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Vol. XVI • 1994

A Christmas Letter to my Sunday-School Classmates
Karen Bruce

I endeavor to write this letter with humility and hope that my comments will not offend or anger anyone I hope you will take it for what it is - a deeply prayerful attempt to encourage you to seek God's face and follow after His will regarding your children.

I would never even have thought to write except for a conversation which took place two weeks ago in the toddler room where I was babysitting during church service. At the time, I listened to what was being said, praying in my heart, but I was afraid that any disagreeing comments I might make might be taken as perhaps a holier-than-thou type of condemnation. I hope that it will be clear after you read that this is not at all my intent. My intent is, rather; to encourage you to value your children (if you have any at this time) as your most precious treasure given you from God, and to take His gift of childbearing to you as a woman as a precious gift from God also.

The conversation I listened to focused on another mom at Messiah, not present in the room, who has recently become pregnant and who is apparently quite ill with morning sickness. The three moms in the toddler room universally expressed their thankfulness that they were not pregnant, that they were not suffering from morning sickness, and that all three of them were very grateful that they were not going to have any more children. Two of the moms have two children, the third has three children, and the oldest said her age is 31. They also universally expressed their happiness that they were getting over with and through the child-rearing process now, while they were young, so that they wouldn't have to go through it when they were older I am not singling them out, nor am I attempting to put them down, as I believe this is the prevailing attitude of moms in our class and in general.

However, I was greatly saddened and hurt for them. I would like to share with you from my own life. You see, my attitude was not far from this just a few years ago. I had always wanted to have a large family, as I came from a family with seven children, so my "cut-off" point was higher than most, but the underlying philosophy that this was "our~ decision as a couple was still very much present.

Our second child was born 19 months after our first, our third 20 months later, and our fourth was expected just 15 months after the third. It was not easy for me to make the transition from being around lots of people, first when I lived at home, and then on the job, to being at home alone all day after our first was born. At the time, I had a good friend with five children - when I had just one - and I wondered how in the world she could do it all. when I was expecting that fourth child, I realized that I would have four children ages 4 and under! I had some spotting during the early part of the pregnancy, and I secretly hoped that I might have a miscarriage. (I thank my Heavenly Father for not granting my wish.) Then, when our fifth child became expected 20 months after the fourth, I was angry - angry with my husband and angry at God. Now I would have five children ages six and under - a prospect that seemed overwhelming. At that age, you have very little help with any of the standard household chores, you have to get everyone ready yourself, and you have to take everyone with you everywhere.

However, I want to make dear that we didn't "prevent" these children because overall, we wanted a large family - it just seemed that God was moving along faster than we would have liked. At the same time, and actually (believe it or not) with the birth of our second child, we began to hear comments from others, Christians and non-Christians, about "calling it quits." As our family expanded, the comments became more pointed and oftentimes downright crude. Only rarely, very rarely, did anyone compliment our large family or refer to children as gifts from God.

In part due to our own "practical thinking" - we can't afford any more kids - and in part due to the negative flak we received regularly, we gave serious thought to turning to artificial methods of birth control while we were expecting our seventh child.

And then God stepped in and totally upended our "We're in control" attitude. On April 17, 1985, He determined in His perfect timing - though in a totally unexpected and extremely painful way for us - that He should call our Jacob, just under four years old, to heaven. (This was the child whose conception I had been so angry about.) Suddenly, in grief so severe it would be useless to explain, we were brought on our knees constantly before God to humble ourselves to His wisdom and His planning, both in giving of life to each of us and in taking it away. The one comfort through this was that in submitting to His perfect will ("The LORD gave, and the LORD bath taken away; blessed he the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." - Job 1:21-22), that God was working out our lives to become more like Christ and to glorify God.

But in addition, we were brought face to face with the realization that we would have given everything, and I mean every dollar, our home, any property, security, possessions - everything if God would have said He would give us Jacob back to raise on this earth. All the worldly "treasures" and "securities" we had built up over eleven years of marriage were worthless. Our real treasure, our little boy, was indeed in heaven. Suddenly we realized that possessions, career goals, our "dream" of living in the country, artwork we had made or might make, counted for absolutely nothing at all. We will all leave these behind, either accomplished or unfulfilled, and in the end, God is going to burn up this &d world anyway, along with any house we've built, etc. But the only thing we might take with us, saved by faith in Christ's death for us, is our children.  

