Since his passing, I’ve been recalling the good works my grandfather performed in his lifetime. He had a garden – he provided for his family with that garden – and as a child, I often walked behind him in the footsteps he left as he worked. Grandpa also had nine children, including one “adopted” daughter who was fittingly named Mary, which means “wished-for child” and “beloved.”
Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll have children of my own. I haven’t always wanted kids, and practicality is faithful to remind me that babies are expensive and very needy. This knowledge, however, has not prevented new seeds from taking root. Every time I see a child disciplined not in anger but in love – every time I snuggle a laughing little baby or spin a toddler in my arms – I feel pangs of something like longing.
And in this phase of trying to determine whether those seeds will develop into weeds or trees, an acquaintance had the audacity to ask me, “Do you want kids, Justine?”
That question in and of itself may not seem audacious on paper, but I assure you it was – because the inquiry was made when I was holding a chubby, smiling, lovable little baby. In other words, the question was nothing short of criminal. And I was totally unprepared for it because I hadn’t already reached a satisfactory conclusion in my private musings.
My answer to this person was therefore not well-thought out. I’m afraid I almost stammered. I probably sounded brusque. “Someday. Maybe. I don’t think I’ll feel unfulfilled if I don’t have children. But one or two would be nice, yes. Someday.”
What was I supposed to say? That I can see date nights without children as clearly as I can see a houseful of pajama-clad littles on Christmas morning? That my desires waiver because I’m growing, or that I don’t dare place my hope in earthly things that have not been promised to me? How could I communicate any of that when I was utterly unprepared for the conversation to begin with?
But I’m saying it now.
Yes, I do want children. And let the record show that my familial interests aren’t rooted in an attraction to any gentleman in particular; rather, they stem from the deep appreciation I’ve come to have for God’s family model. And this may go without stating, but I don’t want kids so I can collect stacks of perfectly posed family photos . . . or receive the approval that’s typically bestowed upon a full quiver. I want children because it’s the way I’m being rewired as I fall more in love with the Creator who forms babies in the hidden places of bodies just like mine. I long to cuddle and discipline and play with my children – but it’s deeper than that. I want to conceive them, carry them, labor over them. I want to sacrifice for them, even let them rearrange my vital organs if that’s what they need to experience life. I want some of them to carry my genetics; I want all of them to be joined to me in spirit by the Maker of Families and the Builder of Homes. In short, I want to carry on my grandfather’s legacy – because family is on the path that he left for me in his garden.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127 (ESV)