Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Rewards of a Parent's Sacrifice

(Special note: Today Candice Watters will be LIVE blogging on our comment blog below if you have any questions or comments.)

 

Leslie Basham: Is it possible for a couple to continue life as usual while adding a baby into the mix? Here's Candice Watters.

 Candice Watters: There is an element to having children that just takes you so completely off your plan. Kids will only fit in so much. They require you to look at them and say, "If we're going to be biblical about this, there's at least a season of life where they're going to have to be a priority."

 Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, November 10.

 Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We've been having a fascinating discussion over the past few days with Steve and Candice Watters about a book that I hope many of our listeners are going to order a copy of and read. It's a terrific book. It is really one of the best books I have read in a long time.

I'm single; I'm not a parent. But I just found this was so thought-provoking and challenging—even to my own walk with the Lord. So, Steve and Candice, thank you for writing the book, thank you for your hearts, and thank you for being with us on Revive Our Hearts to talk about this subject.

Steve Watters: Thank you. This has been wonderful.

Candice: It's great to be here, Nancy.

Nancy: For those of you who haven't listened to the last couple of programs, what I neglected to say a moment ago was, the book is called Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. Now just give us in a nutshell why you wrote this book and what you hope it will accomplish. What's the message that you are wanting to get across?

Steve: We found we were an average couple. We got married at the average age, had the average amount of debt, and we needed a nudge to be intentional about starting our family. It's a soul-shaping, world-altering experience, but so many people are missing out on it because our culture doesn't embrace it—even among Christians.

When they ask their pastor or Christian families, "Why should we have kids?" A lot of times, they don't know. We realized we need more Christian inspiration for babies, especially in a difficult challenging world, to realize this isn’t a cold,calculated, economic decision. It's not just about what's wonderful and going to make our marriage happy. It's about what would God want you to do through new life.

Nancy: To think that way really does require being intentional. Because if you go with what’s natural, you go with what's average, if you go with the flow, the flow today for young couples is to delay or avoid altogether having children.

Steve: Even in marriage, a third of all pregnancies are unplanned. So what you have is a lot of people who kind of back their way into parenting. It's almost like being thrown into the pool to learn how to swim. You can learn to swim that way, but it's not like you are really going to enjoy it. We think that couples who go into it with some vision and some preparation are going to be a lot more ready for the challenges and the joys that are ahead of them.

Nancy: Challenges and joys. They both come in full measure, don't they?

Steve: They do, wrapped altogether.

Nancy: In fact, as I read your book, I wrote down five words that to me kind of summarized the whole thing. The words were courage, faith—because it does take faith to step out of your comfort zone, out of what's explainable and is traditional—faith; love—for God and for pouring your life into others; then sacrifice—laying down your life. And then the fifth word I wrote down was reward—the blessings and the reward of saying “Yes, Lord.” And the reward doesn't come so much in the short-term, does it, as in the long-haul?

Candice: We'll let you know. Our kids are still little.

Steve: It's definitely a long-term gratification enterprise.

Nancy: Unlike what our culture wants, and our flesh wants, which is "give it to me now."

Candice: Well, the ironies of the rewards really do kick in at the point of most intense sacrifice. It's when you think you can't go one more step; it's on our hardest days when we're the most exhausted and we're laying in bed going, "I don't think I can move." Then Steve looks at me and says, “I think they're asleep, but let's go wake them up and play with them again.” You just have this love-burst for these babies that you think, "Well, let's do it again tomorrow."

Nancy: That's the grace of God that He gives when we say we can't do this on our own about anything He calls us to do. Anything that makes us need God is a blessing. I don't think there's anything that I find makes women need God more than being a mother.

Well, we've talked over the last couple of programs about the why of having children, and the when—saying that if the option is there, consider having children during the years that God designed a woman's body to be the most fertile; to consider giving that spring of your life to having children.

But I want us to touch today on some of the things you talk about in your book which are the nitty-gritty, practical how. Not how to have children, but how to deal with some of the questions that I know some of our listeners have been having as they've listened to us the past couple of days.

They're thinking this is great theory. This is great for us to sit in a studio talking about having children. I'm single; I'm not having any children. You're sitting here married, and your children are with childcare at the moment. But when you go back to your four little ones, and when our listeners finish listening to this program gets back to real life, there are some issues that surface that make this really challenging. We want to talk about what some of those are.