In the death of Jake, God turned our values around. We became aware of all kinds of ways that we had picked up the world's way of thinking. Believe me, the world does not consider children "a heritage of the LORD." They would classify conceiving a child as merely the result of "unprotected sex," not "...the fruit of the womb is His reward." (Ps. 127:3)

The question is, how many of us as Christians have taken this area of our lives - the giving of children to us by our Heavenly Father as our reward - and taken it to ourselves? We don't consider children as God's reward. We tell God that He isn't able to provide for an additional child because we don't think we can provide. We tell God that He isn't able to give us the patience and strength and courage to raise an additional child. So, instead of asking God to provide for any child He would desire to reward us with, we tell Him we would prefer something else instead - something that will never equal the treasure of a living child, created in God's image, worth the blood of Christ which is greater than any other. One comment made by Randall Terry that has stayed in my mind is that Christians use the same reasons to prevent children that women use to justify abortion. How can our attitude toward having children be the same as that, and still be right?

This letter is, then, a prayerful plea to seek after God and His will (not our own) regarding God's reward of children. Please, earnestly search the Scriptures and pray for His guidance. Remember that He is able to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." (Eph. 3:20) "Submit your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Rom. 12:1) If you feel convinced that you absolutely have God's leading, with Scriptural backing, to prevent conception (God knows your medical and marital situations with perfect understanding), then seek His will in how this should be accomplished.

I only recently learned that all Christian denominations - Protestant as well as Catholic - believed that artificial contraception was un-Scriptural until roughly the 1930's, the same time frame that most other liberalizations" came into our churches, and (like abortion) it was introduced as acceptable only in the most extreme circumstances. Abstinence from relations during the woman's fertile period to prevent conception was the only method considered Biblical because it had respect to God's design of men and women in tying together sexual oneness with creation of new life. (I am still astounded that God has enabled us to partake in His creation of new life.) Please remember that "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 4:23) In this most critical area, please, submit it to God and go to the Bible for direction.

I caution you especially to be aware not to utilize any method which always involves (IUD's) or which may involve killing a conceived child (all types of birth control pills, which try to prevent conception from occurring, but then prevent implantation as a `tack-up" method if conception occurs. This is an abortion of your own child which you may cause and not even be aware of!)

Again, I ask that you not take this letter as dictating your actions, or as a judgment on bow you stand before God. I am simply trying to share my own, very painful, journey I had to make to value my own children as God's rewards to me. I also hope that our family, by God's grace, encourages some of you who cannot imagine how they could possibly cope with more children. I have often been encouraged by the widespread example of Christians under Soviet persecution, where the fathers were frequently imprisoned for their faith, who even under those terrible conditions had large families. They were able to accept children because of the deepness of their faith that God would sustain them, even under such severe circumstances. I couldn't cope on my own, either, but God has graciously provided physically and emotionally I can honestly say, also, that the years pass very quickly by. The time that seemed so impossible, with so many little ones, has gone by. Now, our older children are an immense help in keeping the household running.

We also find that we can get by with a lot less than what we think of as "necessities." Just to share, our home has only three bedrooms though, thankfully, they are large ones. This puts our five girls in one room and our four boys in another, with Dad and Mom (and in times past baby) in the third. We have survived with only one bathroom, though I admit that it isn't too private a lot of the time (more like Grand Central Station). I used to wistfully dream about getting to take a bath by myself. Now, I sadly realize that I won't get to share my baths with a little one much longer.

Lastly, I would like to share a deep felt encouragement for those who would love to have a baby, but God has not enabled this at this time (though do not give up your prayers). I know, through the sorrow of Jacob's death, what a tremendous yearning there is for little ones and the pain of absence. One thing that God brought home to me was that I must cast out the world's reasoning and take His Word as absolute. He says, as a fact accomplished, "He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD." (Ps. 112:9)1 do not know how He will fulfill this, but I do know that He certainly will bring it to pass, perhaps in heavenly places. Whatever reward He has withheld from you now, He will recompense in ways we cannot dream of. If He has called you to glorify Him in the deep adversity of childlessness, cling to Him during this time, because He will reward you an hundredfold for anything you have had to give up for His name's sake - for your testimony in this trial.

"A Christmas Letter to my Sunday-School Classmates"
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