. True “war orphans” are relatively rare. Do you really want to be involved in the buying and selling of human beings?

      Reply

  24. Posted by Dave on January 19, 2009 at 3:39 am

    We believe motherhood (and fatherhood – let’s just say Parenthood) is about God teaching us to implicitly trust Him to unfold life before us according to His plan. The fact that we are given the privilege of participating in His plans is profound!

    @Mom-of-many: I’m sorry if the analogy offended you – I realize now that it maybe came across more like the Stork dropping off babies instead of The Gracious Creator of Blessings that God is!
    Please forgive me.

    @Ryan: Sadly, our over-bureaucratic society imposes (in our estimation) unreasonable criteria for what it takes to make “a good home” for children.
    If you know of an adoption agency that legally accepts -“We trust God to provide means for everything we need!”- as a legitimate source of provision, then we might stand some chance of qualifying!
    RE: the math: Even better would be the two-point swing PLUS the point addition! – and tack on an exponent too!

    I thank God SO much that He sent you two, Mom-of-many and Ryan, today to help us take another step toward Him in our walk!

    While I was plowing snow this afternoon, I thought about what you both wrote and it hit me that Ryan’s input complimented M-o-m’s.
    As I thought about how I could reply to both, I found myself trying to envision how many adopted children we could possibly fit into our house and how many more mouths we could feed on our budget.

    Then I remembered Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”!

    …And I understood. We say we willingly to trust God to give (or withhold) pregnancies as He judges best – and yet I caught myself trying to figure the maximum number of adoptive children we could manage!

    I sincerely repent of my worldly mindset! And I praise God heartily for convicting me of my continuous lack of trust! Julie feels the same and now realizes why God directed us to this conversation.

    Now: “How many adoptive Children could we add to our household?”
    A: As many as God would send us. -We have no right to impose limits on His providence just because of our inability to comprehend HOW!
    The Biblical women mentioned in this motherhood article are excellent examples of that.

    BTW Mom-of-many:
    1 Cor. 10:31 reads: “…whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”
    Can you show me then:
    -Where does Scripture say God is glorified when we deliberately avoid His blessing of conception and thus refuse the reward of a child?
    -Where does Scripture say God is glorified when we presume to dictate to Him when is the proper time to bless us with a child by “engaging”, as you say, or not engaging on a set schedule?

    Reply

  25. Posted by April G. on January 19, 2009 at 9:38 am

    This conversation reminds me of a family I know that had 20 kids and counting last I heard. Most were adopted. I went to college with two of the adopted children, who happened to be twins. They had been adopted along with their brothers from a very bad situtation. They had been homeschooled as well and have gone on to lead God-honoring lives. (That could not be said of all their siblings.) I was always amazed at the dedication and sacrifice their parents must have given them. They were supported, in part by the congregation of the church where their father, I believe, was the pastor. Anyway, I believe we are all “called” to participate in the Great Commission. How that looks for each or our lives is different. Only God can truly say what he is calling us to. We were each made for a purpose – for such a time as this.

    Dave, I believe that if God asks a couple to continue to have children in faith (adopted or naturally), he will continue to provide all that is needed in abundance for that family.

    In contrast, I do not believe God asks all Christian couples to serve others in this way. As you know, caring for children requires a large amount of energy and resources. The Lord asks us to serve others with the same kind of dedication, sacrifice, and faith the family I mentioned had. (And yours seems to have as well.) But, the specific talents and personalities of the Lord’s servants may be put to better use in some other arena.

    The Lord calls us all to serve. He does not call us all to serve the same way. I may only have two children now, though I doubt we are finished. But, even if we are and I decide to go back to teaching, I will have impacted many lives in that service, and that is certainly worthwhile, too. My life is his, wherever he calls me.

    Reply

  26. Posted by Mom-of-Many on January 19, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I don’t claim that Scripture says ANYTHING specifically about family planning, pro or con.

    That’s my whole point.