Candice: Nancy, you've just nailed one of the biggest ones. It's probably the elephant in the room. Next to birth control, the most controversial subject will be the childcare issue. Will mommy stay home with the babies? That is a question that I think plagues our generation because we have been so taught to embrace career, to go for as much education as we can, to get as much money as we can, to get all the accolades of the work force. It's really hard to think about giving all of that up. We've really been indoctrinated into thinking this is the norm.

So as a couple, start to look at the balance sheet and say can we even afford for one of us to stay home, even if we decide that's the route we want to take, that's a really tough discussion for a couple to have.

Steve: That's bundled in with a lot of things. There's a sense that people are going to read a book like this, they put the book down, and they think, "I'm inspired." But then they think, "What are we going to do? We've got this mortgage. We've got even little things—like we've got that vacation six months from now. If I were to have a big baby-bump at that point, that's not going to work on the beach"—sometimes little things like that.

Or maybe it's, "We have so much dysfunction, so much baggage. How are we going to deal with this? Our marriage already has certain struggles. How are we going bring a baby into this?" I think it all fits under this category of people thinking it's great on the ideal side, but when you bring this into the blender of real-life, we've got stuff.

What we kept coming back to was this idea: Was God not serious when He said He'd do immeasurably more than you could ask or image? Is this not an opportunity to see God be God, by doing things in our lives that we didn't think were possible?

Nancy: That really requires some paradigm shifts. For example, you just talked about the planned vacation. That raises this question: Am I going to require that children fit into my life, or am I going to be willing for my life to fit around children, around somebody else other than myself?

Candice: I actually wrote an article called Fitting Kids into a Life. I wrote that when we had two kids. I had to rewrite it after the fourth was born because with every child I realized this is less and less possible to do. There is an element to having children that just takes you so completely off your plan. Kids will only fit in so much. They require you to look at them and say, "If we're going to be biblical about this, there's at least a season of life where they're going to have to be a priority."

Steve: When we realized this, we read an essay by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead called Life Without Children. She said there is a world of the culture of parenting which requires sacrifice and rethinking your priorities. But that's not the world that most people are living in. They're living in a childfree world that's very much focused on their career aspirations, the things they enjoy, the deep intense emotional relationships.

There is a desire, I think, for people who would be parents to think we'd like to squeeze a kid into the life we know now, change as little as possible. That's one of the biggest tensions—people thinking, "Yes, I’ve got a heart's desire for children." Maybe it's just come on me. Maybe I just picked up this book, and now I’m inspired. But they're thinking, "What's going to have to change? Do I have to change anything?"

Nancy: You had to make some changes as your children came along. You alluded to this a moment ago.

Candice: Well, I was able to thankfully work from home for a time. But even that became unworkable. With two babies, you can only put the kids on auto-pilot for so long. So eventually I had to stop the full-time work in all manner and just do a little bit of writing here and there, mostly during nap time. I'm sure most of your listeners are going, "Does this mean we have to give up the Mini Cooper and get a minivan? Because the car seat doesn't fit in the back of the Mini Cooper.

Nancy: I pulled into a home the other day where a friend of mine was having his 30th birthday party. These young couples with all of their young friends' kids were at this party. The whole parking lot was full of minivans. I said, "I’m at the right place."

Candice: You can't even find yours when you're at the Target parking lot anymore. You have to really know your license plate because it's hard to see your van for all the others.

Steve: I had a friend from college email one day—I guess I had been married a few years. He said, "Moment of silence please; I just bought my first minivan." That's a tough change for some people. It really says, "I’m not young and adventurous anymore. I’m taking on new responsibilities."

Getting back to this idea of fitting kids into a life, Candice and I had some creative opportunities. Candice was able to work from home doing online editing. It really got us thinking that maybe we don't have to change a lot. We really tried to be creative in how we divided our workload at home, how we chipped in and split things up, tried to think maybe technology can make things different. Thinking, "Maybe we won't have to make the sacrifices that our parents did and our grandparents."Whether it was sacrificing their career or aspirations, things that they really wanted.

"Maybe we can have it all." But we were reminded quickly that you really can't have it all at once. There is something to be said for pouring yourself into a young life. Even a dad that is working in a traditional structure, he's got a lot of sacrifices to make.

Nancy: Because he goes to work, comes home at the end of his workday, and has a whole other job waiting for him at home.

Steve: Exactly. Not having a wife who is fully engaged on his needs and encouraging him.

