Our Children as Our Mission Field
About the Guest
Erin was excited to impact the youth of her culture. But she is more excited now to impact generations to come as she diligently loves and mothers her two children. Author Erin Davis reminds listeners that it's not a matter of whether or not you work inside or outside the home, but a matter of faith as you seek to fulfill God's agenda rather than your own. Erin reflects how her ministry to kids has been enriched since she had children of her own, and how God is using motherhood as a way to reach the world.
Erin was excited to impact the youth of her culture.
Our Children as Our Mission Field
Bob: When Erin Davis graduated from college, what she wanted more than anything else was to be involved in full-time Christian work. She thought becoming a mom would interfere with that. What she found, though, was God put her in a very special mission field.
Erin: My son recently told me that he thought Ironman was God. [Laughter] So I am the missionary called to deal with that false god! Certainly, I’m the missionary called to deal with that; but you know what? I am my children’s mission field. They reveal so much to me about God’s love for me and about my selfish heart. There’s this synergy in that I’m pointing them to God but—woo whee! —are they’re pointing me to God in ways that I would not have experienced any other way.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Do you see being a mom as full-time Christian work? Erin Davis says you ought to. Stay tuned.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, sometimes when we are talking about things like we are talking about this week, I will think, “Hmmm; I wonder what letters we’re going to get from our listeners?” [Laughter] Have you thought about that?
Dennis: I have. I have.
Bob: Because—a couple of things we’re talking about this week—we’re talking about the value and importance of motherhood. We have some folks who are listening who are pretty passionate about their career involvement. They may be mothers, or not, and they may feel like you’re picking on them. Do you want to speak to them first?
Dennis: Yes, I do. First of all, earlier, we talked about how, within the church, among Christian women, 47 percent didn’t feel like motherhood ought to be emphasized to Christian women. I go, “Really, really? Like we need to rip those pages out of our Bibles and just kind of ignore them?”
I’m not talking about some absolute standard of saying, “If you’re a mom, you can’t work.” You know what? You work if you’re a mom! Barbara, as a mom raising six, went to speak at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways—so she worked. She helped me with a book in the midst of raising kids—so she worked; okay. It’s not some kind of absolute standard where we’re trying to shame someone; but what I would appeal to—especially on the younger adults who listen to our broadcast who may—
Well, I love what Mary Kassian says. She endorses the book we’re about to talk about here today. She says, “If you have swallowed the pop culture Kool-Aid, you need to read this book and consider if the hand that rocks the cradle does, in fact, rule the world.” Mary Kassian knows what she’s talking about. She embraces the Bible.
I do think, Bob, we have a number of younger adults, who listen to this broadcast, who really don’t want to be mothers—who don’t want that agenda for their lives. You know what? That’s okay. That’s okay for right now, but listen to the broadcast, pray about this, read the Bible, and give thought to this. If you’re married, talk with your husband. If you’re a husband and this is—you’ve been the one drinking the Kool-Aid and, “Children are going to get in the way,” then let’s reason together. Let’s talk together.
Bob: That’s what I was getting to here because on one hand you’ve got the folks who are career-oriented and are saying, “Career is where I’m going—that’s what’s really important.” They may have children or not have children, but career is pretty high value for them. They hear us saying motherhood should be as high or higher, and they take offense at that; but there’s another group. That’s the group of young couples who are able to have kids and have chosen not to. Our guest was in that group for a while. We’re not talking about those who aren’t able to have children. I mean, our hearts go out to those who want to have kids and can’t.
Dennis: Right; about 12 percent are permanently infertile. Those couples come to our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. There are serious challenges that they face in their marriage as they have to deal with the loss and the disappointment. We want them to know we really do have some understanding, and we’re compassionate about where you are.
Bob: But the question I have for you and for our guest is, “If you are married and able, are you obligated to have children?” That’s really the question. If you’re married and able to have children, does the Bible mandate—obligate you? You’re supposed to do that, or you are being disobedient, or in sin if you don’t?
Bob: Do you want to?
Bob: I pulled out the sin card!
Dennis: You pulled out the sin card. Well, let’s ask Erin Davis who wrote the book—
Bob: I like that! He’s tossing it right to you! [Laughter]
Erin: Let’s defer to the expert!