    1 Cor. 10:31 reads: “…whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”

    The context of this verse is:

    Whether you do THIS thing (that is not specifically mandated or prohibited in Scripture) or THAT thing (that is also not specifically mandated or prohibited in Scripture) do it to my God’s glory.

    This verse might be one of the most compelling to support what I’m trying to convey.

    Thanks for pointing it out. 😉

    And may He bless you as you glorify Him.

    Reply

  27. Posted by Mom-of-Many on January 19, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Oops

    I didn’t mean to type “my God’s glory”

    It was supposed to be “God’s glory”

    Reply

  28. Posted by Mom-of-Many on January 19, 2009 at 11:41 am

    My interest in the conversation has been exhausted, so if you ask me a specific question, or whatever, you’ll know ahead of time why I’m not responding.

    I hope I’ve been fair. I waited a long time for something Scriptural to forward the conversation.

    But I don’t need the last word, so please, feel free to continue without me….

    Reply

  29. Posted by Stacy B. on January 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Are there 2 Stacy’s who are sleep deprived? Seriously – I read the post by “Stacy” and thought to myself, “Am I so sleep deprived that I can’t remember what I wrote?”

    So – will the other Stacy please identify herself with a last initial? (just for my own sanity..and I will too…it seems that we will both be responding to this blog a lot – what if they are both me???”)

    Secondly – I love this this very engaging conversation full of thoughts, Scripture, hopes, dreams, and callings.

    Reply

  30. Posted by Ryan on January 19, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Dave, good point on the cost of adoption. I actually have a close friend who’s currently in law school, and she hopes to one day start a nonprofit agency that makes adoption more affordable to qualified families who can’t afford it. But I agree, as the system stands, adoption isn’t an option for everyone currently.

    Reply

  31. […] of a friend, but I’d prefer to adopt her as one of my own) has written a post titled “Is Motherhood a calling?” that’s created space for some quality conversation.  My friend Kim has extended her […]

    Reply

  32. Posted by Dave on January 19, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    @Ryan
    I sincerely hope your friends hope comes to fruition. Many yearning for a child will be blessed by that.

    I agree that the cost is high, but I was really saying that in our opinion, the CRITERIA to qualify are far too strict also.

    Reply

  33. Very interesting discussion. The whole populating the world with Christians is an odd idea, for so many reasons. One–what if your children don’t turn out exactly as you’d hoped? What if they rebel, or choose a different path? Hmmm.
    I think we have a shared calling to follow Christ, but we also have specific callings, to use our gifts or to engage in certain tasks. Not just because they are easy for us. I feel “called” to be a writer, and some people feel called to be in the corporate world, because that’s where they can shine the light of Christ. The verses where Jesus says “Let your light shine” don’t have the word “calling” in them, but I think they are about calling.
    I’m also called to love my children and raise them, for a season. While I’ll always be their mom, it is not my only calling. It is a task given to me for a season.
    And amen to the focus on Jesus rather than just focus on the family.

    Reply

  34. Posted by Jill on January 21, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I realize I am late in the game here, but I nevertheless feel “called” to respond (ha ha).

    One thing that disturbs me about the way the language of “calling” and “vocation” are thrown around by American Christians (and I am not suggesting anyone here means them in this way; just saying that this is how they are often used) is that we don’t seem to be aware of the place of privilege from which we stand when seeking to understand God’s work in our lives. For example, we graduate from college, and contemplate prayerfully what work God might be calling us to. But for perhaps the majority of people in the world, work is not a matter of choice or even discernment. Farmers in poor rural villages in many places on the globe did not become so after a lengthy period of prayer and communal gifts assessment in which that task became apparent as God’s will for their particular lives. They did so because it was the only option for survival. Closer to home, I doubt any of us have felt God leading us to airport bathroom cleaning when praying for vocational guidance. But where would we be without someone cleaning the bathrooms at airports?!

