By Catherine Segars, Crosswalk.com
“We haven’t decided if we want to have more kids,” she said.
It wasn’t an odd statement. Not at all. It was the kind of statement I had made for the first twenty years of our marriage. Actually, that’s not true. For the first ten years of our marriage, I said:
“I don’t want to have ANY kids.”
And then it was:
“We might have a COUPLE of kids.”
Three kids later, it was:
“We are DONE having kids!”
So, no, her statement wasn’t odd. But where she said it was odd.
We were sitting in the mother’s nursing room for an international conference of church leaders. Over four thousand pastors, worship ministers, administrators, teachers, and techies had come from all over the world to seek God’s direction for our churches.
The irony was hard to miss. We had traveled so many miles to seek God’s will for our church families—but what about our actual families?
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Do you have God’s priorities for your family?
“What do you think the Lord wants?” I asked the young mom. The question caught her off guard. She was nursing her second child. I was nursing my fifth—two kids past my DONE point and a full five kids more than I ever thought I would have.
She didn’t have an answer. So, I told her my story.
My father-in-law bet me a quarter on my wedding day that we would be pregnant within the first year. I chuckled and muttered under my breath, “I won’t be pregnant in the first decade.”
We were both wrong.
Exactly one day before our tenth anniversary, I gave birth to a perfect, 7 lb. 5 oz. little girl. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.
We planned a second and then God planned a third. At that point I was 39, so we called it quits. After all, only crazy people and celebrities have babies in their 40’s. I was neither of those. Well, I’m not a celebrity.
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Our children exist in God's mind before they exist in ours.
But a few years later, I started having visions and dreams of a little boy. Month after month, dream after dream, I saw this tiny guy who didn’t exist here—but I knew that He existed in the mind of God.
Didn’t God say to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5, NIV)
Didn’t the Apostle Paul encourage us with these words? "For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4, NIV).
Before we were conceived, God knew us and had a plan for our lives. Before the world was created, He chose us.
There is no such thing as an unplanned life. The circumstances surrounding a pregnancy may not be planned, but life is always God’s plan. He plans each and every life with a divine, holy, and eternal purpose in mind. Long before a new life exists on earth, it exists in the mind of our heavenly Father.
And at the age of 42, I came to the realization that God had a very different plan for my life—for my family—than I had imagined. Or wanted.
But shouldn’t I want it? Shouldn’t we all want God’s plan?
We need to value what God values.
As Christians, we ask the Lord to guide us with so many decisions. Which school, which job, which city, which car, which house? Yet many of us avoid a much more important question—what does God want our family to look like?
Maybe we don’t want to know the answer to that question. Maybe we don’t really trust Him.
I know that was true of me—but it was more than not trusting. The fact is, I’d never asked God that question because it had never occurred to me to ask.
For much of my young adult life, what I valued more than anything was my career and my resume. I didn’t value what God values. Any time a thought of children entered my mind, I would shew it away. And yet, didn’t Jesus chastise his disciples saying “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:14)
God values children. For the first ten years of my marriage, I didn’t. So, I never bothered to ask God what He wanted my family to look like.
Author and relationship coach Suzuanne Venker highlights this cultural shift in priorities in a recent article:
“Today’s young women are encouraged to prioritize a career. They’re groomed to value financial independence over marriage and motherhood. … It used to be a given that family was what truly mattered and that a job was just the side dish.”
This was precisely my attitude about career and family as a young woman. My job was the entrée. Children were a side dish, or a dessert that I didn’t need.
Where does this mentality come from?
Oddly, I found the answer to that question at the same conference—in the same nursing room.
God has a different perspective on children than our culture.
Another mom sat across from me with babe in tow, and this time—she told me her story. She and her husband were ministers, and she offered this confession:
“My husband and I weren’t going to have kids. We thought that we could do so much more for God’s kingdom if we weren’t burdened with children. Then one day as I was praying, God stopped me cold. He said, ‘That is an abortion mindset. That is not my mindset.”
Her words stunned me. I’d never thought of it that way—but I knew that she was right.
I’d heard this narrative over and over from the lips of others and, sadly, from my own.
Upon announcing that I was pregnant in my 40’s, again, I got comments from some of my Christian friends like, “Better you than me,” and “You’re living my worst nightmare.” That last one came from a woman at church—right after the sermon. She told me that children would interfere with her ability to travel.
Our culture tells us that life is a burden when it’s too old or too young or too expensive or too inconvenient. We can do so much more for ourselves without it. That mindset has seeped into the church when we think that we can do so much more for God without it.
