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Are Christian couples obligated to have children if they are married and able to conceive?
 
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MARRIAGE

Childless by Choice (Part 2)

By Marita Littauer with Chuck Noon, MA, LPCC
Guest Columnist

CBN.com -- Yesterday, we introduced Brad and Dena, who decided prior to marriage that they would not have children, and we discussed the various outside pressures they
must deal with as a childless couple in a child-centric culture.  Today, we'll focus on how they can live their lives and their marriage to the fullest, even without children of their own.

If you missed it, read part one of this article.

A Full and Happy Life

Those whose lives revolve around their children often look at those of us without children and know that we are missing out. Yes, we are missing out on the joys of parenting that they experience, but we can still have a full and happy life with different experiences. In Jan Coleman's article, she quotes a couple, Linda and Craig, who say,

Not everybody was meant to have children in their life. As with the whole Christian life, when you accept your situation, you can find many joys and options in it.

What “Makes” A Marriage?

Having children is not what makes a marriage. In their book Living with Infertility, Roger and Robin Sonnenberg write,

In words that many infertile (and childless) couples will find affirming, the late Christian counselor Walter Trobisch addressed childless marriages. He quoted Genesis 2:24, "Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh." Trobisch then asked how this verse ends, and a man replied, "With a full stop," or period. Trobisch emphasized this "full stop," noting that in that key verse about marriage, a verse quoted four times in the Bible, there is not a word about children. "The effect of these words on my audience was tremendous," he recalled. "It was as if I had thrown a bomb into the church."

“Don't misunderstand me,” he continued. “Children are a blessing of God.” The Bible emphasizes this over and over again ... children are a blessing to marriage, but they are an additional blessing to marriage. When God created Adam and Eve, he blessed them and then said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply.” From the Hebrew text it is clear that this commandment was an additional action to the action of blessing. Therefore, when the Bible describes the indispensable elements of marriage, it is significant that children are not expressly mentioned. Leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh are sufficient. The full stop means that the child does not make marriage a marriage. A childless marriage is also a marriage in the full sense of the word. (See Note 1 below)

Connect With Other Children

Not only are those of us couples without children in a "full marriage," as non-parent adults we can often have a positive influence on children and youth that their own parents cannot have.

Sharing her experience, Amanda writes,

I've found that through the years, I have had a profound influence on friends’ children. When they wouldn't speak to their parents, they would speak to me because I was cool and not a parent. Even now, I have a sixteen-year-old girl who frequently comes over to our house, just to talk to me. Imagine, a sixteen-year-old girl wanting advice from a fifty-three-year-old woman!

Another peer, Leigh, responded because she and her husband related to Dena and Brad's situation. They too had faced pressure from parents and began to question their choice. In 1995, Leigh had the opportunity to go on a work camp with the teenagers from their church. She reports:

Work camp was a wonderful experience and I felt led to continue working with teenagers. Although I have to admit that it seemed a bit odd that the Lord would direct my steps to work with these young people when I had never even had a baby. I asked the Lord one day, "Why me?" His answer was that because I never wanted babies, He would give me the biggest babies of all, namely teenagers. I have worked with these young people for over five years now and taken six road trips with them, and yes, they are my babies. I love working with these kids for they give a dimension to my life that I had never known before.

She asked them why they worked together so well and was told that it was because she had never been someone's mom, just someone's kid. They see me as a non-threatening adult—just a much older teenager. We don't have children of our own to call us Mom and Dad, and we will never have grandchildren to call us Grandma and Grandpa, but we have spiritual children galore. We are very blessed indeed!

I feel like Leigh when she says that she has many spiritual children. Sometimes when I am asked if I have children, I say, "Yes, hundreds." I feel very maternal toward the speakers and authors I help train through the CLASSeminar. I feel like a proud mother hen each time I receive a book in the mail that has been published as a result of my involvement in the author's life. These speakers and authors are my children, even though some of them are actually older than I am and have children my age.