Dennis: I would answer the question! [Laughter] I’m going to ask Erin who wrote the book Beyond Bathtime. She is a mom of two and founder of Graffiti Ministries. She speaks all around the country and lives in Springfield, Missouri. Erin, welcome back to the broadcast.
Erin: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: How would you answer Bob’s question?
Erin: Well, first, let me see if I can save you some letters because I think this is part of why that 40-some percent would say we shouldn’t emphasize motherhood because these roadblocks come up: “What about those who are infertile? Here you are talking about being a mother as a sacred role and all that does is make these women feel less-than!” Well, Isaiah 54:1 has a word for you: “‘Sing, o barren one who did not bear. Break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor; for the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,’ says the Lord.” There’s this opportunity for spiritual mothering that is there and an encouragement from the Word.
“Well, what about those who want to have a career; and they feel infringed upon when we talk about motherhood?” Well, I happen to be here today because I wrote a book, and someone paid me to do it! I work! One of the lies that I address in the book is that, “The ultimate conversation we need to be having about motherhood is whether or not to work—that really defines what kind of mother you are.” I’d like to have us get off of that dead horse—it’s been dead for quite a while—and move on to a new conversation because I don’t believe there’s a mandate either way. There are lots of factors to consider. Nobody is saying you have to be a stay-at-home mom to be a great mom. Nobody is saying that you have to be a working mom to be a great mom. That’s not the conversation we’re having.
The conversation is, “Is choosing childlessness biblical?” I decided to address it in my book because I wanted to put myself in the cross-hairs, I think, because it’s a controversial question.
Bob: Yes, it is. Yes.
Erin: And one that’s controversial in my own heart. So, I searched the Scripture; and I asked a lot of wise people. I really spent a lot of time thinking, “Okay, Lord, what does Your Word say about choosing childlessness?” I do not find a biblical mandate that all couples must have children immediately and as many children as they can have. However, I would say that this is an area where many of us set our faith aside—where many of us want to make our own decisions. That is not biblical! Making choices based on preservation of comfort, making choices based in fear, making choices based on what you want for your life—I don’t think that’s going to pass through the grid of Scripture.
For example, I prayed for years about who to marry—really sought the Lord! “Is this your choice for me?” and it was. I prayed often about the right major in college. I still pray about what work assignments to take and what not to take, and what house to buy; but I never prayed about if I should have children, when I should have children—those kinds of things.
What I see is that couples begin praying about that—often now—when it’s a little too late because we decide, “I’m going to have children once I get the college gig done,” then, “...the marriage gig,” then, “You know, we need five years of alone time in order to create a solid marriage,” then, “....we get the career gig.” There is a window of time in which a woman can conceive easily. Then, when she can’t, then couples are praying like crazy! [Ticking sound]
Bob: That’s the biological clock, ticking in the background.
Erin: That’s a real deal, that biological clock. God can do whatever He wants, as we know; but the question is, “Is God good if He gives you kids on your timetable or is God good when He does it on His timetable?” Are children a blessing only if you have 2.5 in your ten-year plan, exactly when you wanted them; or are children always a blessing, no matter when they come?
Those are the bigger questions. I can’t answer those for anybody. I still have to wrestle through a lot of them in my own heart. I think that if you’re making the choice to be childless, based on selfishness—and that’s going to take some soul-searching to figure out—on fear, on preservation of comfort, on building a life that is really the life you want instead of a surrendered life—then you’ve got some issues.
Bob: Were you—because early in your marriage, you were making the choice to be childless?
Erin: Seven years.
Bob: You had declared that that was your desire.
Erin: We were childless seven years.
Bob: Was it because of selfishness?
Bob: No, you said it was because of ministry!
Dennis: You said it was because of a spiritual mission.
Erin: It was my vision of how I thought ministry had to work. It was me wanting to be used by God in a really specific box. I was not going to have children so that I could really pour into these teenagers. Well, guess what? My ministry to teenagers has only been enriched since I had kids.
I was doing another radio program recently. A man called in and said, “I really feel like my wife and children should be my first ministry; but I feel called to music ministry, and God’s going to give me a platform. I’m not going to have kids because I couldn’t father well if I had a music platform.” I said, “Why not?!”