    I am not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy having options, or that we shouldn’t engage in spiritual discernment when there ARE choices in front of us. But I do think that we have given this “calling” idea more weight and majesty than the Bible intends (as Carla has pointed out), and that this is more due to our cultural individualism, the peculiarities of the market economy, and to our white (often) or wealth privilege than to our Christian faith. The often oversimplified evangelical mantra “God has a wonderful plan for your life” (did Jesus ever say this? no! he said “take up your cross,” as someone above has pointed out!) hasn’t helped here, I fear.

    So with regards to motherhood, I think that what matters is being children of God who seek to follow God in this – and every other – aspect of our lives. Again, this does not mean that we don’t let God into the process if we are deciding between one child or two or ten – or none. Just that the result – parenthood, or not – is is not some grand “calling” that defines who we are by the task and its demands, rather than by our relationship with the God who has created us to be who we are and calls us to faithfulness in that. Not that parenthood doesn’t affect our identity. But it doesn’t prescribe it – it just shapes us in the way that all relationships and events in our lives do.

    And here’s the other thing – God doesn’t always provide the resources, for more children or for anything else. Many, many children die of famine and malnutrition every day. Do you think it is only the children of non-believers who suffer?! Yes, we are to trust God, but that does not necessarily protect us from all harm, nor does it free us from the responsibility for making wise decisions. The ideology of abundance that says everything you (or your children) need will be provided at no cost and with no consequences if you just trust in God is only one step away from a prosperity gospel that blames the poor and those who suffer for their lack of faith.

    So, to return to a brief reference in one of Dave’s posts from ages ago – and perhaps I should come clean at this point and admit that in my other “non-calling” (aside from being the mom of a preschooler), I am a theologian currently writing on Calvin – Calvin DID have a strong conception of divine calling. (The usefulness of his thinking on this point is hampered, in my view, by his under-realized eschatology, but I digress). But he also had a hefty appreciation for prudence. In other words, part of God’s providence is to give us the wisdom to evaluate situations and resources and make responsible decisions. Even doing our duty in our calling, trusting fully in God, does not guarantee that we will have everything we need (Calvin actually thinks we’re in for a whole lot o’ hardship, no matter how we trust God), nor does it free us from the responsibility of using the resources God provides – our own wisdom, the support and discernment of our communities of faith, even material aids and technology – to make good decisions and pursue appropriate courses of action.

    There are a whole host of other things that I could comment on here, but this is long enough already! Just one more thing: if every Christian family had as many kids as they possibly could, this would certainly contribute to a huge overpopulation problem, resulting in us NOT obeying one “calling” God actually DOES give us in Scripture: good stewardship of the earth.

    Reply

    • Posted by fish on November 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      And it will be if you obey the Lord, your God, to observe to fulfill all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord, your God, will place you supreme above all the nations of the earth….

      Blessed will be the FRUIT OF YOUR WOMB, the fruit of your soil, the fruit of your livestock, the offspring of your cattle, and the flocks of your sheep…..

      And the Lord will grant you good surplus in the FRUIT OF YOUR WOMB, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil, on the land which the Lord swore to your forefathers, to give you…..

      And it will be, if you do not obey the Lord, your God, to observe to fulfill all His commandments and statutes which I am commanding you this day, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…..

      Cursed will be the FRUIT OF YOUR WOMB, the fruit of your soil, the fruit of your livestock, those born from your cattle and the flock of your sheep….

      The Lord will strike you with insanity, with blindness, and with bewilderment……

      You will betroth a woman, but another man will lie with her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not redeem it[s fruits]…..

      Your sons and daughters will be given over to another people, and your eyes will see [this] and long for them all day long, but you will be powerless……

      You will bear sons and daughters, but you will not have them, because they will go into captivity…..

      And they will be as a sign and a wonder, upon you and your offspring, forever, because you did not serve the Lord, your God, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had an] abundance of everything…..

      And they will besiege you in all your cities throughout all your land, which the Lord, your God, has given you. And during the siege and the desperation which your enemies will bring upon you, YOU WILL EAT THE FRUIT OF YOUR WOMB, the flesh of your sons and daughters, whom the Lord, your God, gave you.

