THE MARRIAGE ABCS
Copyright © Ufuomaee
“The only things you can count on are chaos and each other and somehow that’s okay because it’s a perfect kind of beautiful chaos as you see each other more clearly and know you’re right where you wanna be, lack of sleep, spit up, noise and all” (Paula Rollo).
Offspring, also known as children, are one of the fruits of a blessed marriage. The Bible says, children are a gift from God, and regards them as the fruit of the womb (Psa 127:3). It is right to desire to have children, but it is more important to be mature enough to look after them and raise them up with the love and admonition of God (Prov 22:6, Eph 6:4).
Not every marriage is blessed with children or the fruit of the womb. This can cause a problem for the couple, depending on their desire for children and their expectations from marriage. If they married in order to have a family and raise children, then not being able to conceive can feel like a failure. However, as we saw in B for Blessed to Bless, children are not the confirmation that your marriage is blessed. A marriage without children is still blessed of God, and will bear fruit, if rightly handled.
Like the idea of getting married, the idea of having children needs to be forsaken, and left at the feet of Jesus, when one becomes a Believer. It can be very hard for us to lay down these desires, which are natural and good, but just as we must lay down our lives to follow Jesus, these also must be laid down (Luke 14:26). If we refuse to lay them down, we will not receive them as the gifts that they are, if and when God decides to bless us with them. We will covet, we will be discontent, we will scheme and we will sin in our desire to have them…and we will forfeit the joy that comes from being submitted to God in every aspect of our lives.
If we do end up getting married or having children, by our own wilfulness and means, it is also likely that, since we have not learned to follow and submit to God, we will not value the gifts of marriage and childbearing. We will likely misuse these gifts, or not be mature enough to show our spouse and children the love of God. But someone who has forsaken the idea of getting married, and God grants them this gift in His mercy, will be more appreciative and will be more able to hear and follow God in their marriage, and in their new role as parent too.
Just as marriage, as a gift, comes with its challenges, children also come with their challenges. Too many people fantasise about having children without realising how great a responsibility they are, and the need for them to be ready to raise them right. The saying goes that “marriage is the only school, where you get the certificate before you start…” Likewise with parenthood. In fact, there is no certification, nor mandatory parent counseling, nothing to prepare you for the many ways your life will change once you hear the word “pregnant”. What there is is a lot of pressure from every angle (your family, friends, community, the Media and even the Church) to have a baby, through false expectations laid on newlyweds.
Yes, we have pre-natal classes, doctor’s visits, and lots of lots of information online now about parenthood and what to expect. We also have, if we are lucky, experienced and wise parents and elders to guide us. These don’t help you with the financial implications, they don’t help you with the practical implications, or the emotional, sexual, physical changes your body (and marriage) will go through. They may ease your anxieties, and help you feel more in control…but there’s nothing like real experience to teach you and shape you into the parent you ought to be!
Having children will change you as a person, and change your relationship as a couple FOREVER! Hopefully, your children will outlive you. Once you become a parent, you will always be a parent, and so the cost implications are life-long. You can’t shirk your responsibility unto someone else. When thinking and planning for a baby, you have to realise the weight of what you are undergoing, and be sober about the LIFE you are bringing into the world, and your responsibility as its GUARDIAN.
I make no claim to being an expert at raising children. I only have the experience of parenting one, and experiencing the wonder that is pregnancy and childbirth! I also know from real experience the changes that I went (and I am still going) through joggling marriage and motherhood, as well as work and ministry. Even though our experiences will be different, there are many similarities in our stories, and we can all learn from other people’s experiences, while recognising that our own story may be very different!
With all this said, here are five points I hope you will take away from this post:
- FORSAKE IT – There are many people living with a hole in their heart because they have not been able to conceive, or maybe, they haven’t had as many children as they would want…or maybe they want a girl and only have boys, or they want a boy and only have girls! You can fulfil your purpose without childbearing or raising children. If you genuinely want to raise (one or more) children, then consider adoption. Who ever said that you can only raise your own children? There are many children living without the love and protection of a parent. Maybe there’s a place in your home and heart for one of them.