I’ve adopted a ministry mantra/ mindset since I had kids, which is, simply, “Never grocery shop alone.” I always call a teenage girl, “I’m going to the grocery store. Will you come with me?” It’s a huge help to me—I have two squirmy little boys—and we’re doing life together as we’re picking out stuff in the grocery store. We’re talking about what’s going on in school. “Oh, you broke up with your boyfriend?” And she gets to see life work. I don’t sugarcoat it. She also catches a vision for the fact that, “What does Christianity really look like in real life?” I think we give young people, especially, this vision of Christianity—and then real life hits. It’s messy—the lines are blurry— “How do I be a Christian in this not-so-neat way?” The other side of the coin is that it’s better for my kids! My kids are watching ministry happen—they’re growing. It’s really enriching.
Absolutely, yes! I chose childlessness for selfish reasons—now, I stamped a feel-good Christian stamp on it—but it was really about me creating the life that I wanted to have.
Bob: Okay, so what about a mom like the mom I knew—when she and her husband got married—shortly after they got married, he got a vasectomy. He did it; and I asked them, “Why have you decided to be childless?” She said, “Given my background, given what I’m been through in life, I would be a terrible mom. I just know that if I brought kids in, I would do more harm than good.” In her mind, not having kids was a sacrifice she was making because she just knew she wouldn’t be a good mom. What would you say to her?
Erin: I would read her Romans 8:28, which says that God is able to redeem all things to her good. He is certainly able to redeem the painful parts of her past to her good. That’s not—she doesn’t have to be that way. Christ came to set us free! That’s why He came. We don’t have to be those things, and we don’t have to pass on things. Through the help of the body [of Christ] and by surrounding herself with wise people, I just don’t agree that there’s no hope for her to be a great mom.
I spoke to a mom recently who came from a horrible home situation. She was adopted into an abusive home— because of that, said, “I will never have kids.” Well, whoops! They got pregnant with twins and then got pregnant a few years later with another baby. Those children are now young adults. She said, “I just can’t believe what I would have missed out on! I can’t believe the impact and the ways that God used mothering to redeem a lot of those wounds.” Now, motherhood is not the balm for everything that might ail you; but you could just hear her light up about these kids. She was like, “I would have missed so much out of fear!” That mother was afraid—who you were talking about.
Bob: And I have to tell you the rest of that story because in their early 40s, the husband went back to try to get a vasectomy reversal because in her early 40s—now, the longing was so strong. They were never able to conceive but had regret over the decision that they made.
The other story I have to tell you is when we told my mom that we were expecting number five. I will never forget the look on her face—like, “Don’t you kids know? You’re having a fifth child? Are you out of your mind?!” I will also tell you that Grandma, who is still alive, just had lunch with our fifth child—her fifth grandchild—and said, “He is—I can’t imagine what life would be like without David!”
Erin: I must have said a 150 times after Eli was born, “I didn’t know how much I needed him! I didn’t know how much I missed him!” He’s four. The other day, he said, “Mama, were you lonely before I was born?” I said, “I didn’t know it but I sure was lonesome for you, pallie!”
We have such limited perspective. When we plan our own lives, we get in a train wreck really, really quickly; but God sees it from the beginning to the end. He can handle it! He can so handle it. I think there’s an area of fear in many women’s lives—and maybe Christian men’s lives—I can’t speak to that—that, “If I give control of this area of my life, I will have a show on TLC.“ You know, because that’s what we do with large families in our culture—we treat them like freak-show acts.
Bob: Yes; yes.
Erin: “I cannot let go of the reins on this. I cannot trust God with this because it will not work out well.” Well, is God good or is He not?
I spoke to a man recently—his name was Tom. He had two children, and then came to know the Lord—he and his wife both came to know the Lord. His wife said, “Maybe we should have another child, now that we know the Lord.” He said, “Okay.” Well, five more children later—
Bob: Wow. Wow!
Erin: —He said, “There would be times when I would be out of work; and, literally, bags of clothes and food would just show up on our porch.” Nobody, if they had sat down and crunched the numbers with that family and had budgeted, would have said, “You can afford all of those kids. Go ahead and have them.” But God was good and God was sovereign. God was just as able to provide for that big group of kids as He would be for a very controlled number of kids.
I think the real heart, as we start peeling back the layers—there are some pretty serious heart issues that the Lord is still dealing with me on; but I think He’s dealing with a lot of other people on, too.
