I write this as my 4 year old daughter is screaming and crying and stomping her feet in the middle of a time out. So, if I can still write this now, you know I mean it.
I hope to explore this further as time goes on, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how parts of our society view children. The decisions about how many children to have, how far to space them apart, what kinds of sacrifices are involved, seem to revolve more around the convenience and desired lifestyle of the parents than really looking at the matter from the perspective of a Christian, or, Catholic worldview.
I think those are important things to consider when deciding when or how many children to have, and the Church acknowledges that there do exist grave situations where limiting or delaying family growth is prudent. JP and I have no plans to need a school bus to cart our family around. But, there is a moral and ethical way to go about that planning that doesn’t wrap our fingers so tightly around the control that we shut out God’s movement. But my concern is that we are all too often addressing the issue from the view of society, and not from the view of the Church.
Example- the idea that having more children is going to postpone our life’s plans, are going to make it more challenging for us to have the lifestyle we desire, etc. Thinking about family planning from that perspective is looking at things from the point of view of society- that our goals and ambitions come first, and we somehow fit our child bearing into that plan for our lives. Somehow, bringing children into the world has become about us.
The Church comes at child bearing from a completely different angle. And this is the angle we should be using when evaluating issues in regard to family planning. The idea that children are not a barrier or a cause of delay in our own lives… children are life! They are life created in the image of God. They are life endowed with an immeasurable intrinsic value. In addition to that, the Church believes that marriage is most fully expressed in the way God intended when it is a marriage lived open to the possibility of creating life. We have found that openness to life to be transformative in our own marriage. When you live like that, the perspective necessarily shifts away from what we get out of our marriage, to what we give, and then, ultimately, what we receive from God as a result of our own self-giving.
I think there is a possibility that one might decide to have fewer children than originally thought, in order to pursue one’s life goals more quickly… but then decades later wonder “what if…” Whereas, I don’t think it’s likely that many people, deciding to allow for the blessing of children in their lives at God’s timing, would,decades later, wish that they hadn’t had one or more of their children. Or that they would regret delaying a “life’s goal” in exchange for the existence of their child.
Why is that? Because, while we have plans for our “life,” in the sense of what we want to accomplish, children actually are life. Period. And actual life, God-imaged life, is one of the most precious gifts our Creator has given us. Children are the beautiful life-filled result of the loving, giving union between a husband and a wife. And there are few things more beautiful in this world than that.