      The most tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set her foot upon the ground, because of delicateness and tenderness, will begrudge the husband of her embrace and her own son and daughter, and the INFANTS who emerge from between her legs, and her own children whom she will bear, for she will EAT THEM IN SECRET, in destitution, in the siege and the desperation which your enemies will inflict upon you, in your cities.

      If you do not observe to fulfill all the words of this Torah, which are written in this scroll, to fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord, your God,

      Reply

  35. Posted by Matty on January 22, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I have no right to say this but,

    11 kids is just too darn many.

    M

    Reply

  36. Posted by jennifer on January 25, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    wow, great discussion. the original article really generated some discussion between me and my husband. it has been useful in hammering out our beliefs and thoughts. actually, our thoughts would have been along the lines of the article a year ago, but in the past year we’ve had the chance to take a class called visionary parenting (www.visionary parenting.com– also good resource for biblical fatherhood) it has impacted our family greatly.

    so i am commenting on a few things:
    -in Caryn’s piece she says “But the Bible doesn’t say much about how we are to think about parenthood.” Deut. 6:6-7 is specific to how we are to think about parenthood “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
    a tall order we as parents, including mothers, need to be intentional about actively pursuing

    -in Genesis 1:28 God creates Adam and Eve and the first command He gives Adam and Eve is to be fruitful and increase in number. we are created from the beginning to procreate– motherhood and fatherhood

    i’m not commenting on how many children people have, etc. but in motherhood/fatherhood we need to be intentional and specific about being the spiritual teachers of our own children. let the children’s ministry at church be the icing, while the cake is made at home. we may not feel especially gifted, but God is sufficient– He does provide. His faithfulness will be witnessed through the generations of our family if we intentionally take up the call of parenthood

    Reply

  37. This is an amazing discourse. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and all the great points contributed. While reading, I found myself seeing so many sides to this issue and appreciating them. Thank you, Jennifer, for including those verses from Deut. and Genesis as they persistently ran through my head while reading all of the comments. I love the statement about focusing on God and not our family as they can also become idols in our life. I think the biggest and most important point, no matter what we think about birth control, procreation, or family size, is that we get out of our own way and just allow God to guide. It’s when we definitively state that it’s crazy having a certain number of children or it’s wrong to only have 1.5 children that we take up our own gavel and pronounce judgment on others.

    I do think God plants desires into our hearts and helps guide us by using them, but to follow after a way of life by using that as our barometer can cause us some serious problems. Whether desiring a life without children or desiring many, many children is only the first step. Only by much prayer and consideration should one forge ahead on a particular path of life, and even then it’s all in God’s hands. I think we become so sure of our own feelings, thoughts, beliefs, etc., we close our minds to the MORE that God has for us.

    One of my favorite books has a byline that says “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” I think it’s the same with parenting. Maybe God designed parenting with a bigger purpose than that it makes you happy, fulfilled, proud or you-fill-in-the-blank. (Ok, well, no maybes about it since parenting is no picnic much of the time.) As parents, we all continually learn valuable lessons about ourselves, our children, and most importantly, about God. The older I get and the more children I have (I have four, btw), the more convinced I am that parenting is about shaping me into a new creation while helping to shape my children. For someone else, that process can occur while parenting one child and another while parenting twelve. Who’s to say one is better than the other? “…but with humility think of others as being better than yourselves.” Phil 2:3b

    Reply

  38. Posted by fish on November 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Be fruitful and multiply – its the first commandment the G-d gave to Adam and Eve.

    Reply

  39. Posted by fish on November 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Full text of the Shema:

    You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart.

    ******You shall teach them thoroughly to your children*******

    and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

    Reply

  40. Posted by fish on November 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    “Harken, my son, the discipline of your father, and DO NOT FORSAKE THE TORAH OF YOUR MOTHER.” – Proverbs 1.8

    Reply

  41. You made your stand extremely clearly..

    Reply

  42. With thanks! I like this.

    Reply

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