The idea that what we do in this life is more important than who we do it for is an abortion mindset. It places productivity over people. It places our goals over God’s.
I had that mindset all throughout my twenties. I was going to make a great impact for God’s kingdom with my talents, but really, I was intent on making an impact in my own kingdom. Kids would get in the way of all that.
All that changed when God brought me to my knees at the age of 42, well past my prime procreative years, and showed me His plan for our family. It involved not one, but two more trips to the maternity ward. It involved a lot of pain and a lot of prayer. It involved a complete surrender of what I had every human right to claim, but no spiritual right. Not if I wanted to call Him Lord.
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Is Jesus Lord of your family?
Everyone wants a Savior, someone to ride in on a white horse and save the day. Someone to forgive our sins and redeem us. Someone to assure us that “this too shall pass.” Someone to grant us the promise of eternity with God.
Yes, we all want and need a Savior.
But calling Jesus Lord is something entirely different. Lordship means that Jesus is in control of every part of our lives, of our future, and yes—of our families.
A great country theologian wrote about this type of surrender in a song called, “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Surrender puts God in the driver’s seat and us sitting patiently at His side, trusting that His destination is better than the one we had planned for ourselves.
That is easy to do when you are spiraling out of control on a dark stretch of road, like the song says. It’s not so easy when the sun is shining and you like the road trip you had planned better. Or when the trip you had charted back to the maternity ward doesn’t materialize. Or when the trip to a more comfortable life takes you back to baby-town twice when your friends are becoming empty-nesters.
Calling Jesus Lord means that He is in the driver’s seat on those road trips as well.
The question you should be asking:
When it comes to your family, the question isn’t, “How many kids can you crank out during your child-bearing years?”
The question is, “What is God’s plan?”
Abraham had one child with Sarah.
Isaac had two.
Jacob had—a lot more than one or two.
God’s plan for each family is different. One of my closest friends has eight siblings. More than anything, she wanted a home bursting with kids. She has one. I wanted none and I have five.
When it comes to your family, the priority should not be your preference. The priority should be God’s plan. My friend and I both had very different preferences for our families, but we are both living out God’s plan.
How to find God’s plan for your family:
To find God’s plan for your family, you start by doing what I didn’t do for the first twenty years of my marriage. You ask Him.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
He wants you to ask. God cannot wait to tell you His plans.
“Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
The answer may be a neon sign or a gentle nudge. He may show you the final destination or just the next few miles. Ask the Lord to show you the next step, and then take it with Him.
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What if His plan doesn’t look like my plan?
If what the Lord shows you doesn’t make you jump for joy, if it scares the living daylights out of you like it did me, ask Him to align your desires with His will. He will not take you where your heart does not ultimately want to go.
But trust that the Lord knows your heart even better than you do.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
This verse means that as you draw near to God, so close that His priorities become your own, He will fulfill your desires. But also, He will transform your desires into His very own. As you do, you will realize that what you thought you wanted would have never satisfied, and what the Lord has for you is exactly where you want to be.
His plan may seem crazy to you at first. God’s plans often do. He likes crazy plans—old ladies having babies and a young, not-quite-married girl giving birth to the Lord of Lords.
His plan may start a lot sooner or end a lot later than you thought it would. It may bring one child or it may bring many. It may involve birthing or adopting or step-parenting or fostering or mentoring.
Only God knows, and eventually, as you allow His plan to unfold, so will you.
In the end, your family may not look like you thought it would—but you won’t be able to imagine any other. The family you once envisioned will be a distant memory on a road trip you are glad you didn’t take. And the family you have will become dearer than ever because you will know that it is the family He intended.
Let Jesus take the wheel of your family truckster and see where the road goes.
Or, as King Solomon put it:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, blogger, and motherhood apologist. She is matron of the Mere Mother website, which delves into critical cultural issues that affect families and marginalize mothers. This homeschooling mama of five is dedicated to helping mothers see their worth in a season when they often feel overwhelmed and irrelevant. You can find Catherine’s blog, dramatic blogcast, and other writings at www.catherinesegars.com and connect with her on Facebook.
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, blogger and motherhood apologist. She launched the Mere Mother website in October 2019, which delves into critical issues that marginalize mothers in our culture. This homeschooling mama of five is dedicated to helping mothers see their worth in a season when they often feel overwhelmed and irrelevant. You can find Catherine’s blog, dramatic blogcast, and other writings at www.catherinesegars.com and connect with her on Facebook.