Candice: You don't hand him a newspaper and say, "Honey, why don't you sit on the chair and rest while I make your dinner." You say, "Here's the baby. Take him. I need a break." So it's a very demanding re-entry for the dad. But when a couple starts doing this adventure of parenting together, it really requires them to engage in a whole different level of oneness. There's an opportunity there for spiritual growth like I never saw before we had babies.

Steve: Candice and I had this intense, soul-mate type relationship that most people want these days and seek out. What we're realizing is there's a lot of maintenance and upkeep involved in today's marriages. Their parents and grandparents didn't have that same level of expectation of how rewarding that marriage was going to be.

In fact, Jean M. Twenge in her book Generation Me says, "Generation X'ers and Millennial's are having much more severe drops in marital satisfaction when kids come along than their parents and grandparents" because of that.

Nancy: Because of the expectations are this romantic ideal of what that marriage is going to be.

Steve: Exactly. You can't nurture that depth of a relationship and nurture a new baby at the same time. Something's got to give. I think what Candice and I came to realize is that we were trying to creatively have the life we had before kids. We tried to avoid sacrifice as much as possible by how we split our workload and worked harder and did all these things. Finally we came to realize, God wants us to embrace this sacrifice. This is actually something He designed, that He calls us to.

It got us looking again at Ephesians 5. Realize that the passages that come later in Ephesians 5 about marriage and then in Ephesians 6 about children were prefaced by Ephesians 5:1 where it says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (verses 1-2). 

Our loving relationship in marriage and with children are going to be built on sacrifice, because that's how God designed it. I think the thing that was most helpful as we grappled with that Scripture was to remember we were doing this as dearly loved children.

It's because God has poured Himself into us and has loved us so richly, we don't have to go find ourselves in our spouse. We don't have to get all of our identity there. We don't have to get all of our love from our children. We're filled up with God's great love, and then we can imitate Him by going and laying our lives down for our children, laying our lives down for our spouses. That's what we realized that we needed to do. We weren't fitting kids into our lives, but sacrificing our lives so that kids could fit into what God intended.

Nancy: That whole thing of priorities in mission and purpose and calling, that is what I think is missing from so many of our conversations about this subject. It reminds me of an account you tell about in the book when, Candice, you were expecting Harrison. You were talking with a friend and wondering about your call and your purpose. She said something that really impacted you.

Candice: Yes, I was probably six and half months pregnant, and she said, "Look down. That's your purpose." Of course, she was looking down at my ever expanding belly. How can I, a life-long believer, miss such an obvious physical sign of God's will. You know, babies, and this whole process of bringing new life into this world is a very messy, earthy, almost Old Testament kind of process. I think we want to almost clean it up and make it sterile and miss in the messiness all that God wants us to do. His grace is sufficient in that process.

Nancy: It's such a molding and shaping process in the lives of parents, but also what a huge contribution to God's kingdom purposes in this world.

I'm thinking about a conversation I had just a week or so ago with a young mom I know who has two children. She got married, started having children. She and her husband we're intentional about this, but she had two very close to each other. Now she's got these two tiny ones, and now she's just overwhelmed. Her house never looks like anything in the pictures or what she dreamed of. Her marriage doesn't have that—they're doing great, but its not what it was before they had children.

She's remembering wistfully back to the days when she was a single gal and was working in a ministry, and was feeling like she could check something off at the end of the day. She was really making a contribution. Now, she loves her husband; she loves her children, but she's struggling. I just looked at her and I said, "How can you compare what you are doing with these two little ones that you are bringing up for the glory of God? You're going to send them as arrows out to accomplish God's purposes. There is nothing that you ever did in that office in that ministry before . . . Now, when you were single or before you had children, and that was the will of God for you, that was fruitful place for you to be."

But what you're doing now, I tell moms, "What you are doing in bringing up children for the glory of God, in God's will, has as much or more significance than anything I can do by having these two nationally syndicated radio programs, writing books." I believe I’m being fruitful in what God has for me. But I look at you moms, and I think thank you for what you are doing and how you're fulfilling Psalm 102:18, “Let this be written for future generations that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.”

Steve: Moms can't hear that enough. I think its unfortunate that we don't value that sacrifice. We don't value the vocation of parenting like we need to. I'm so grateful to hear that encouragement coming from you.

Candice: Nancy, wasn't that the ultimate lie of the feminist movement. That whole notion that Betty Friedan talked about women looking out longingly from their kitchen windows at the corporate world and wishing they could be there. And in order to get there, abandoning their roles as nurturers and life-givers. Now you have a generation of women looking out their corporate corner offices with longing to be back in their kitchens with those babies who want nothing more than just mom.