I remember with great fondness the influence of Aunt Jean in my life. She died at ninety years old while I was in the midst of writing a book. I did not hesitate for a moment to drop everything and cross the country to attend her memorial service. Many of us had tears in our eyes as we shared "Aunt Jean" stories. With her as my role model, I have tried to be that kind of person for my nephews. They come and visit us for a week at a time, much as I did with Aunt Jean when I was child. Chuck and I have taken our nephews motorcycle riding, shooting, and hiking—things they do not do at home.

Chuck and I have done similar things for his nieces. His sister has been a single parent for much of her daughters' lives and their father has not been consistently involved. When Chuck's elder niece got married, she asked him to walk her down the aisle—which he was honored to do. When his younger niece was in a tough place, she came to live with us for several months.

Melody shares that she and her husband both remember some person in their lives who was not a parent but who had an enormous amount of influence on their lives. She says,

My husband and I feel that God has asked us to do this kind of service for kids who are already here, rather than to produce children of our own. Not everyone will understand this, and certainly not everyone is called to it. However, we feel strongly that we would not have the energy, time, or ability to do these things if we had a family of our own. Though we didn't originally think so, we are now sure that God put this path in front of us and that it is His perfect will for us. Most of the children with whom we work come from poor homes and have emotional or academic problems that severely hinder them. We don't think it is an easy task to work with them to try to help them improve—but it is a task that brings us great joy!

Chuck reminds Dena and Brad, and all childless couples, that there are so many children and teens in need of adults who are willing to make an investment in them. Many technically "childless" teachers, counselors, social workers, youth ministers, and extended family members are making a greater contribution to the next generation than some parents. It is not the genetic material contributed that counts, it's the sum contribution to the welfare and Christian upbringing of the children that matters.

Perhaps you can benefit by the advice for Dena and Brad; search your heart before God and ask Him what is His path for your life. As you can tell from the sampling of stories shared here, it may be His plan that you not have children. But don't hold back on the extravagant love He has placed within you. Great joy is out there for you. The maternal instinct doesn't stop at your own doorstep.

Parenthood isn't the ultimate goal of marriage; building a strong one-flesh relationship between husband and wife is the top priority.  And childless couples often find many opportunities to enrich the lives of the children in their family and church community.

Do Your Homework

How should a couple that has chosen to remain childless deal with the pressures of living in a child-centered society?  For couples in a similar situation to Dena and Brad, Chuck would assign the following “homework” assignment:

  1. Write out a list of expectations others have of you, including who expressed (or implied) them.
  2. Evaluate each expectation and who it came from for validity. Challenge each expectation asking yourself, "Does this person have a right to set expectations for my life?" "Am I honoring this person's expectations out of my desires or out of guilt?"
  3. Write out your expectations of each other as husband and wife. As a couple, these expectations are to be taken very seriously. Discuss them as a couple to be sure individual assumptions are accurate.
  4. Write out your expectations of yourself. Each expectation of yourself has to be tested for validity to determine that it is truly your own rather than an expectation someone else has for you.
  5. Write out your heart's desire and any call(s) felt; what are God's expectations for your life?
  6. Fill in the blank: "My life is missing____." Make plans to meet that missing need.

Review what God has called you to do and your expectations of each other. These are to be your priority. Everyone else's expectations (if valid) are secondary.

 

Tell us what you think: Are Christian couples obligated to have children if they are married and able to conceive?

For more stories like this one, sign up to receive Family News from CBN.com in your email every Friday.


Marita LittauerMarita Littauer is a professional speaker with more than twenty-five years experience. She is the author of 17 books Including Personality Puzzle, Communication Plus, The Praying Wives Club, Tailor-Made Marriage—from which this column is derived, and her newest, Wired That Way. Marita is the President of CLASServices Inc., an organization that provides resources, training and promotion for speakers and authors. Marita and her husband Chuck Noon have been married since 1983. For more information on Marita and/or CLASS, please visit www.classervices.com or call 800/433-6633.

Chuck Noon has worked as a professional counselor--licensed in two states. He holds a BA in Motion Picture Production from Brooks Institute and an MA in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling from the University of San Diego. He has worked with hundreds of families and couples in many varieties of settings. Currently, Chuck is working in mental healthcare management. Chuck and Marita live in the mountains outside of Albuquerque.

Notes:
1. Walter Trobisch, I Married You (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1971), 20-21.

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