"I feel like I am giving God the finger," a young mother wrote to me recently. Her struggle was birth control. She was using it, and had a sense in her spirit that she was telling God she didn't trust him and that He was not in control of her life.
She's not alone.
Many Christian young women begin considering birth control as early as their college years, not because they are sexually active but because the evangelical world is re-thinking its opinion of The Pill. Did the Catholics have this birth control thing right?
While some site statistics and Bible verses in the debate, I prefer the approach of my close friend Holly Elliff. She began re-thinking birth control when The Pill was brand new in the market and way before most were having the conversation in the 1970's. Her tender, heart-touching story of surrendering is summarized in this sentence: "It came down to whether or not I was better at making decisions than God was." Holly and her husband, Pastor Bill Elliff, decided God was. It got them eight children.
In full disclosure, Bob and I did use contraception during the early years of our marriage. (After many years of no more biological children to add to our Robby and Lexi, God opened our heart to the adoption of Autumn.)
I know there are many good medical reasons to sometimes use birth control. But the question I'm faced with as the protestant world re-thinks birth control is this: are we—as Christian women—living as if God is in control of our bodies and how he uses them to bring life to this world, or have we fallen prey to the lie that we have control? I mean, I feel like sometimes we pray harder about which street God "wants us" to live on than how many children God wants us to have.
Pastor John Piper says that letting God control the number of children we have is "a legitimate kingdom decision." This short video reveals his heart—and I think God's—on the matter. I pray you'll watch it, especially if you feel frustrated with me right now.
But what I'd really like to know is this: what's your heart on the matter? Before you leave a comment and share your thoughts which I desperately want to hear, I want to share with you a letter my friend Jenny, who is the director of our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, wrote a couple days ago. Her contractions, as I write this, are six minutes apart.
A pregnancy lasts 280 days or forty weeks...unless you're Jenny. Today is day number 285 and counting. It's not that unusual to deliver a baby a week or so late, except for the fact that this is her seventh baby. And a surprise. This is not what Jenny planned. In fact, Jenny and her husband had made the decision that birth control was a wise stewardship decision for them. It didn't work. (Again.)But her response to this little soon-to-come-into-this-world Anna Kate reveals something about her heart.
And I'd like you to consider it before you share with me yours. Here is what Jenny wrote on her Facebook page two days ago:
On September 9th, 2014, I went to the doctors to have an MRI due to excruciating neck pain and a summer full of physical therapy. I was filling out a questionnaire and started to struggle when answering these three little questions:
- Are you breastfeeding?
- Are you pregnant?
- Could you possibly be pregnant?
My answers were: Yes, No, & Well....POSSIBLY? That's my life!
So, I asked/told the technician, "I know I am NOT pregnant, but what if I was? I mean, I have 6 children, at any time in my life I could be pregnant."
She said, "With an x-ray, your body could abort and your baby would self-absorb, and with an MRI, there really is no way to protect a certain part of your body because the magnetic field is so strong. We caution against it."
I said, "Well, I know I'm not pregnant, but I wouldn't want to do anything harmful..."
She offered a pregnancy test which I refused, at first. With some thought and prodding by the Holy Spirit and her encouragement, she called my doctor who immediately ordered a pregnancy test.
I strolled to another part of the office to do the pregnancy test, and returned to put my scrubs on for the MRI. The technician returned and said, "So, you've been nursing for 6 months? I said, "No, I've been nursing for 10 months, and I have 6 children."
She said, "Oh!"
I said, "Yeah, I feel bad for you if you're the one to tell me I'm pregnant with #7."
She said, "I'm going to check on your test. It's taking longer than normal."
Just as quickly as the thought, "What if I am pregnant" came to mind, it also left my mind.
She returned with a co-worker who said, "Jenny, we have your results. It's positive."
I was shocked, bawled out loud in disbelief, and said things like, "Are you serious? That can't be! Really? You're kidding.... Are you serious? No way! Oh my gosh!"