Steve: That's something we've noticed. There are people who at great sacrifice create these beautiful homes. But the only way that they can support having these beautiful homes is to go out and work these high-octane dual careers, and do it all under the guise of giving a great life for that new child. And what that child wants is them.

Those parents are that child's favorite toy. They want them more that the stuff. They could live in a hut and fill that home with love. We think that is so important for the couples who there main logistical issue is how do we fit into this life. Do we have the home we need and the gear and all the stuff? The problem is that we have a baby industry that is telling us you've got to have this and that for comfort and security. You've got to have an educational head start and a leg up on all of the other kids. Most of us got by okay without that in another generation. You can have a very simple home and it be filled with love, and that's what makes all the difference.

Candice: I actually heard from a gal who contacted me and said, "My husband and I really want a baby, but we just don't know how we're going to pay for college." I kind of had to pause, and I said, "We don’t know that either. We're trusting that God, the maker of the universe, the ultimate provider—He owns everything, everything is from Him—He's going to show us how to figure that out." This is such a great opportunity for believers to look to God as their provider and say, "Lord, if we obey you and do what you are calling us to do, then we can trust you that you are going to make it possible to feed these kids, and clothe these kids, and educate these kids."

Nancy: Having children is such an earthly picture of heavenly reality. Which is what our Christian lives are intended to be, pictures of heavenly realities. I'm thinking about the Scripture that tells us that part of Jesus' reason for going to the cross was that He might bring many sons to glory.

When we as the church embrace the concept of having children, bearing and nurturing life, leaving a legacy, passing the baton of faith onto the next generation, we're reflecting to the world a God who says, "I want sons and daughters. I want you to be a part of My family." God is expanding His family by adoption, by having His Son come to this earth and make it possible to for us to be born into His family.

So this is not just about having babies, being baby factories, about breeding like rabbits. That's not the point. The point is, and I think you say it so beautifully at the close of your book. You talk about the mission of parenting, which is raising children who will serve God and work for the glory of His kingdom on earth. That's really what it's all about.

Steve: I love how Andreas Kostenberger in his book God, Marriage, and Family says there is this incredible intersection of having family in the Great Commission. So often as we try to spread the gospel and tell people about God, we don't have the same opportunity we have in the home of being able to pour ourselves into someone and shape their spiritual character. It becomes one of our best opportunities to go into all the world and to share the good news of Jesus and to pass along a godly seed.

Gary Thomas talks about, that for all the spiritual investment we make in life, some of the time the best thing we can do is beget; to pass along what God gave us. Candice and I think of the spiritual heritage we were given. But even people who don't have a strong spiritual heritage, maybe they were the first in their family to get saved, God can use that, too.

We had friends who showed us their family tree, and it was just so broken—broken branches and bad fruit. But God used their new life, not to pass along a spiritual heritage, but to bring new spiritual life that went back the other way and fixed broken branches and made good fruit out of bad fruit. You realize God has some redemptive work in mind that is bigger than our sense of—"So do we have kids as a lifestyle choice, if it fits our lives?" But to realize He's got something bigger in mind.

Candice: Well, it's by His design that in marriage married couples having babies. It is a picture to a broken, watching world of His love for the church; of how He functions in relationship within the Trinity. So He gave us these institutions of marriage and of parenting as a model. We have this incredible opportunity though our families to minister to the broken world around us.

Nancy: We're not saying that doing that will be easy. We don't want to paint any rosy ideal here, because anyone who has children knows that's not the case. We're saying that through the hard work, the effort, the courage and the faith that are required, the dependance upon the Lord, the humility, the crying out to Him for grace, with all that is required, God will shape and mold you as parents. By God's grace you will be able to send those arrows forth into this world to accomplish God's eternal kingdom purposes.

Steve: Amen

Leslie: Your family isn't just about you. It's about God's purposes in this world. Our guests, Steve and Candice Watters, have been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about that. If you're married, I hope you'll fully devote your future to the Lord, and prayerfully ask His will for your fertility.

The book by Steven and Candice Watters will help you think and pray on these issues. It's called Start Your Family. The book will help you think through financial, emotional, and social aspects of having children. We'll send send a copy of Start Your Family when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. You can give online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. 

Well, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible shows that women exert a powerful influence on their world. Kay Arthur will describe that influence tomorrow. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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