- BE FAITHFUL WITH THE LITTLE THINGS – Jesus said that no one will entrust true riches to someone who has been faithless with little, but if we are faithful with the little things, God will entrust us with much (Luke 16:10-12). There are some people who are ready to throw away their marriage because they don’t have a child. That is a classic example of someone who cannot be trusted with true riches… They haven’t even been faithful with what God has already bestowed on them. They haven’t appreciated their gift, but have despised it while coveting greater blessing. Rather, use your marriage as an opportunity to grow in love and to mature in every way…and if God decides to bless your home with a child, you will be ready to handle that added blessing.
- BE SOBER – Children are not accessories or assets that you can get with your buying power! Every human life is valuable and priceless, and must be regarded with all sobriety. They are not to add to your status or your own value, but are a responsibility for which you must give account to God on how you raised them. Do not seek to have children because everyone expects you to, everyone is doing it, you are getting old, you are bored, or any other self-centred reason. When thinking or planning to have children, consider their soul…consider the environment you are bringing them into, consider how God will use you in raising up a child of purpose, who will make a positive impact in the world…not merely make you smile for a while and get people off your back. This is a decision you should make as a couple, listening to each other, and appreciating each person’s desire and perspective. If you are not united, it is better to forsake it than to bring a child into disunity.
- BE RESPONSIBLE – We have seen that marriage is a gift and a responsibility, and considered all the ways we must grow in love to succeed in this vocation. Raising children requires as much dedication, if not more. Just as money matters in marriage, money matters in raising children. Sure, you don’t have to be rich to have children, just as you don’t have to be rich to get married, but you’ve got to be financial conscious and responsible, and plan for EACH of your children. You can think of it this way…do unto others as you would have them do to you. What you would have wanted your parents to do for you, you should do also to/for your child, and even more, since our world is a different place now, from when you were a child.
- ENJOY IT! – It is a gift! And a joyous one at that! There’s a reason many desire to have children. No matter the sacrifices, no matter the pains, no matter the challenges they bring, raising them is part of the joy of the living. The circle of life, as some might say. If we have been blessed to have children, we shouldn’t forget to enjoy the process of transformation such a blessing brings to our lives, as we grow from being new parents to mature and responsible guardians, who are training the leaders of tomorrow. We must also make sure that we allow our children to enjoy being children! We shouldn’t burden them with our burdens, and give them a chance to enjoy the phase of life that is childhood!
In all of this, you have to remember that your marriage comes first. In most cases, you would have pledged your love and commitment to your spouse before your child was even conceived. Your marriage was the bearer of the child, and it would be a travesty if the child becomes the destruction of your marriage! By giving your marriage its rightful place of honour, you are CAPABLE of giving your child the love, care and protection it needs to grow into a mature and responsible adult, who has been groomed for success! Never put the cart before the horse.
Do not lose sight of your spouse nor neglect your responsibilities to them because of the arrival of a child. Even as the child is most demanding, you have to make EXTRA effort to pay attention to the needs of your spouse and to keep working as a TEAM!!! Don’t start working against each other, or working on your own and seeing your spouse as the intruder or your enemy. You need each other to succeed at parenthood and marriage and life! Remember that your fortunes are tied forever.
Soon your children will grow up and move away from home and become independent of you, and likely have their own marriages and families. Remember that their experience in your home is what will serve as a pattern for what they will aspire to in their own homes. They will imitate you, whether consciously or not, so you need to show them, by example, the esteem they must show to their spouses, and the wisdom of preserving the marital bond even above the maternal or paternal bonds! It will be a source of inspiration to them to see your marriage and love still going strong, long after they have left your abode.
Photo credit: wwwbeautythroughimperfection.com, http://www.doublequotes.net
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