Dennis: I’ve got news for you. There is more peeling of the onion of the heart as you go forward and raise your children. You don’t know how many you’re going to have at this point or whether God is going to bless you with more, but as they get older, and I mean, after they leave the nest, there are still heart issues and surgery that God has to perform on a parent.
You used the word several times a few moments ago when you said, “Children redeem us.” They are redemptive. They save us from ourselves. I think God knows something about children that we don’t.
Erin: Well, the heart of this book is that our children are our mission field. My son recently told me that he thought Ironman was God. [Laughter] So, I am the missionary called to deal with that false god! Certainly, I’m the missionary called to deal with that; but you know what? I am my children’s mission field. They reveal so much to me about God’s love for me, and about my selfish heart, and about my lack of patience, and my need for the fruit of the Spirit. They press me into prayer. There’s this synergy in that I’m pointing them to God but—woo whee! —are they’re pointing me to God in ways that I would not have experienced any other way.
Dennis: No doubt about it. I mean, just about the time another layer would come off the heart, and I didn’t think there was any deeper surgery to perform, the scalpel came back out. I mean, it’s still occurring, now as we are parents of adult children and a whole bunch of grandkids.
I’m going to go back to the question you asked at the beginning of the broadcast.
Bob: Oh, yes. We never heard you weigh in on this, “Is it sin for couples who are able to have children to choose not to?”
Dennis: Here’s the thing—I’m such a “black and white” person that I love drawing boxes. I love to make absolute statements. Absolutism makes it easy! When it comes to murder, stealing, cheating, all of that—those absolutes are real easy to look at as the Ten Commandments. There is no tenth commandment about, “Thou shalt have children.” There is, however—in Genesis 1—a very clear statement that we were put here by God and we were commanded by God, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Bob: That’s not just for Adam and Eve?
Dennis: I don’t think it’s just for Adam and Eve. I know it was before the Fall. It’s like, “Did God rescind that after the Fall? Was there ever a command on the other side to not have children or an exclusion to not have children?” There is for marriage—there is an exclusion in the New Testament, where Paul speaks to single people and said, “If God’s called you to be celibate for a higher purpose of serving Him, maybe it’s best to be single.”
Erin: And where did Eve—where do we first hear her name, Eve? It’s immediately after the Fall—where, “She will be a mother to all the living.”
Bob: That’s right.
Erin: There is some redemption in the Adam and Eve story that comes through their children. Every time she has a baby, she says, “With the help of the Lord, I’ve brought forth a man. With the help of the Lord, I’ve brought forth a man.” After Seth’s birth, it says, “At that time, the people of the earth began to call on the name of the Lord.” There were no VBS’s—no outreach events. Adam and Eve were doing the discipling of their own children. There’s some redemption there.
Dennis: There really is. Here’s where I come down on it. I want to be careful about saying it is sin because that statement is not made in the Bible. However, James does say, “To him who knows what to do and what is right—if you don’t do it, it is sin.” I would say this, “Do you believe the Bible—that God commanded the human race to be fruitful and multiply, and do you believe what God said—that children are a blessing, or are you viewing them as the culture views them?” I think the culture views children as a weight—as, at points, a curse.
Dennis: No doubt about it. I mean, they’re going to cost you—how many tens of thousands of dollars to raise them through high school or college. On, and on, and on it goes. To me, you’ve got to go back to the Bible and say, “What’s the weight of Scripture?” The weight of Scripture is, “Have kids. Have kids.”
Am I ready to say that somebody who chooses not to have kids is in sin? First of all, you don’t answer to me. You answer to God. He’s the One who made the commands of Scripture. If it was one of my own children, and they chose not to have kids, I’d say, “Let’s have a talk around the campfire some night,” —not to create shame or guilt. “Let’s just reason together. Let’s talk about what’s behind this.”
We’ve talked about some honest reasons why some people choose not to have kids. I’m not ready to say it is sin, but I’m saying you better know you’re being obedient to Almighty God because, in the end, that’s what matters anyway.
Bob: You might want to read your Bible and read a copy of Erin’s book, at the same time, as you wrestle through it. Just say, “Okay, if I’m going to have a defense for choosing not to have children, I want to make sure I’ve heard all of the arguments in the opposite direction.” Of course, we’ve got copies of Erin’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s called Beyond Bath Time. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the book. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information.
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We hope you’ll be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to continue talking about the joys of motherhood with our guest, Erin Davis. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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