As my head spun with the news, one technician took me by the shoulders and said, "You are so blessed."
I remember looking at her in the eyes which were only a few inches from mine and saying (I might have yelled), "I tell women that for a living...and I don't feel so blessed right now!"
As I hung my head in what felt like shame and embarrassment, I cried.
I left the office wondering where to go and what to do.
I went to my office and found my friends who were meeting for Bible study. They were shocked, too. They cried and laughed with me. I was very thankful, but very afraid of so many things.
I then met with two other women, one who is barren and another who has 11 children. Both were an encouragement to me. They laughed and they cried with me. Hugs and prayers were offered and accepted.
One question I was asked was, "What are you most concerned about?"
I said, "Provision. Providing for our family. I already feel like there isn't enough of me to go around. How will I work and still be a mom....to 7 children? And the amount of food they eat! And where am I going to put the baby?"
I left and went home. Todd had some papers to grade and I was totally worn out from crying. I just couldn't bring myself to tell him the news.
Not just yet.
The next evening, I was cooking in the kitchen. He came up behind me and hugged me. He said, "The sight of you is good for my heart."
I said, "Can you say that again?"
I said, "Do you love me?"
He said, "Yes, I love you" as he spun me around to face him.
I said, "Do you love all of me?"
He said, "Yes, I love all of you."
And I said, "Even if there's baby #7 in there?" I buried my face in his chest and hugged him even closer...wondering what he was going to say next.
"Jenny, don't even joke about that."
I said nothing.
"Did you have your MRI?" he asked.
I looked him in the eyes and said, "No, I found out I'm pregnant instead."
He walked out to the grill as I left him to alone and soak in the news.
When he finally came back inside, he said, "How your body makes babies is amazing and incredible to me."
It took some time to sink in...realizing our life was going to change again.
On December 29th, 2014 we found out we were expecting a little girl. It didn't take us long to decide on her name, Anna Kate.
Since I found out I was pregnant with Anna Kate, we have seen God provide for our family in amazing and encouraging ways. Although we fully realize that parenting 7 children is way beyond our human abilities, God has placed in our lives family and friends to help and coach us along the way.
So many people ask us, "How do you do it?"
Our answer: "We just do, and we can't do it without God's grace and the help from others."
Pregnancy is a God-gift, a phenomenon of willingly giving up your body to be broken for another being so that they can have life.
Does that sound familiar to you? Jesus gave up His life for you! Every time I am pregnant, this impresses upon me more and more. Through morning sickness, sleepless nights, and the aches and pains--I am reminded that my body is a living vessel which has been given the blessing to give life to another.
Anna Kate, we are so thankful for you. I am so, so, sorry that I rejected you with my words at the very beginning. But, with God's love for me---you and the thought of you has grown in our hearts and in my body each day up until now. With each painful step that I have taken during the past 15 weeks--I have been reminded that you and the ability to become pregnant is a gift that I should not and should never have taken granted of, ever. I will continue to encourage mothers and fathers to know that each child is a gift from above.
"Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep."
Psalm 127:3The Message (MSG)
I realized since September 9, 2014 that God has spared our little girl from a potentially dangerous examination. From the beginning, God has been telling about His goodness through her life. I am so glad it didn't take me long to see that He has a plan for her. Her life has humbled me and has softened my heart in so many ways. (Jeremiah 29:11)
As I write this, I think my time with her in my womb is ending. I asked God this morning, "If I tell the world about your goodness and how you've answered my prayers, if I tell the world about how I found out about this pregnancy with Anna Kate....will you please deliver from me--this baby girl, today?"
Let's just hope that she enters this world soon!
With a broken body and a thankful heart,
Addendum: This blog hit the Internet and caused quite a flurry of frustration. That surprised me, but I have taken the first day's worth of critique and added a few things above to clarify my perspective. I really do welcome your thoughts. Consider leaving them here and not on Facebook so we can have a good conversation. (We're up to hundreds and hundreds of comments on Facebook!)