I recently took my six kids to Sonic to get slushes. The waitress brought our tray to the window of our fifteen-passenger van and started handing me the drinks. As she did, she asked, "Are you guys a church group or something?" When I told her they were all my kids, she looked shocked, then said in an I-think-you're-crazy kind of voice, "Well, that must be stressful."
I laughed and said, "Yes, sometimes it is, but we love it. They are a joy." With a skeptical look and a disbelieving sniff, she said nothing and just handed me the straws and walked away.
I'm used to negative reactions to our family size, but this one continues to weigh on my heart. That girl was young. She couldn't have been more than twenty-one. How does she already have such a jaded attitude toward children? So jaded that she found it impossible to believe a van full of kids could be joyful.
I thought back over the evening. My husband was out of town for the second time in two weeks. I was out with all the kids, several errands to run, and was exhausted. We had been in Walmart earlier, and it hadn't gone well. In fact, "stressful" is exactly the word to describe it. Kids were arguing, I was trying to rush because we were running late, and there were a few moments that weren't quite joyful.
Who saw us during those moments? What story did I tell about being the mom of a big family? What story did I tell about being a mom in general? Did I convey the truth about children?
Proving Our Anti-Child Society Wrong
My kids get frustrated with all the comments we get about our family size. They hate the assumptions people make about how wild things must be. So we tell them often when we go out, "Act in a way that will prove all those people wrong. Show them that big families don't have to be miserable and chaotic."
This girl at Sonic made me wonder if I'm proving people wrong who have a negative attitude toward children. The world believes children are stressful. God says they are a blessing:
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward (Ps. 127:3).
Again, in the very next chapter, we see children described as a valuable blessing:
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! . . . Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table (Ps. 128:1, 3).
And these are only two of the many passages that speak of children as a great blessing. So what do Christians tell the world about children? How do we talk about our kids, or kids in general? What story do we tell by our actions when we are out with our kids? How do we react when we are seated next to the family with six kids at the restaurant?
Let's be honest—loving children is not always easy, and I don't believe in coloring things rosy when they're more of a shade of gray. However, it's possible to be honest and say you had a rough night without giving details that paint your kids in a negative light.
I'm sure you've seen a Facebook rant from a mom, telling a specific story about her kid's misbehavior or bad attitude with no redemptive purpose other than just to vent. You know who I see doing that most often? Moms who profess to be Christians and who I know love their kids fiercely. But in that moment, are they proving that Sonic employee wrong or validating her negative attitude?
A Story About God
Our families are a story. What story are we telling? There's a bigger purpose to our family than just having one. God always has a deeper purpose.
I don't claim to know all the kingdom purposes for families, but one purpose for my family, I believe, is to show the world what God thinks about children, about life.
One purpose of the parent-child relationship is to model the relationship God offers His children as our perfect Father. Our interactions with our children, both with an audience and in private, should always have that thought as the foundation.
Granted, we aren't perfect and we will sin against our kids (both directly in our speech or actions toward them and indirectly by telling others the wrong story about them), but those times should be followed by quick repentance and asking for forgiveness. And they shouldn't be the norm.
Our lives, our attitudes, and our words should communicate to our children and to everyone watching that we agree with God when He says children are a blessing. Let's tell the truth about our kids. Our society is anti-children enough without Christian parents contributing by telling the wrong story. Prove everyone wrong.
Children are a blessing, and we can live lives that show it. So are your kids a blessing or a source of constant stress? Having kids is indeed stressful, I'm not going to lie. But is it honest to present that stress as the overtone of the whole picture?
If it really is, then I'm going to carefully suggest that the source of the problem is not in the kids, but in the heart of the one who is constantly stressed out by the kids. If that describes you, if these words about children being a blessing bring tears to your eyes or maybe make you roll your eyes, then let me encourage you to search your heart through the lens of God's Word.
Ask Him to show you the joy of loving those kiddos. I believe that's a prayer that would honor Him, and I can attest that He will answer . . . because it's a prayer I have to pray quite often. I'm so thankful His grace is sufficient for parents who lose sight of the blessing amidst the stress.
If you have children, do you communicate to others they are a blessing, or are you contributing to our culture's view of children being merely an inconvenience? What specific steps can you take to ensure you are telling the world the truth about children?
If you don't have children, how can your life show the biblical truth that children are a blessing? What specific steps can you take to love and invest in the children around you?